2018 by the numbers: Badminton’s bests, mosts, and firsts of last season

The best in the badminton world are gearing up for next season – some resting, some training, some playing winter leagues – but as they do, we take a look […]

The best in the badminton world are gearing up for next season – some resting, some training, some playing winter leagues – but as they do, we take a look back at some interesting stats from the year that just ended.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto

Most major titles by one player or pair: 9

Two world #1 pairs each finished with 9 titles in 2018.  Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo went from 7 titles last year to 8 titles Super 500 and above, but then added on the Asian Games gold medal.

Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong (pictured right) had 7 titles in the former Superseries (Super 500 +) and like the Indonesians, they also took the Asian Games gold, but not before throwing in the World Championship title.  Tai Tzu Ying deserves honourable mention.  She won 6 World Tour titles, plus the Asian Games and Asian Championships.

Highest-profile doubles double: Wang Chi Lin

Chinese Taipei’s Wang Chi Lin picked up the first major mixed doubles title of his career at the 2018 New Zealand Open Super 300, with Lee Chia Hsin (pictured left) and he just happened to manage to take a men’s doubles title the same day, giving him his career first doubles double.

Meanwhile, England’s Marcus Ellis was the only other player to win the doubles double in 2018, picking up 3 of them, all at the Super 100 level.  He won two titles each at the Canada, SaarLorLux, and Scottish Opens.

The closest to a doubles double at a bigger event was Christinna Pedersen, who won the mixed title at the India Open but was stopped in the women’s doubles semi-finals.  Yuta Watanabe was the only player who had a chance at the most lucrative doubles double in history but his World Tour Finals campaign ended instead with one silver and one bronze medal.

Players who titled with multiple partners: 2

Chow Mei Kuan and Vivian Hoo (pictured right) were the only players to win major titles in the same discipline with different partners.  Together, they combined to take the Commonwealth Games gold in women’s doubles.  Later in the year, Chow reunited with regular partner Lee Meng Yean to win the Syed Modi Super 300 title, just a few weeks after Hoo, with new partner Yap Cheng Wen had titled in Macau.

The closest anyone else came would be Wang Chi Lin.  He won two titles with his regular partner Chen Hung Ling, then squeezed in a runner-up finish in a scratch partnership with Po Li Wei at the Korea Masters.  Of course, Wang titled in the World Tour with different partners in different disciplines and was joined in that category by Christinna Pedersen, Yuta Watanabe, Ou Xuanyi, and Seo Seung Jae, and if we extend to Super 100 events, by Mark Lamsfuss, Ko Sung Hyun, and Marcus Ellis.

Title sweeps: 0

For the second straight year, there were no major events where shuttlers from one member association swept all five titles.  The last title sweep at a major tournament was at the end of 2016, when Korea won all 5 at the Korea Masters Gold.  Also for the second straight year, Korea and China were closest to sweeping, both at home.  China won four of five titles at the Lingshui China Masters Super 100, while Korea again won all but women’s singles at the Korea Masters, this year a Super 300.

World Tour events with home winners: 10

Of the 27 World Tour tournaments from Super 300 up to the World Tour Finals, 11 featured winners from the home team.  Altogether, this meant 23 titles for shuttlers from 8 member associations.  China won 6 titles altogether at the two China Opens and the World Tour Finals.

Indonesia won 4 total, between the Indonesia Open and Indonesia Masters, while Thai and Korean shuttlers were winless at their Super 500 ‘Opens’ but won 3 and 4 respectively at their Super 300 ‘Masters’ events.  The other home winners were 2 each at the Japan and Chinese Taipei Opens and one each at the India and Malaysia Opens.  The big story here was Kento Momota (pictured), who became the first Japanese male player ever to title at the Japan Open.

Major event titles won by 5 different countries on one day: 4

At one end of the spectrum, two Super 1000 tournaments – the All England and the China Open – had winners from 5 different member associations, while the same thing happened at the other end in the Orleans Masters and Dutch Open Super 100 events.  For the All England, it was the second straight year with 5 different flags above the winner’s podium, following after the event went 46 years without seeing such an array of winners.

As for China, 2018 marked the first time in either the China Open or the China Masters that there had been winners from 5 different member associations.  The Dutch Open also enjoyed a second straight ‘variety year’ but this event, among the oldest in international badminton, has more of an equal-opportunity tradition, boasting 5 different flags no fewer than 7 times this millennium.

