Doubles specialists dominate BWF player awards

Doubles World Champions Amnouy Wetwithan and Chen Qingchen each walked away with a different Female Player of the Year award after the BWF bestowed its top honours for 2017 on […]

Doubles World Champions Amnouy Wetwithan and Chen Qingchen each walked away with a different Female Player of the Year after the bestowed its top honours for 2017 on the eve of the in Dubai.

Photos: Yohan Nonotte / Badmintonphoto (live from Dubai)

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) held its annual Player of the Year award ceremony as part of the Gala Dinner that kicked off the season-ending Finals.  For the first time since the awards were separated by gender, all honours went to doubles players, including the Male Player(s) of the Year, which went to world #1 pair Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo of Indonesia.

In the case of the Player of the Year honours, it is a little limiting to call the winners doubles specialists.  While Thailand’s Amnouy Wetwithan (pictured left) is the wheelchair mixed doubles World Champion, no fewer than 3 of the 8 titles she won in 2017 – including the Asean Para Games gold – were in singles.  Wetwithan won her first world title back in 2009 and she was nominated for Female Para-Badminton Player of the Year last year as well.  She won the triple crown at the Irish Para-Badminton International before at the Worlds in Ulsan, she reached the finals in both doubles events, missing out on the singles gold medal match by the narrowest of margins.

Wetwithan’s counterpart in the male division, Kim Jung Jun (pictured right), won more titles than any other candidate for any of the awards.  Kim won triple crowns at both the USA and the Spanish Para-Badminton Internationals, along with two titles at each of three additional events, including the Para-Badminton World Championships at home in Ulsan.  Of the total of twelve titles he won in 2017, seven were in doubles and five in singles.

One of the candidates whom Kim Jung Jun beat out to win the award was his World Champion doubles partner Lee Sam Seop, who was also the first winner of this award, back in 2015.  Unlike Lee two years ago, Kim was unable to make it to Dubai to accept the award and was the only winner not in attendance this year.

Nothing but doubles

As for the non-para-shuttlers, there was no singles involved.  Chen Qingchen (pictured below) became only the second doubles player in the last fifteen years to be named Player of the Year alone.  Zhao Yunlei was the other and prior to that, the last time it had happened was in 2002 when doubles legend Kim Dong Moon was not required to share the then Eddy Choong Award with either of his partners.

Chen, of course, came to Dubai ranked #1 in the world in both mixed doubles and in women’s, where she is also the World Champion.  Chen is the first winner of the Eddy Choong Most Promising
Player of the Year award to go on to be named Player of the Year and it took her just 12 months to do it.  She claimed the former award just days before becoming the first teenager to win a doubles double at the Superseries Finals last December.

Male Players of the Year honours went to Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (pictured bottom).  The Indonesians have won an incredible 6 Superseries titles in 2017, a feat equalled only by Huang Yaqiong.  The last men’s doubles players to win the award were Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng 5 years ago, while the last time an Indonesian was named Player of the Year was back in 2005, when Taufik Hidayat was named Eddy Choong Player of the Year for the second consecutive time.  That was before the award was separated by gender and before Eddy Choong’s name was shifted to the trophy for up-and-coming stars.

Another year, another Chen

The only singles specialist honoured on Monday evening in Dubai was China’s Chen Yufei (pictured right).  Chen – who won in 2017 the Eddy Choong Most Promising Player of the Year award won last year by her compatriot Chen Qingchen – was the only one among the five candidates who has not won a single title this year.  However, she was also the only one who had qualified for the Superseries Finals, the only one with a World Championship medal, and at #8 in the world, was the highest-ranked, coming in 2 notches higher than Indonesia’s Apriyani Rahayu.

Chen Yufei came into 2017 already with a Gold title, of course, and she added another final and two Superseries semi-final finishes before reaching the final four at the Worlds in August.  She goes back to work on Wednesday, when she must start her first ever Dubai campaign by facing none other than world #1 and defending champion Tai Tzu Ying.

Two more World Championship medallists took the last performance award on Monday.  Glasgow silver medallists Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota were named Most Improved Players for 2017.  In January, they had only one Grand Prix Gold and two Grand Prix titles to their name, but they picked up their first Superseries title, reached the final at the Worlds, and boosted their ranking from #20 last New Year’s to a career high of #5.  Like Chen Yufei, the Japanese duo are playing in their first Superseries Finals.  Unlike Chen, they will not be facing the world #1 in the group stage.  They will, however, need to contend with both the Olympic silver and bronze medallists before they can claim a berth in the semi-finals.

The most successful singles players on the Superseries tour this year, meanwhile, were not forgotten at the Gala Dinner.  Coincidentally, both Tai Tzu Ying and Srikanth Kidambi were named Best Dressed of the affair.  While both were unsuccessful candidates for Player of the Year, if they find themselves less than satisfied with this lesser distinction off court, they may well end up making up for it on court, by winning the most lucrative titles of the year.




 

 

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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 @ badzine.net