Twelve players still have yet to mathematically clinch their tickets to the Superseries Finals in Dubai, including defending women’s singles champion Nozomi Okuhara, who will almost certainly lose her spot to one of five players who have it in their sights.
By Don Hearn. Photos: Badmintonphoto
The China Open ended with two of the chasers signalling they are still very much in the race for tickets to the Superseries Finals in Dubai. Pusarla Venkata Sindhu, in particular, put herself within very realistic striking range of current #8 Nozomi Okuhara but she is also part of one of the biggest chase packs.
Men’s singles, in contrast, has three players with insecure spots and none of them can merely walk on court to clinch their tickets to the season-ender. In fact, there are three defending champions, one four-time winner, and one three-time winning pair who are still looking to confirm a spot. Let’s take a look at the homestretch of these five Dubai races.
In the following analysis, I am using a conservative definition of ‘clinch’ – marked on the table in bold, green italics – that entails a top 8 player having enough points to be out of reach of the 9th place player or pair even should the latter win and the former be unable to play in the first round in Hong Kong. In practice, several other players may be safe if one considers that some of the players who could theoretically earn enough points in the last two tournaments to pass the top 8 player would have to play each other too early.
I have shown in bold green the 8 players and pairs who would qualify were the Superseries to end after the first 11 tournaments. I have shown in grey the players or pairs who cannot catch one of the current 8 qualifiers or who cannot catch either of two qualified compatriots. Finally, I have marked with an x, those who will be inactive at the Hong Kong Open. An asterisk (*) denotes a player who can only qualify by beating out a currently qualified compatriot. The x’s represent Hong Kong Open withdrawals as reflected in the official BWF draws, updated after the team managers’ meeting. The numbers are based on calculations to include points earned from the China Open but the official Superseries standings will be available later in the week from the BWF website.
Men’s singles features three players who have yet to clinch and for Lee Chong Wei, Ng Ka Long (pictured above), and Marc Zwiebler, merely showing up on court this week in Hong Kong is not good enough. Lee Chong Wei has pulled out of the Hong Kong Open and while playing a first round match would not have mathematically clinched his Dubai sport, the closest chaser, Wong Wing Ki, will still have to reach the final of his home Superseries in order to dislodge the world #1 from among the Dubai qualifiers.
Wong and compatriot Hu Yun, as well as Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen all have proven they have what it takes to win a Superseries title but it is increasingly looking as if they’ll have to do just that in order to book an appearance in Dubai.
By not entering the Hong Kong Open, Viktor Axelsen (pictured right) put himself in a precarious position, despite the fact that his semi-final performance put him ahead of compatriot Hans-Kristian Vittinghus, by a nose, for the second Danish spot. However, Vittinghus was forced to withdraw himself, due to recovery from surgery and Axelsen’s spot is thereby clinched.
1 Jan Jorgensen (DEN) – 59020
2 Son Wan Ho (KOR) – 56790
3 Tian Houwei (CHN) – 55190
4 Viktor Axelsen (DEN) – 46820 x
5 Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (DEN) – 44380 x
6 Lee Chong Wei (MAS) – 43510 x
7 Ng Ka Long (HKG) – 42760
8 Marc Zwiebler (GER) – 42550
9 Wong Wing Ki (HKG) – 36970
10 Hu Yun (HKG) – 36150
11 Chou Tien Chen (TPE) – 35520
12 Hsu Jen Hao (TPE) – 35240 x
13 Chen Long (CHN) – 33100 x
14 Rajiv Ouseph (GBR) – 32820
Women’s singles is much more straightforward. The top 6 shuttlers have all clinched their spots in Dubai, as has #8 Carolina Marin, whose ticket was once again clinched by her gold in Rio. Three of those top 6 have withdrawn on the eve of the Hong Kong Open and so too has Nozomi Okuhara (pictured above). This means that the defending champion can and almost certainly will be caught at the very least by one of her three closest challengers. Sayaka Sato, Pusarla Venkata Sindhu, or Saina Nehwal can all reel Okuhara in with a single victory in Hong Kong, while Minatsu Mitani would need two, meaning that it could very well be a three- or four-way battle for the 8th spot this week.
The last women’s singles shuttler with a mathematical chance is Thailand’s Porntip Buranaprasertsuk but even with Okuhara having withdrawn, she still has to beat Saina Nehwal in the first round for a second consecutive week, and she needs Sayaka Sato (pictured right) and P. V. Sindhu to go no farther than the first round. That seems far-fetched but then Sindhu also looked out of it last week when she was over 10,000 points out of qualifying range. Sometimes, one big week can make a huge difference and Sindhu, for one, will be looking for one more of those.
1 Tai Tzu Ying (TPE) – 69700
2 Akane Yamaguchi (JPN) – 64070
3 Sun Yu (CHN) – 56150 x
4 Ratchanok Intanon (THA) – 54450 x
5 Sung Ji Hyun (KOR) – 52740
6 He Bingjiao (CHN) – 52030 x
7 Nozomi Okuhara (JPN) – 40940 x
8 Carolina Marin (ESP) – 40240
9 Sayaka Sato (JPN) – 38570 *
10 P. V. Sindhu (IND) – 38490
11 Saina Nehwal (IND) – 38080
12 Minatsu Mitani (JPN) – 36900 *
13 Porntip Buranaprasertsuk (THA) – 32090
14 Yip Pui Yin (HKG) – 31040
Men’s doubles is all about the compatriots. At the beginning of the China Open, Chai Biao and Hong Wei (pictured below) had their younger compatriots Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen breathing down their necks. At this point, if they even step on court for their tricky first round contest against Olympic silver medallists Ellis/Langridge, Li/Liu would be forced to win the tournament to qualify for the Superseries Finals.