New world #1s: 9

Nine players reached #1 in the BWF World Rankings for the first time in their careers.  First were Wang Yilyu, Huang Dongping, and Srikanth Kidambi (pictured right) on April 12th.  Then came Akane Yamaguchi, Tontowi Ahmad, Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota, Huang Yaqiong, and the latest new world #1 was Kento Momota on September 27th.  This is the most players we’ve seen ascend to world #1 in one year since 2009, when luminaries such as Jung Jae Sung, Wang Yihan, Zhao Yunlei, Ma Jin, and Wang Xiaoli climbed to the top of the world rankings for the first time in their careers, along with several others.

First World Tour titles: 78!

Obviously, everyone new World Tour winner was taking the first of their career.  It makes it rather awkward to establish milestones with the continuity from the 11-year Superseries nullified by the introduction of the new .  That’s a shame because a whopping 23 players who never won a Superseries title won this year at its equivalent: the Super 500 and above.

First ‘post-Superseries’ (Super 500 +): 23

Foremost among them was Hiroyuki Endo (pictured left, with Yuta Watanabe), who played in 7 Superseries finals, then a Super 750 and a Super 500 final this year, before finally winning the Korea Open Super 500.  7 others, like Endo, began 2018 with Grand Prix Gold titles to their name but had just never won a Superseries.  They were Zhang Beiwen, Chen Yufei, Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja, Anders Skaarup Rasmussen, Kim Astrup, He Jiting, and Du Yue.

15 more came into 2018 with Grand Prix titles but managed to make the leap all the way up to Super 500 or better.  They were Widjaja’s partner Hafiz Faisal, as well as Mathias Christiansen, Fajar Alfian, Muhammad Rian Ardianto, Kanta Tsuneyama, Goh Soon Huat, Shevon Jemie Lai, and Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara, who of course went even further to win the World Championship title  Finally, three pairs – Han Chengkai / Zhou Haodong, Yuta Watanabe / Arisa Higashino, Ayako Sakuramoto / Yukiko Takahata – started the year with not even a Grand Prix title to their name and finished with Super 1000, Super 750, and Super 500 titles respectively.

First Grand Prix Gold (Super 300): 21

There were 9 players who titled at Super 300 tournaments or above who had never won even a Grand Prix tournament prior to 2018.  They included pairs Tinn Isriyanet / Kittisak Namdash, Nami Matsuyama / Chiharu Shida, and Chow Mei Kuan / Lee Meng Yean, Ou Xuanyi and his partners Ren Xiangyu and Feng Xueying, and also Mark Lamsfuss, Lee Chia Hsin, and Marsheilla Gischa Islami.  Singles players Han Yue, Lu Guangzu, and Lee Zii Jia also made Super 300 their career-best titles.

Michelle Li (pictured above), Yap Cheng Wen, Isabel Herttrich, and Alfian Eko Prasetya had all won a Grand Prix tournaments previously but in 2018 took their first at an event with six-figure prize money (i.e. Super 300/Grand Prix Gold).  Sara Thygesen made the same jump but prior to winning a Super 300 this year, both Thygesen and Niclas Nohr would probably consider their personal best to have been European Games gold in 2015.

First-time lucky pairs: 2

Just two mixed doubles pairs managed to win a Super 100 title on their first international senior outing together.  First was Guo Xinwa and Liu Xuanxuan (pictured left) of China, who had reached the semi-final of the Pembangunan Jaya Raya Junior Grand Prix but a few days later at the Lingshui China Masters, they made their senior debut and won the title.  Then at the Russian Open, Vladimir Ivanov and Kim Min Kyung won the mixed title in their first and possibly only appearance together.

Hoo/Chow’s Commonwealth Games gold was actually their second outing, after the Hanoi International Challenge.  For Lee Yong Dae and Kim Gi Jung, the Spain Masters was indeed their first title at a ranking event, but they had already won an international title together way back in 2012, when they won the World University Badminton Championships.

Teenaged World Tour winners: 6

In 2017, Apriyani Rahayu was one of three teenagers, along with Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan, who won Superseries titles but in 2018, she was the only one to win a Super 500 or better before turning 20.

In Super 300 events, Cai Yanyan (pictured right) was the only 18-year-old to get to the top of the podium when she took the Australian Open title in May.  However, when Han Yue won a women’s singles title, Ren Xiangyu won a men’s doubles title, Yukiko Takahata won in women’s doubles, and Feng Xueying took a mixed title, they all did so before leaving their teenage years.

