WORLDS 2015 Women’s Singles Preview – Secretly I’ve been tailing you

Our preview specialist, Aaron Wong, advances the idea: what if the present pattern in women’s singles continues? After all, many peddled the line “China’s going to win again” when that […]

Our specialist, Aaron Wong, advances the idea: what if the present pattern in women’s singles continues? After all, many peddled the line “China’s going to win again” when that nation was on a roll.

By Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent.  Photos: Badmintonphoto

“The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game”, a classic yet versatile Motown tune covered by a range of music’s formidable first ladies cut from the blow-you-away-with-their-presence mold from disco via Jamaica to a pioneer of new wave, draws an apt parallel on many levels for describing the women’s singles badminton scene at present.

Every day brings change and the world puts on a new face
Certain things rearrange and this whole world seems like a new place

In recent times, the have been won by a fiery Spanish left-hander and a petite Thai revolutionist after wrestling the title from the clutches of China, thus ending an eight-year run of seven consecutive champions – six out of these seven are taller than men’s singles living legend Lee Chong Wei, to give you some sense of the size of the revolution.

Hitting the play button on Massive Attack’s slow beat heavy electronic treatment of the song evokes forbidding darkness before being punctuated by a sudden surge of strings as a reminder that pairs of eyes and dangerous plans to dethrone are lurking all around, even though they can’t be seen. The threats and perils in chasing romance sung by a woman transposes nicely to being in love with the dream of becoming the new World Champion.

Secretly I’ve been tailing you
Like a fox that preys on a rabbit
Had to get you and so I knew
I had to learn your ways and habits

Why has the race been so tight in recent years?

Technology is a huge factor. Modern racquets enable a greater range and percentage of retrieving ability compared to before, seeing as there’s a ceiling on how much farther or harder one can hit before the shuttle flies out and unlike tennis, where bounce of the projectile is allowable, in badminton there’s always continually the need to get it back over the net.

The ubiquitous presence of the Internet, together with portable video devices that anyone reading this article has the money to buy, means that never before have so many players and their styles and strategies been so analysed. Pre-21 point rally system, a player would have make it to a major final or semi-final for video footage to be widely available but now everyone is filming and benefiting from more preparation or removing much of the surprise element. It is the new norm. Carolina Marin and coach can easily be spotted in the spectator seats discussing while watching match videos on a computer.

The Wang Xin Effect

Will the defending champion Carolina Marin make it two in a row? There is no doubt she was destined to cause a stir.  Just connect the dots from her rise through the juniors as well as the European circuit. Snagging the World title early in her career has boosted her skills and confidence into the big league which she followed up with top honour at this year’s All England and then reaching world #1 during the most recent Superseries.

Marin’s evolution is wonderful to watch unfold but how will she fare finding herself at the top looking down? Days after winning the Superseries in Sydney, she stumbled in the first round at the Indonesia Superseries against Japan’s Yui Hashimoto, a steady player but someone much shorter and hitherto outside the top 20. A month earlier, the Spaniard went down narrowly to Canadian Michelle Li, a smart opponent without a court-side coach. Carolina isn’t a slow starter per se but finding rhythm against an opponent, especially a new one, or managing rather than being carried away by her clearly passionate disposition is an area for improvement.

There are traces of the Wang Xin Effect, several sides of it. Prior to 2009 China’s Wang Xin was unranked and by September of the following year she’d cracked world #1. She was older and diminutive compared to the compatriots she overtook. At her first major final as player with top billing, the Japan Open, she overplayed during an uncharacteristically rushed final and didn’t succeed. Wang illustrated the nerves and challenges faced when the hunter turns into the hunted.

Marin can repeat her World Championship feat but whether she will this time around is unknown territory to her and us. Is she made of the same iron mettle as squash’s Nicole David or tennis’s Serena Williams to win year after year? The basic ingredients are there but it’s too early to tell, which is a good thing, or else where would the tension be?


The Spaniard’s toughest possible route would be overcoming 15th seed Busanan Ongbamrungphan of Thailand, given that their past three encounters have gone to three games, and then a rematch of last year’s final against China’s Li Xuerui in the semis.

As the most decorated of the current top 10, Li Xuerui’s raison d’être is to complete the full set of badminton’s holy trinity preferably before turning 25 years old and this is the one title that’s missing. Chinese shuttlers have traditionally dominated this category, usually with four women in the top 10 at any one time, such that they’ve split the trinity among the group so no Chinese woman has accomplished the feat. Li, twice a World Championship silver medallist, has been as close as 3 points from ticking off her bucket list in last year’s final and is almost certain to meet two-time bronze medallist and 11th seed P. V. Sindhu in Round 3 next week.

The case of Sindhu is interesting, she seemed the most likely of the dark horses to shoot through but it turned out to be Marin. The lanky Indian, who seems like she’s been around forever, just graduated from her teens five weeks ago and is in the top half of the draw with two top 5 seeds (Li and Marin) whereas the bottom half contains Saina Nehwal, who is familiar with her compatriot’s game. Given Sindhu’s take-no-prisoners style of play and giving opponents minimum breathing time between points, the difficult draw may turn out to be a blessing in disguise should higher seeds not be focused on the tasks at hand and turn impatient on the day of their match.

Others enjoying a good run are India’s Saina Nehwal, who also touched world number 1 this year, and a resurgent 2011 World Champion Wang Yihan. They potentially have a delicious quarter-final rendezvous as the former finally defeated the latter for the first time proper after 10 meetings. Historically, we have seen such events are not a flash in the pan.  For example, then-world #1 Gong Ruina initially beat Mia Audina five times in a row and once the tables were turned, Audina won their second encounter a month later in straight games to earn a spot in the Olympic final in Athens.

If the pattern continues through 2015, a fresh women’s singles World Champion representing a yet-to-gold-medal country is highly anticipated.

Potential matches of note

Round 3 – Wang Shixian (CHN) [7] vs. Busanan Ongbamrungphan (THA) [15]
Round 3 – Li Xuerui (CHN) [3] vs. P. V. Sindhu (IND) [11]
Round 3 – Tai Tzu Ying (TPE) [4] vs. Michelle Li (CAN) [12]

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 @