At the bottom of the list, Mathias Boe / Carsten Mogensen looked to be a real longshot a week ago. Now, they could even catch the two Madses were the latter to drop out. More realistically, if first time Dubai hopefuls Kim Astrup / Anders Skaarup Rasmussen (pictured above) were to lose their first round encounter with the top seeded Goh/Tan, Boe/Mogensen could book a spot in Dubai with an appearance in a third straight final.
1 Goh V. Shem / Tan Wee Kiong (MAS) – 57590
2 Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (INA) – 55390
3 Takeshi Kamura / Keigo Sonoda (JPN) – 53590
4 Chai Biao / Hong Wei (CHN) – 51500
5 Angga Pratama / Ricky Karanda Suwardi (INA) – 48720
6 Li Junhui / Liu Yuchen (CHN) – 45490 *
7 Mads Conrad Petersen / Mads Pieler Kolding (DEN) – 42890
8 Anders Skaarup Rasmussen / Kim Astrup Sorensen (DEN) – 40070
9 Mathias Boe / Carsten Mogensen (DEN) – 35610 *
10 Muhammad Ahsan / Hendra Setiawan (INA) – 34790 x
11 Hiroyuki Endo / Kenichi Hayakawa (JPN) – 31960 x
12 Fu Haifeng / Zhang Nan (CHN) – 30660 x
13 Chen Hung Ling / Wang Chi Lin (TPE) – 30140
Women’s doubles is a lot closer than one might have expected, with the recent form of Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan but their first round exit in Fuzhou left them quite vulnerable. They and Luo Ying / Luo Yu are the only pairs who have not mathematically clinched but the twins can solve that just but showing up on court on Wednesday.
Chen and Jia will be caught and passed if either Stefani and Gabriela Stoeva or Malaysia’s Woon Khe Wei / Vivian Hoo (pictured above) can just go one round further than the Chinese 19-year-olds. That could be difficult for the Bulgarians, who face the top seeds and Olympic champions on Wednesday. However, the Malaysians have seriously troubled their likely second round opponents Pedersen/Rytter Juhl and their pursuit of the Chinese youngsters could bear fruit.
Mathematically still in it, on Thai and two Indonesian pairs are left with a very slim chance if Chen Qingchen / Jia Yifan (pictured right) make an appearance on Wednesday. One would be out of the running right away and the other two would be left having to win the title to proceed to Dubai.
1 Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi (JPN) – 77970
2 Jung Kyung Eun / Shin Seung Chan (KOR) – 57940
3 Christinna Pedersen / Kamilla Rytter Juhl (DEN) – 56070
4 Chang Ye Na / Lee So Hee (KOR) – 53510
5 Naoko Fukuman / Kurumi Yonao (JPN) – 51640
6 Nitya Krishinda Maheswari / Gresya Polii (INA) – 49180 x
7 Luo Ying / Luo Yu (CHN) – 41930
8 Shizuka Matsuo / Mami Naito (JPN) – 40290 *
9 Chen Qingchen / Jia Yifan (CHN) – 34970
10 Gabriela Stoeva / Stefani Stoeva (BUL) – 34100
11 Vivian Hoo / Woon Khe Wei (MAS) – 33740
12 Anggia Shitta Awanda / Mahadewi Istirani Ni Ketut (INA) – 29150
13 Puttita Supajirakul / Sapsiree Taerattanachai (THA) – 29140
14 Eefje Muskens / Selena Piek (NED) – 27200 x
15 Della Destiara Haris / Rosyita Eka Putri Sari (INA) – 26260
16 Huang Yaqiong / Tang Jinhua (CHN) – 25270 x
Technically, mixed doubles has as many unconfirmed spots as men’s singles, as Jordan/Susanto, Kazuno/Kurihara, or the Adcocks could each be caught under some mathematically possible scenario. But the odds are that this list won’t change after Hong Kong.
For starters, Praveen Jordan / Debby Susanto can solidify their spot in Dubai but merely showing up this week. Furthermore, if the English and Japanese pairs do the same, then Lee Chun Hei / Chau Hoi Wah (pictured below) can’t get to Dubai even by winning their home Superseries title.
Things are more complicated for Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying (pictured above). If the last two pairs show up, the Malaysians will have to reach the final and they would need a title to qualify for Dubai if the incumbents each win a match. If both Adcock/Adcock and Kazuno/Kurihara reach the quarter-finals, there will be no Malaysian mixed doubles involvement in the Superseries Finals.
1 Ko Sung Hyun / Kim Ha Na (KOR) – 73890
2 Lu Kai / Huang Yaqiong (CHN) – 61000
3 Joachim Fischer-Nielsen / Christinna Pedersen (DEN) – 56860 x
4 Zheng Siwei / Chen Qingchen (CHN) – 52060
5 Praveen Jordan / Debby Susanto (INA) – 46580
6 Tantowi Ahmad / Lilyana Natsir (INA) – 45330
7 Chris Adcock / Gabrielle Adcock (ENG) – 44290
8 Kenta Kazuno / Ayane Kurihara (JPN) – 44200
9 Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying (MAS) – 39250
10 Lee Chun Hei / Chau Hoi Wah (HKG) – 36620
11 Xu Chen / Ma Jin (CHN) – 29170 x