Eight more teens titled at the Super 100 level.  Once again, it was men’s singles that had no teenaged winners.  Lin Dan is still the last men’s singles player to have titled at a six-figure event as a teen. (for more, see here)

Comeback titles: 4

Four times this year, veterans returned from long layoffs and won a title in their first time back on court.  The first was Li Xuerui, who took the Lingshui China Masters title in April.  It was her first international appearance since she withdrew from the bronze medal match in Rio.  The next one came after an even longer hiatus.  Ko Sung Hyun may have played as recently as the Gwangju Korea Masters in December 2017 but partner Shin Baek Cheol had not played internationally in over 2 years by the time the pair won the Vietnam Open title in August.

At the Spain Masters, Lee Yong Dae and Kim Gi Jung were showing their faces on court for the first time since Gwangju last December but it was just the 3rd outing for Lee in the two year since Rio and his first one overseas in a ranking event.  The last one was Eom Hye Won (pictured left, with Ko Sung Hyun).  She won the Korea Masters nearly two years after making her last international appearance at that same event.

Oldest major event winner: 38

Lee Hyun Il (pictured top) may once again have broken his own .  He was already the only 36-year-old to win a singles title at a Grand Prix Gold event, back in 2016.  This year, he was the only 38-year-old to win at a 6-figure tournament in any discipline when he took the Macau Open Super 300.  Meanwhile, Lee Chong Wei titled at age 35 at a Super 750 event, older than any singles winner during the Superseries.  However, as the Superseries and Grand Prix Gold era has ended, we cannot compare the accomplishment of either Lee to much more than this year’s winners unless we also go back to the beginning of All England history.

The oldest woman winner in the 2018 World Tour was Kamilla Rytter Juhl (pictured above, with Christinna Pedersen), who was 34 when she won the All England.  Again, this beats all Superseries records but we lack the resources to determine whether it is a milestone even in All England history.

World Tour titles won by defending champions: 16

A total of 16 BWF World Tour titles were retained in 2018 by their 2017 winners.  At the All England and the German, Japan, and Fuzhou China Opens, there were two successful title defenses each.

The first major event of the year got things started, with Tommy Sugiarto repeating as men’s singles champion at the Thailand Masters.  His compatriots Greysia Polii / Apriyani Rahayu repeated when the Tour returned to Bangkok for the Thailand Open, only after Tontowi Ahmad and won again at the Indonesia Open.

Meanwhile, the India and Hong Kong Opens also contributed one repeat each as they were among the four 2018 title defenses by Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon (pictured above), who also repeated in Birmingham and Fuzhou.  Also repeating more than once were Tai Tzu Ying (All England and Malaysia Open) and her compatriots Chen Hung Ling / Wang Chi Lin, who won second straight titles at the Super 300 events in New Zealand and Taipei.

There were also a couple of partial title defenses.  Zheng Siwei did repeat in Fuzhou with the same partner but at the Malaysia Open, he titled with Huang Yaqiong where he had claimed the title in 2017 with Chen Qingchen.  Seo Seung Jae also claimed his only men’s doubles title of the year at home at the Gwangju Korea Masters, with Choi Sol Gyu (pictured) accompanying him to the top of the podium in 2018 in place of Kim Won Ho.

Of the 11 Super 100 events, only 6 were staged as major events last year and only the Dutch and Scottish Opens saw repeat winners, in Ellis/Smith and Kirsty Gilmour respectively.  Last but not least, all 5 continental championships had repeat winners, ranging from all 3 doubles winners in Oceania, to 2 title defenses in Asia and Europe, to one each in Pan Am and Africa.

Career triple

Vladimir Ivanov (pictured left) became only the second player to have won singles, doubles and mixed titles at major events since 2007.  Already when Sapsiree Taerattanachai became the first last year, Ivanov was one of only 3 who had reached finals in all three disciplines at Grand Prix tournaments, the third being Tatiana Bibik.

Unlike Taerattanachai, Ivanov and Bibik had their multi-disciplinary success all at the same tournament.  Unlike Bibik, who has been Russian Open runner-up in women’s singles and doubles but won the title only in mixed, Ivanov converted his career triple this year.  He won the elusive mixed doubles title in a scratch pairing with Korea’s Kim Min Kyung.

We hope you’ve enjoyed these fun facts.  So many veterans and newcomers made their mark on the tour this year that there are some tough acts to follow in 2019.  We plan to write about and photograph as much of it as we can on Badzine and we hope you’ll be back to see what we have for you in the coming year.

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