This year’s BWF World Superseries Finals, badminton’s annual best-of-the-best event, is likely to feature a host of rookies but will begin with only half of the 2011 finalists and may be missing up to six Olympic medallists.
By Don Hearn. Photos: Badmintonphoto
The OSIM BWF World Superseries enters its final leg next month, with the Li-Ning China Open and the Yonex-Sunrise Hong Kong Open, and the way the rankings are shaping up, there will be plenty of new entries. Liew Daren of Malaysia and Bodin Issara and Maneepong Jongjit (pictured left with Hong Wei / Shen Ye) of Thailand are just a few of the young players whose performance in the most recent Superseries event, the Yonex French Open, puts them firmly into the top 8 in the series standings. Hoon/Tan and Chan/Goh of Malaysia, Bao/Zhong and Hong/Shen of China, and Kim/Kim and Eom/Jang of Korea were already there, but are also heading to the season-ender for the first time ever.
Nor will all the Finals rookies be youngsters, either. Hong Kong’s Hu Yun and Eriko Hirose of Japan are looking good to make their first appearances, as are a few veteran doubles players.
The men’s singles will be the draw missing the most headliners. Lee Chong Wei is one of only two world #1′s who are also currently atop the Superseries rankings; however, defending champion Lin Dan is out of the running, as are Taufik Hidayat, Peter Gade, and Chen Jin. In fact, even Chen Long (pictured right) was leapfrogged by Jan Jorgensen, Liew Daren, and Sho Sasaki when he skipped the French Open. Chen should move back into the top eight if he can turn in characteristic performances in Hong Kong and Shanghai, however.
In men’s doubles, Olympic champions Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng are currently a lowly #18 but if they are healthy for the final Asian leg of the Superseries, they could well leap through the rankings, which are still stacked with six pairs that have since been disbanded.
Unlike in 2010, when Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang paired up after the World Championship break to storm through three titles and eventually take the Superseries Finals in Taipei, this year there will be no brand new pairs playing in Shenzhen in December. The best shot belonged to Chai Biao and Zhang Nan but while a couple of finals appearances in the last two tournaments could have propelled them into the top eight, they are not entered in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Ma Jin and Tang Jinhua had a realistic chance of making the top eight in women’s doubles but they had no chance at reeling in two pairs of their countrywomen, even given the fact that current leader Bao Yixin is actually entered in Hong Kong with Tang, rather than with her fellow #1 Zhong Qianxin (pictured left). Hoon Thien How and Tan Wee Kiong are the newest pair currently on the short lists, having begun their tally with their Indonesia Open results in June.
Of course, women’s doubles received a shake-up from more than just retirements and changed partnerships. Like the men’s doubles, six of the pairs who were in the top ten in the Superseries standings after the Singapore Open have since been inactive. Three of these, of course, were suspended by their national bodies following their Olympic disqualifications and the fourth pair involved in that incident, two-time defending champions Wang/Yu, have not shown up for either of the tournaments they have entered this fall.
If Wang/Yu do indeed play in Hong Kong and Shanghai, they will be favoured to win, as usual, but unless Olympic champions Tian/Zhao lose in the early rounds, the Chinese team for Shenzhen is already set. Korea already has another pair ready to play in the Finals and Indonesia has Anneke Feinya Agustine and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari knocking on the door of the Superseries top eight.
Post-Denmark Open updates to the OSIM BWF World Superseries rankings are expected later this week (click here for the current standings) and should show Juliane Schenk (pictured right) taking the top spot in women’s singles, while Malaysia will still have two leaders, but 2008 champions Koo/Tan are now tops in men’s doubles, while in mixed doubles, Chan/Goh have been displaced by Xu Chen and Ma Jin’s second straight title in Europe.
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