Post-Rio retirements and some fantastic autumn performances have resulted in nearly a third of those bound for the Superseries Finals being first-time qualifiers, including Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan and several other teenagers.
By Don Hearn. Photos: Badmintonphoto
The Hong Kong Open has finished and Pusarla Venkata Sindhu (pictured, with Sun Yu), although she did not emerge with the second consecutive title she had hoped for, still did what she needed to do to ensure this would not be her final Superseries stop in 2016. In fact, in qualifying for the season-ender, the young Indian became one of 19 shuttlers to do so for the very first time in their careers, and not all of these Dubai rookies are young up-and-comers.
The younger generation
Also finally confirming their participation in Dubai while in Hong Kong were China’s Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan (pictured top, with Chang Ye Na and Lee So Hee). The 2015 World Junior Champions were already in the effective top 8 – not counting Japan’s 3rd, and therefore ineligible, pair – but they had to wait for the early exits from the Stoeva sisters and Malaysia’s Hoo/Woon before they knew for sure they’d be going west in December.
Chen had already clinched a ticket in mixed doubles with Zheng Siwei, with whom she was in fact ranked #2 in the world last week. The fourth teenaged rookie in Dubai will be He Bingjiao, who had clinched her ticket after the China Open finished. Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi is the fifth teenager who will be present in December but she already played in the event the first time it was held in Dubai, when she was just 17 years old.
The veteran rookies
Germany’s Marc Zwiebler is the longest-serving veteran to finally earn his passage to the Superseries Finals. The 32-year-old was as high as 13th in the Superseries standings back in 2010 and 2011 but this time, he was able to stay more consistent and he played all but one event in the circuit, finishing up in sixth spot, ahead of four-time champion Lee Chong Wei (pictured), the last qualifier apart from the wild-carded Chen Long.
The other rookie from the over-30 club is Japan’s Kenta Kazuno who, along with his partner and fellow first-timer Ayane Kurihara, was enjoying the highest world ranking of his career last week, at #11. Kurihara and men’s doubles world #1 Goh V Shem are both making their first trip to the Finals at age 27.
With the exception of the four above, all of the Dubai débuts in December will involve players born in the 1990s.
Another perfect 10
China is once again the only country sending the maximum contingent of ten. As was the case in 2014 and 2013, there is only one Chinese player in the top 8 in men’s singles; however, the 2015 rule change that automatically sends the Olympic or World Champion, on a wild card has kicked in to shore up the deficit.
The next biggest contingent is from Denmark – which has two in men’s doubles and singles but no one in the top eight in women’s singles – followed by Japan, Indonesia, and Korea with 5 each.
This year, almost all of the top 8 in the overall World Rankings have also qualified for Dubai. In women’s doubles the top 8 are all going without exception. In the other four disciplines, the biggest discrepancies are in men’s singles and mixed doubles, as the #5 entry in each will be absent in Dubai. In #5 Lin Dan’s place will be current #14 Marc Zwiebler and Kenta Kazuno/ Ayane Kurihara (pictured) will go instead of #5 Chan/Goh in mixed since their Superseries ranking is much higher than the #13 spot they now occupy in the overall standings.
The invite lists
Let’s take a look at the lists of qualifiers in each of the five disciplines. These players will be invited by the Badminton World Federation (BWF), which will impose a fine on any qualified player who has not retired and does not attend. Last year, both Lin Dan and Reika Kakiiwa / Mizuki Fujii were replaced by their team-mates before the event kicked off.
Players who will be sent invitations by the BWF are shown in bold. First-time qualifiers for the Superseries Finals are shown in bold green.
There are 58 shuttlers in total, since the 40 tickets include two mixed doubles pairs with players who have also qualified in women’s doubles. One is youngster Chen Qingchen, the only woman to have won a doubles double in a Superseries event this year. The other is Christinna Pedersen (pictured above), the only player to have ever won a doubles double at the Superseries Finals, which she did in 2013.
Mixed doubles is the only discipline where every winner of a Superseries event in 2016 will be in attendance for the Finals, with the sole exception of Xu Chen and the retired Ma Jin. In fact, Kazuno/Kurihara and defending champions Chris and Gabrielle Adcock are the only qualifiers yet to taste Superseries success this year.
1 Ko Sung Hyun / Kim Ha Na (KOR) – 76110
2 Lu Kai / Huang Yaqiong (CHN) – 64600
3 Joachim Fischer-Nielsen / Christinna Pedersen (DEN) – 56860
4 Zheng Siwei / Chen Qingchen (CHN) – 55660
5 Tantowi Ahmad / Lilyana Natsir (INA) – 54530
6 Praveen Jordan / Debby Susanto (INA) – 54380
7 Chris Adcock / Gabrielle Adcock (ENG) – 49330
8 Kenta Kazuno / Ayane Kurihara (JPN) – 46420
9 Lee Chun Hei / Chau Hoi Wah (HKG) – 41660
10 Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying (MAS) – 41470
Other than Chen/Jia, the only newbies in women’s doubles will be the younger half of each Korean pair. Lee So Hee and Shin Seung Chan are going for the first time but are playing with experienced players Chang Ye Na and Jung Kyung Eun (pictured above) respectively.
As in mixed doubles, defending champions with the same family name Luo are one of only two pairs that have not won a Superseries title this year. Fukuman and Yonao are the only ones who have yet to win such a big title in their career, although they did play in the India Open final.
