ASIAN GAMES 2010 Women’s Team Preview – China ready for rematch

China looks like the hot favourite to take both titles in the men’s and women’s teams at the Asian Games, but some other nations will want piece of the cake.  […]

China looks like the hot favourite to take both titles in the men’s and women’s teams at the , but some other nations will want piece of the cake.  But, ladies first…

Raphael Sachetat, live from Guangzhou.  Photos: Badmintonphoto

There was a sense of déjà vu at Guangzhou International Airport, two days before the opening ceremony of the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.  There were special lanes for delegations, a large number of friendly and smiling volunteers dressed up in matching green, orange and white track suits and large buses awaiting athletes right outside the door. This was felt not too long ago, in China’s Capital, Beijing, when the Olympic Games got underway in the summer of ‘08.  There was a similar excitement in the atmosphere, similar preparations towards what can be called the second biggest sporting event on the continent.

The city has changed since last time badminton visited Guangzhou – for the 2009 Sudirman Cup, only 18 months ago.  The Tian He Stadium, which had played host to earlier events in this bustling southern city, has been rebuilt as new and it is fully ready to welcome the first of the badminton competition.  However, just days before the kick-off of the men’s and women’s team competitions, which will span the first four days of the tournament, the mystery was finally lifted as the lists of players were made public only after most teams had arrived in Guangzhou.

China straight to the semi-final

The first news was the withdrawal of the Macau women’s team, made public on Wednesday, which means the Chinese girls will benefit from a walkover through the quarter-final stage – after the bye they enjoyed as first seed, which means that they will begin their campaign in the semi-finals.  This might not be good news after all for a China hoping to avenge their unexpected loss to Korea in the Uber Cup final last spring in Kuala Lumpur.  They will have no match before the semi-final, which could be very well see them again playing against Korea – the very same team which beat the mighty Chinese 3-1 in the Uber Cup final in May.

Needless to say, this time, the Chinese officials have not shown as much confidence as before, especially without shuttlers who are used to coping with such pressure – Zhang Ning is now a coach and Xie Xingfang will be in Guangzhou as part of the organizing committee. They will rely on their quartet of Wang Xin (pictured), Jiang Yanjiao, Wang Shixian and Lu Lan in the singles department.  World #2 Wang Yihan, though a double winner in Denmark and France, was left off the team and Wang Lin is still in Germany recovering from her knee operation.

The doubles will be a key as well, with a possible change in pairs with Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli having done wonders in the past weeks and hoping to cope with Korea’s strong powerhouse in this event – which cost China the title last May.  The healthy and mature world #2 pair Cheng Shu / Zhao Yunlei (pictured above) will be on hand as well to mitigate the advantage of Korea’s veteran Lee Kyung Won and Lee Hyo Jung (pictured here with now regular partner Kim Min Jung).  Cheng/Zhao are a proven partnership with lots of on-court experience even if they don’t have the history of success in the World Championships, Asian Games, or Uber Cup that some of their younger compatriots or the Koreans have.

Korea will not necessarily make it to the semi-final, either, as they have first to get past the winner of Malaysia and Hong Kong. Both teams – to meet on Saturday Nov 13th – however have had bad news lately. Hong Kong was hit with the ban from competition of Zhou Mi on a doping charge.  This, along with the retirement of Doha champion Wang Chen, leaves Yip Pui Yin as the most experienced player on the team – unless Wang Chen plays in the team event.  As for Malaysia, the duo of Chin and Wong had to stay home to and the points might have to come from the singles, led by Wong Mew Choo and youngster Lydia Cheah.

“We do not have a good draw.  It will tough from the first round onwards.  If we get past Hong Kong, it will be South Korea in the quarter-finals,” Lydia Cheah told the Star recently.  “For now, our mission is to pull the rug from under Hong Kong.  They are the favourites but we are not ready to throw in the towel.”

India to continue dream run after Commonwealth Games?

In the lower part of the draw, the Indians are the underdogs, unseeded but looking as if they could be the trouble-makers of this competition, after the impressive win of Saina Nehwal and the duo of Ashwini Ponnappa and Jwala Gutta (pictured) in Delhi.  Of course, the best Chinese and Koreans were not in Delhi, but the boost of confidence could help the Indians secure a medal in the team event.  India, however, does not have a good draw either as they are to face the Indonesian ladies in the first round. Led by an eager Greysia Polii – who was frustrated as most of her team mates not to have been able to compete in the World Championships in Paris this summer – the Indonesians will be the other underdogs to watch out for.

Japan is well set at the number two spot.  Eriko Hirose is now an experienced player and can lead a strong charge, with a duo of doubles who have been convincing lately with a final showdown in Denmark for their last outing. Maeda and Suetsuna clinched gold in Odense and left silver for their compatriots Naito/Matsuo, who were actually passed over in the Asian Games team in favour of Fujii/Kakiiwa, whom they beat in Denmark.  While this is not bad for a Super Series tournament, the Japanese have to start cold, after their first round bye, in a tricky quarter-final match against Thailand.

The trickiness of the Thai test lies in the recent blooming of the Thai girls’ team. Salakjit Ponsana and Porntip Buranaprasertsuk were semi finalists in Paris a few days ago, while Ratchanok Intanon recently snagged an impressive pair of Grand Prix titles at only 15 years of age.  Youth Olympic champion Sapsiree Taerattanachai and Nitchaon Jindapol, winner of last week’s Lao International will also be hungry to show what they can do.  Add to that the French Open women’s doubles champions Kunchala Voravichitchaikul / Duanganong Aroonkesorn (pictured) and you have a very dangerous women’s team.

The winner of this tie between Japan and Thailand will be awaited by either Indonesia, India, or Chinese Taipei, who have gotten the well deserved 4th seeded spot and who will be eying as a logical semi-final spot.  Three of these teams are also bolstered by their mixed doubles specialists, as Reiko Shiota, Saralee Thoungthongkam, and Lilyana Natsir will all be on hand to create some tricky scratch pairings.

Badzine will be on site throughout the Asian Games to bring you all the action, complete with live photos from Badmintonphoto.

For the complete women’s team line-ups, CLICK HERE

Raphaël Sachetat

About Raphaël Sachetat

Raphael is the Chief Editor of Badzine International. He is the founder of the website together with Jean François Chauveau. After many years writing for the BWF and many publications around the world about badminton, he now leads a team of young and dynamic writers for Badzine.