SUDIRMAN CUP 2015 Preview – China takes on the world

Host China is among the few seeded teams at full strength for the upcoming Sudirman Cup and three world #1s, along with over a dozen more talented players, are ready […]

Host China is among the few seeded teams at full strength for the upcoming and three world #1s, along with over a dozen more talented players, are ready for all comers in Dongguan.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto

In Dongguan in the coming week, China will be looking for its tenth Sudirman Cup title.  No other nation has even come close and no one has even won a match against China in the past five finals.

Still, China is still reeling from defeats in the last two major men’s team events.  What’s more, Indonesia suffered a mere 2-3 loss to China in the 2013 edition and Japan and Korea will also be riding high this year.

Compared to 2009, when in nearby Guangzhou, China romped to a third straight Cup by winning 21 consecutive matches and not losing even one, things in 2015 are not quite as rosy…or are they.

It turns out that in 2009, China did not even have one solitary player ranked #1 in the world and they had only one world #2.  True, 2009 was the year the All England experienced a Chinese sweep but the fact remains that the Chinese pulled it all together to perform impeccably in front of a home crowd, something they are poised to do again.

The challengers – minus some key weapons

Of the three other teams that have ever reached the Sudirman Cup final, only Korea is in Dongguan at full strength.  Denmark is without its top five doubles players, Indonesia is down to some inexperienced teens at men’s singles, and Japan is missing Kenichi Tago, the man who was key to defeating China at last year’s Thomas Cup semi-final.

Still, Indonesia has an excellent chance of unseating China in all three doubles disciplines.  They did win points in mixed and men’s doubles in 2013 and since then, Greysia Polii and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari (pictured above) have dealt world #3 Wang/Yu two defeats.  Denmark has a realistic chance in men’s singles and doubles against basically any team but would need a miracle to win a point in any of the other three disciplines against the hosts and will likely struggle similarly against other Group 1 teams.

Japan is almost at full strength but as they will be playing without Thomas Cup hero Kenichi Tago, it is an awful lot to depend on their young singles stars Nozomi Okuhara or Akane Yamaguchi to deliver against the likes of Li Xuerui or on Kento Momota (pictured bottom) against Chen Long or Lin Dan.  Unlike the Danes or Indonesians, Japan does not have a mixed pair to go with their very dangerous men’s and women’s doubles aces.  Hayakawa and Matsutomo are a very capable pair, of course, but they just have not shown the potential to beat the likes of China’s mights Zhang/Zhao or Xu/Ma.

Li Xuerui’s dominance at women’s singles has been disputed of late mainly by Carolina Marin – whose Spanish team is not in Group 1 – and by Ratchanok Intanon and Saina Nehwal.  Nehwal has a men’s singles equivalent equally capable of producing another upset against China but neither the Indians nor the Thais have a doubles threat equal to upsetting the defending champions.  One mustn’t forget, though, that China’s top men’s doubles pair was beaten in the All England by none other than India’s Manu Attri / Sumeeth Reddy (pictured above) and so India cannot be ruled out.

Any chance at a 4th?

Nowhere is Li’s supremacy more pronounced than in her record against Sung Ji Hyun of second-seeded Korea.  Including junior events, Sung has suffered 12 straight defeats(*) to Li Xuerui (pictured above).  Korea could try making use of Bae Yeon Ju’s slightly better success against Li but even Bae has lost five times since her last win over Li two years ago.

Although Korea is able to field all of its top players in Dongguan, even the recent fortunes of Son Wan Ho (pictured) against world #1 Chen Long may be of dubious use to his team as the Chinese can always make him face the great Lin Dan instead.

For the first time in recent memory, Korea will likely be able to spread the load in doubles.  In the past, players like Lee Yong Dae, Kim Ha Na, and Ko Sung Hyun have had to do double duty throughout the tournament but this time their strongest pairs will probably be better rested. Jang Ye Na is the most likely to be called upon to play two matches but still in mixed, Ko and Kim have had the most success against world #1 Zhang/Zhao.

The dark horses

The return of Lee Chong Wei doesn’t appear to be enough of a boon to rescue Malaysia’s flagging fortunes.  However, there is also the little matter of Hoo/Woon’s upset of Wang/Yu at the Asian Games.  Add to that the potential of Goh/Tan in men’s doubles and you have the makings of a real dark horse.

Head-to-head: China’s best vs. the best of the rest

CHINA Chen Long Li Xuerui Chai/Hong Wang/Yu Zhang/Zhao
KOR 7-3 12-0 * 1-4 3-0 4-2
vs. Son Wan Ho Sung Ji Hyun Lee/Yoo Lee/Shin Ko/Kim
DEN 7-1 2-0 2-0 N/A N/A
Jan Jorgensen Line Kjaersfeldt Conrad Petersen / Pieler Kolding Grebak/Helsbol Christiansen / Grebak
JPN 2-0 N/A 5-2 4-1 5-0
Kento Momota Nozomi Okuhara Endo/Hayakawa Matsutomo / Takahashi Hayakawa / Matsutomo
INA N/A 3-1 1-1 3-2 9-5
Jonatan Christie Linda Weni Fanetri Ahsan/Setiawan Maheswari/Polii Ahmad/Natsir
TPE 5-0 9-0 2-1 N/A N/A
Chou Tien Chen Tai Tzu Ying Lee/Tsai Hsieh/Wu Tseng/Lai
THA 7-0 7-3 2-0 5-0 2-0
Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk Ratchanok Intanon Ampunsuwan / Chalardchaleam Aroonkesorn / Voravichitchaikul Puangpuapech / Supajirakul
IND 3-0 9-2 0-1 4-0 N/A
Kidambi Srikanth Saina Nehwal Attri/Reddy Gutta/Ponnappa Dewalkar/Gadre
GER 5-2 N/A N/A N/A 7-0
Marc Zwiebler Karin Schnaase Fuchs/Schoettler Goliszewski/Nelte Fuchs/Michels
MAS 10-9 1-0 1-0 1-1 8-0
Lee Chong Wei Tee Jing Yi Goh/Tan Hoo/Woon Chan/Goh
ENG 5-0 2-0 N/A N/A 9-1
Rajiv Ouseph Fontaine Chapman Ellis/Mills Olver/Smith Adcock/Adcock
RUS 1-0 2-0 1-0 N/A 1-0
Vladimir Malkov Natalia Perminova Ivanov / Sozonov Bolotova / Kosetskaya Durkin/Vislova

Let the ties begin…

Of course, beating China is not the only game in town in Dongguan.  The Sudirman Cup brings together most of the finest players on the planet and each tie will feature rivalries with their own histories.  Still, Japan proved last year how addictive giant-killing can be.

On the other hand, China has been proving for several decades now how addicted they are to dominating world badminton generally and the Sudirman Cup in particular.  Whoever wants to take the Cup away with them from Dongguan will have to produce more than one performance of a lifetime.

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 @