Has China’s women’s singles supremacy ended?

Before the 2015 Singapore Open was concluded, there was a noticeable shift of power in the women’s singles category in international badminton.  How dire is it for China in the […]

Before the 2015 Singapore Open was concluded, there was a noticeable shift of power in the women’s singles category in international badminton.  How dire is it for China in the medium to longer term?

By Pendi Kwok.  Photos: Badmintonphoto

Of course China’s Sun Yu (pictured) finally won the 2015 OUE Singapore Open title after saving 3 match points against Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei.  However, prior to this, Chinese players had been unable to take a women’s singles title in the six Superseries events previous to the Singapore Open.  Will Sun Yu be the one to salvage China’s pride in a discipline they have come to view as their own, with four straight Olympic golds and 8 straight world titles at the start of the millennium?

If we stretch back further, before these last seven Superseries tournaments, the Chinese had been dominating, winning nine women’s singles titles in the first ten Superseries events of 2014 or 17 of the 19 Superseries titles starting from the 2013 Indonesia Open.  The current condition – one solitary title out of the last 7 Superseries event – stands in stark contrast.

The main spoilsports have been Tai Tzu Ying, Carolina Marin of Spain, and India’s Saina Nehwal (pictured), who share the 6 titles equally, each of them having won 2 titles.  However, Korea’s Bae Yeon Ju and Sung Ji Hyun, Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi and Nozomi Okuhara, Thailand’s Busanan Ongbamrungphan, and even Tee Jing Yi of Malaysia, have all been working to trouble the top Chinese shuttlers in the earlier rounds.

What about the rankings?

Of course, the big news this month was the ascension of Saina Nehwal to the world #1 spot.  She may have lost it after one week but she is back on top now and once again it is not a Chinese player but rather World Champion Carolina Marin who is nipping at her heels at #2.

The last time a non-Chinese player burst through to the top of the ranking table in the discipline was nearly five years ago.  In December 2010, though, Tine Baun was ousted after a week and by the end of the year, Wangs Xin, Shixian, and Yihan were back in the top three spots, Jiang Yanjiao made it four in the top ten, and Li Xuerui was still just poised to make her move.

So, have China’s years of domination come to an end?

To answer that question, let’s quickly look at the top players at this moment.  The women’s singles are the most interesting and competitive category right now, with so many great shuttlers playing at the same high level.  Besides the four most recent Superseries title winners mentioned above, we also have China’s big three – Li Xuerui, Wang Shixian, and Wang Yihan – as well as Sung Ji Hyun of Korea, Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand and Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara (pictured).

Having said that, in this writer’s opinion, there are three players who stand out from the rest.  They are Li Xuerui, Tai Tzu Ying and Carolina Marin.

The formidable Li Xuerui (pictured bottom) has everything she needs to be the best: good technique, consistency, mental strength and good coverage on the court.  And let’s not forget that in China’s recent rough patch, Li was able to participate in only two of the seven Superseries tournaments.

For Tai Tzu Ying (pictured), on the other hand, her distinctive flair lies in her disguise shots and smooth technique, which is, in fact, the best among all.  Ratchanok Intanon has the similar technique capability, but she is not as consistent as Tai.

As for Carolina Marin, although her technique may not as polished as Li Xuerui and Tai Tzu Ying, she has the best mental strength.  Her resilience and fortitude to come back from trailing has amazed me again and again.

Don’t get me wrong, the other players mentioned earlier are great players too, but, Li, Tai and Marin just may have that slight edge that will see them dominate the Superseries circuit from now on.

To come back to the question, China’s supremacy might have come to an end, but to say they are out the top level competition is totally wrong.

Women’s singles winners & runners-up of the last 7 Superseries:
Saina Nehwal beat Akane Yamaguchi – Thaihot China Open 2014
Tai Tzu Ying beat Nozomi Okuhara – Yonex Sunrise Hong Kong Open 2014
Tai Tzu Ying beat Sung Ji Hyun – BWF Destination Dubai World Superseries Finals 2014
Carolina Marin beat Saina Nehwal – Yonex All England Open 2015
Saina Nehwal beat Ratchanok Intanon – Yonex Sunrise India Open 2015
Carolina Marin beat Li Xuerui – Maybank Malaysia Open 2015
Sun Yu beat Tai Tzu Ying – OUE Singapore Open 2015

Superseries plus World/Olympic women’s singles titles 2007-2015

Year Title Ratio for China Ratio of Chinese to total winners Winning national associations
2007 10 of 13 4 of 7 CHN, HKG, DEN, MAS
2008 7 of 14 6 of 9 CHN, DEN, HKG
2009 8 of 14 4 of 8 CHN, DEN, HKG, IND, MAS
2010 10 of 14 5 of 7 CHN, IND, DEN
2011 13 of 14 3 of 4 CHN, THA
2012 9 of 14 3 of 7 CHN, IND, GER, TPE, JPN
2013 8 of 14 4 of 9 CHN, THA, KOR, TPE, DEN, JPN
2014 9 of 14 3 of 6 CHN, IND, TPE, ESP
2015 1 of 4 1 of 3 ESP, CHN, IND

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