1 Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi (JPN) – 83010
2 Christinna Pedersen / Kamilla Rytter Juhl (DEN) – 65270
3 Jung Kyung Eun / Shin Seung Chan (KOR) – 62980
4 Chang Ye Na / Lee So Hee (KOR) – 58550
5 Naoko Fukuman / Kurumi Yonao (JPN) – 55240
6 Nitya Krishinda Maheswari / Gresya Polii (INA) – 49180
7 Luo Ying / Luo Yu (CHN) – 45530
8 Shizuka Matsuo / Mami Naito (JPN) – 43890
9 Chen Qingchen / Jia Yifan (CHN) – 41390
10 Vivian Hoo / Woon Khe Wei (MAS) – 37340
The men’s doubles still has the most new blood, even if three-time winners Boe/Mogensen did nip ahead of would-be rookie compatriots Astrup/Rasmussen with their win in Hong Kong on Saturday. Along with Goh are new Superseries ranking leaders Takeshi Kamura / Keigo Sonoda but also none of Indonesia’s four qualifiers – Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo or Angga Pratama / Ricky Karanda Suwardi (pictured above) – have played in the December finale before.
If you look at the list of pairs who have won Superseries titles this year and who will not be in Dubai, it highlights a glaring omission for the 2016 edition. It will be the first Finals without a Korean pair. The two Korea duos, who accounted for 3 of the 12 Superseries wins this year, were both hit by retirements and unlike China or Korea, there has yet to emerge a credible replacement from the peninsula.
1 Takeshi Kamura / Keigo Sonoda (JPN) – 62790
2 Goh V. Shem / Tan Wee Kiong (MAS) – 62630
3 Chai Biao / Hong Wei (CHN) – 57920
4 Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (INA) – 57610
5 Angga Pratama / Ricky Karanda Suwardi (INA) – 52320
6 Li Junhui / Liu Yuchen (CHN) – 47710
7 Mads Conrad Petersen / Mads Pieler Kolding (DEN) – 45110
8 Mathias Boe / Carsten Mogensen (DEN) – 43410
9 Anders Skaarup Rasmussen / Kim Astrup Sorensen (DEN) – 42290
10 Muhammad Ahsan / Hendra Setiawan (INA) – 34790
11 Chen Hung Ling / Wang Chi Lin (TPE) – 32360
12 Hiroyuki Endo / Kenichi Hayakawa (JPN) – 31960
13 Koo Kien Keat / Tan Boon Heong (MAS) – 31710
14 Vladimir Ivanov / Ivan Sozonov (RUS) – 31290
15 Fu Haifeng / Zhang Nan (CHN) – 30660
In women’s singles, P. V. Sindhu and He Bingjiao (pictured above) are joined by He’s compatriot Sun Yu in making first appearances at the Finals. The appearance of the two young Chinese shuttlers is the obvious result of both Li Xuerui’s prolonged absence due to injury and to the high-profile retirements of Wangs Yihan and Shixian.
As in men’s singles and doubles, the All England champion will not be joining in the fun on the Gulf coast. Nozomi Okuhara, currently #4 in the world, is the highest-ranked player in the overall rankings who did not qualify for the season-ender.
1 Tai Tzu Ying (TPE) – 78900
2 Akane Yamaguchi (JPN) – 69110
3 Sun Yu (CHN) – 56150
4 Sung Ji Hyun (KOR) – 54960
5 Ratchanok Intanon (THA) – 54450
6 He Bingjiao (CHN) – 52030
7 Carolina Marin (ESP) – 46660
8 P. V. Sindhu (IND) – 46290
9 Saina Nehwal (IND) – 43120
10 Sayaka Sato (JPN) – 42170
In men’s singles, Ng Ka Long (pictured above) won the Hong Kong Open title having already booked his spot for Dubai and he will be the only rookie apart from Marc Zwiebler. His compatriots Wong Wing Ki and Hu Yun were desperately trying to reel in Lee Chong Wei but the four-time winner’s three titles in six entries this year turned out to be sufficient to land the Malaysian a berth in Dubai.
On the other hand, this is the discipline where the most of the 2016 gold medallists will be absent. Australian Open winner Hans-Kristian Vittinghus was actually in the top 8 but did not qualify because Denmark is limited to two entries and because of the wild card going to #15 Chen Long. Kento Momota was banned by his national association early in the year.
In addition to those two, though, Superseries titles went to Qiao Bin, Shi Yuqi, Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk, Lin Dan, and Sony Dwi Kuncoro but none of these could not stay consistent, healthy, or interested enough to get anywhere near the top ten. In contrast, the men’s singles is the only discipline featuring three qualifiers who are still looking for their first career Superseries title, as Zwiebler, Viktor Axelsen, and Tian Houwei (pictured right) have all posted runner-up finishes but haven’t yet won a tournament at this level.
1 Jan Jorgensen (DEN) – 65440
2 Son Wan Ho (KOR) – 60390
3 Tian Houwei (CHN) – 57410
4 Ng Ka Long (HKG) – 51960
5 Viktor Axelsen (DEN) – 46820
6 Marc Zwiebler (GER) – 44770
7 Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (DEN) – 44380
8 Lee Chong Wei (MAS) – 43510
9 Hu Yun (HKG) – 42570
10 Wong Wing Ki (HKG) – 42010
11 Chou Tien Chen (TPE) – 37740
12 Rajiv Ouseph (GBR) – 36420
13 Hsu Jen Hao (TPE) – 35240
14 Sony Dwi Kuncoro (INA) – 33380
15 Chen Long (CHN) – 33100