WORLDS 2015 Doubles Previews – Measuring versatility and vision

As the 22nd Badminton World Championships in Jakarta roll around, our preview specialist Aaron Wong, asks how likely change can catch up in the doubles categories to the variety that […]

As the 22nd Badminton in Jakarta roll around, our specialist Aaron Wong, asks how likely change can catch up in the doubles categories to the variety that exists in men’s and women’s singles.

By Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent.  Photos: Badmintonphoto

There was no preview for the World Championships on Badzine last year because the timing was ripe for a dramatic change and would benefit from suspense. As in music, the rests are as significant and intentional as the notes that make up the melodic experience. Unpredictability unfolded all the way to the podium for women’s singles, men’s doubles, and men’s singles.

Mixed doubles: Out of reach (not to be confused with invincible)

On the untouchability scale across all badminton disciplines, only China’s mixed doubles pairing of Zhao Yunlei / Zhang Nan are clearly ahead in consistent quality over their nearest rival. This is because theirs is the nearest to perfection combination of both personnel being visionary as well as versatile players, with highly trained strokes and the ideal body shapes.

But, as defending champions, the world #1s are in the harder half of the draw with Olympic bronze medallists and 5th seeds Christinna Pedersen / Joachim Fischer Nielsen looming as the first stiff test before the victor encounters 2013 World Champions and home favourites Liliyana Natsir / Tontowi Ahmad, if proceedings following seedings, as tends to happen in this discipline.

The dark horse picks to trip up Zhao/Zhang or win the tournament are any of the three remaining seeded Indonesian pairs, or the unseeded Koreans Jang Ye Na / Shin Baek Cheol. The Indonesians are young and fresh, with home turf advantage, and boast a lovely to watch national style consisting of fluid strokes that effectively manoeuvre opponents. Once upon a time, Beijing Olympic gold medallist Lee Hyo Jung, in her last international outing, mentored Shin to become mixed doubles Asian Games champion together. He appears to have morphed easily into a mentor and easy partner role no matter where he is put. He could surprise us in mixed doubles this year after taking the men’s last year.  Meanwhile, for Jang to truly shine, she needs a tighter fit than her level doubles duties currently offers.

Potential mixed doubles matches of note

Round 3 – Debby Susanto / Praveen Jordan (INA) [11] vs. Christinna Pedersen / Joachim Fischer Nielsen (DEN) [5]
Round 3 – Kim Ha Na / Ko Sung Hyun (KOR) [8] vs. Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja / Edi Subaktiar (INA) [12]

Women’s doubles: The time is now

Chinese and Korean women have been experimenting with pairings but it is puzzling why Korea persist with the current arrangements one year out from the Rio Games or why they haven’t reunited Eom Hye Won and Jang Ye Na, who deservedly earnt 2013 World Championship silver medals.

The best women’s pairings since 2000 – like Korea’s Lee Kyung Won / Ra Kyung Min, China’s Gao Ling / Huang Sui, or Zhang Yawen / (Zhao Tingting/Wei Yili/ Tian Qing), or early days Wang Xiaoli / Yu Yang – have in common an energetic or distinguishable team personality, and at least one visionary player or if there are two they rotate through the planning role leaving the other as a go-getter or supplying the oomph in smash penetration.

Now is the time for a non-Chinese pair to make their mark while China’s pairs are looking tired and relying on the muscle memory of their excellent training. Without Eom in the mix, it isn’t evident that any of the current Korean pairings project the visionary X Factor to shoot through, even though they are individually top notch.

It’s a shame that the two best non-Chinese women’s pairs are in the same top quarter of the draw. The world #1 Japanese Misaki Matsumoto / Ayaka Takahashi are an exceptionally smart pair while the top Indonesians seeded 7th Nitya Krishinda Maheswari / Greysia Polii possess chutzpah by the spadeful. The Indonesians would fare better whichever is the semi-final Chinese opposition whereas the Japanese have Chinese twins Luo Ying / Luo Yu figured out should they meet in a final of the two top seeds.

Potential women’s doubles matches of note

QF – Tang Yuanting / Ma Jin (CHN) [6] vs. Go A Ra / Yoo Hae Won (KOR)
QF – Misaki Matsumoto / Ayaka Takahashi (JPN) [1] vs. Nitya Krishinda Maheswari / Greysia Polii (INA) [7]

Men’s doubles: Mixed world #1 on track to equal female partner’s habit of 2 titles per major

In men’s doubles, 2nd seeded Danes Carsten Mogensen / Mathias Boe are the sentimental favourites and still in with a genuine gold medal chance despite Boe being 35 years old. Remember, in 2007 fellow countryman Jens Eriksen was world #2 at the age of 37. Eriksen’s weakness was being prone to nervousness and there is a significant enough difference between 37 and 35 when it comes to reaction speed at critical junctures. Being the longest partnership in the top 20 can only benefit the Danes’ cause if they meet defending champions Ko Sung Hyun / Shin Baek Cheol at the quarter-final stage. 11th seeded Russian pair Vladimir Ivanov / Ivan Sozonov are the other Europeans in with a chance to medal due to a favourable draw.

Looking in the short term, the Indonesian 13th seeds Angga Pratama / Ricky Karanda Suwardi, who won the Singapore Superseries, may well take this competition or at the very least provide the most sensational men’s doubles match of Wednesday against 4th seeded Hong Wei / Chai Biao of China, who give the shuttles a terrifyingly hammering that is hard to control back over.

In the short to medium term, defending Olympic Champion Fu Haifeng with Zhang Nan are maturing nicely as a pair, especially temperament-wise, and possess qualifications in all the aspects of the game to inscribe their names in history as a pair next week and/or come Rio de Janeiro. This Chinese will demand more than defending prowess alone from the world #1s Lee Yong Dae / Yoo Yeon Seong in their expected showdown.

The Koreans are solid at defending and attacking on their own terms but the problem is what will they do when manipulated into having little choice but to attack or tempted to do so as Zhang Nan takes charge in the middle of a rally. This is where Zhang excels above Mohamad Ahsan or Lee Sheng Mu because he supplies the kinetic energy in the partnership, serves as visionary play-maker and further looks to be the one to finish the rally from midway to end. Zhang parlays his mixed doubles skills to lure opponents into playing his way, which is turning defense into offense, while partner Fu Haifeng is a passive visionary who anchors the mood.

Potential men’s doubles matches of note

Round 3 – Chai Biao / Hong Wei (CHN) [4] vs. Angga Pratama / Ricky Karanda Suwardi (INA) [13]
QF – Lee Yong Dae / Yoo Yeon Seong (KOR) [1] vs. Zhang Nan / Fu Haifeng (CHN) [5]

Aaron Wong

About Aaron Wong

Aaron Wong only ever coveted badminton's coolest shot - a reverse backhand clear. He is renowned for two other things: 1) Writing tournament previews that adjust the focus between the panorama of the sport's progress, down to the microscopic level of explaining the striking characteristics of players; 2) Dozing off during men's doubles at the London Olympic Games. Contact him at: aaron @