Matsutomo/Takahashi are Players of the Year!

Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi became the first BWF Players of the Year from Japan, after their incredible year in 2016, where Rio Gold was just one of 7 major […]

Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi became the first BWF Players of the Year from Japan, after their incredible year in 2016, where Rio Gold was just one of 7 major titles for the women’s doubles world #1.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Raphael Sachetat / Badmintonphoto (live from Dubai)

Doubles players took centre stage at the Gala Dinner in Dubai as the Badminton World Federation (BWF) gave out its awards for 2016, with players assembled for the .  Fortune favoured badminton’s titled aristocracy this year, as Female Player of the Year honours went to Japan’s Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi (pictured top).  The world #1 pair won four Superseries titles this year, including three of the five Superseries Premier events.  To that they added the opening Grand Prix Gold title of the year, as well as the Asian Championship title and the Olympic gold.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei (pictured right) was named Male Player of the Year for the fifth time.  He too won the Malaysia Grand Prix Gold and the Asian Championships, in addition to three Superseries titles – two of them at Premier events – as well as winning silver at the Rio Olympics.

The Eddy Choong for Most Promising Player of the Year also went to a doubles player.  China’s Chen Qingchen (pictured below) was the only possible choice here.  In her first year out of juniors, the 19-year-old won no fewer than four Superseries titles, to which she tacked six Grand Prix Gold titles – a record for one calendar year – and she had started it all off by winning the world’s most lucrative International Challenge, way back in January.

After winning, Chen told the BWF that she was actually surprised at winning, saying that it must have been her success in both mixed and women’s doubles that did the trick.  In fact, she may be onto something there.  Last year, her partner Zheng Siwei was the Eddy Choong Award recipient and he was the only teenager who had won more than twice as many doubles titles as He Bingjiao had won singles titles.  The same year, Zhao Yunlei was deemed unworthy of Player of the Year when her mere ten titles couldn’t compete with Carolina Marin’s six, even though she won twice as many World Championship titles.

The last time women’s doubles partners won Player of the Year jointly was back in 2011, when Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang had won ten titles to Wang Yihan’s five by the time the awards were given out, after which each added another at the season finale.  Zhao Yunlei won the award on her own in 2014, when she won an incredible ten titles, comprising Superseries, Asian Games, and World Championships even before adding another in Dubai.  The same year, Zhang Nan’s seven and Yoo Yeon Seong’s six were considered inferior to the three won by Chen Long.  Again, that was a week before all three titled at the Finals.

Singles and doubles were rolled into one in the case of the winning candidate for Male Para-Badminton Player of the Year.  Lucas Mazur (pictured above) of France scored triples at the Irish and Turkish Para-Badminton Internationals, as well as at the European Championships, and he also picked up a silver and bronze in Indonesia.  Mazur beat out Poland’s Bartłomiej Mroz and wheelchair stars Thomas Wandschneider and Lee Sam Seop, who was last year’s winner.  Female Para-Badminton Player of the Year Karin Suter-Erath was the only winner who was not on hand to receive her award.

A new category was created this year as India’s Pusarla Venkata Sindhu – who took silver in Rio, then hauled in her first Superseries title – was named Most Improved Player.  Finally, Malaysia’s Woon Khe Wei and Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen (pictured below) were selected as the best-dressed players in attendance at the gala dinner.

Tuesday is a rest day.  For only the second time in history, the winners of all three awards will be participating in the Superseries Finals.  The first time an Eddy Choong Award-winner qualified for the season-ender – inaugural recipient Saina Nehwal in 2008 – Lin Dan did not participate.  The only other time the former condition was met was in 2014, when Akane Yamaguchi, Zhao Yunlei, and Chen Long were all on court in Dubai.


Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @