10 top 8 players not yet on track for Guangzhou

10 players or pairs currently in the top 8 in the BWF world rankings – including former world #1s Chen Long, Saina Nehwal, and Matsutomo/Takahashi – are still off the […]

10 players or pairs currently in the top 8 in the BWF world rankings – including former world #1s Chen Long, Saina Nehwal, and Matsutomo/Takahashi – are still off the pace to qualify for the 2019 .

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto

The competition is tight for spots in the year-ending World Tour Finals.  10 players or pairs currently in the top 8 in the standard BWF world rankings are either not in the top 8 in the Race to Guangzhou standings or they being kept out by the World Champion wild card or the two-invitation-per-nation quota or both.  4 of these 10, plus 4 more, have won Super 500 titles but still haven’t made the grade.  But let’s take a look at how many still have a chance at a ticket to the December event.

With everyone in the badminton world once again seemingly united in the quadrennial obsession with qualifying for the Olympic Games, the second annual World Tour Finals has a new significance.  Players without national teams paying their bills may be attracted by the minimum $9000 in prize money guaranteed even to those who lose all 3 preliminary group matches.  Many other players are interested more in the points that will help them stay ahead of chasing compatriots or help doubles pairs into the crucial top 8.  12,000 points for winning or even 6,600 for making out of the group stage can often help either cause.

The Race to Guangzhou standings differ from the World Rankings in several ways.  First, they only count only tournaments that took place in 2019.  Second, only Super 1000, 750, 500, 300, and 100 tournaments are counted.  In other words, no International Challenge or below, no team events, and no continental or world championships.  The third major difference is that the ranking are a straight total, not just a sample of a player’s 10 best results.

The field is in general still wide open.  A player or pair who could win all the remaining tournaments could tack on 67,200 points to their current total, more than enough to catch the current #8 in any discipline, were they standing still.  However, virtually no one in the top echelon is entered in the two consecutive Super 100 events prior to the Denmark Open.  The closest would be China’s new men’s doubles duos Ou Xuanyi / Zhang Nan (pictured) and Liu/Huang – currently #37 and #38 – who are in a tournament a week for the 9 weeks from Vietnam to the Fuzhou China Open.

Men’s singles and doubles are among the most interesting races so far.  Men’s doubles is one of two disciplines where 3 pairs from the top 8 in the world rankings are not among those tentatively placed to be invited to the season finale.  In fact for one of those 3 pairs, the mission is very specific.

Fajar Alfian / Muhammad Rian Ardianto are ranked 3rd among the top Indonesian men’s doubles pairs.  Mohammad Ahsan / Hendra Setiawan have qualified automatically as World Champions and sit atop the standings anyway.  Current world #1 Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo are sitting just above their other compatriots but with a win in Malang this week, the Korea Open champions could have nosed ahead to pencil themselves in as Indonesia’s second pair in Guangzhou.  With their second round loss, however, they will have to outdo Gideon/Sukamuljo in the Super 750 events and/or play in Gwangju if they want to qualify.

As in most disciplines, two Super 500 winners are not yet in contention and one of these has very little hope of qualifying.  In addition to Korea Open champions Alfian/Ardianto, you have Thailand Open winners Satwiksairaj Rankireddy / Chirag Shetty.  The Indians are more than 30,000 points behind the current #9 pair.

Another interesting development is that Denmark, for the first time since the string of season finales began in 2008, looks unlikely to have a pair bound for Guangzhou, as Astrup/Rasmussen are 16,000 points off the pace.  Fellow historical men’s doubles power Korea may extend its run to 4 years in a row.  Choi Sol Gyu / Seo Seung Jae are slightly closer, and are almost certainly going to be aiming to defend their Korea Masters title, but they still lag well behind.

The team to catch may in fact be Lu Ching Yao / Yang Po Han (pictured).  They are currently just outside the top 9, but they are entered in both the Dutch Open and the Macau Open, in addition to the 3 Super 750 events, and therefore have an advantage over most of the pairs they are chasing and most of the pairs chasing them.  Lu/Yang have already maximized their point opportunities.  So far, they have only missed 1 of the 8 Super 300 events and have played two Super 100 tournaments as well.

1  Mohammad Ahsan / Hendra Setiawan (INA) – 83920
2  Takeshi Kamura / Keigo Sonoda (JPN) – 82950
3  Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (INA) – 78950
4  Lee Yang / Wang Chi Lin (TPE) – 77660
5  Fajar Alfian / Muhammad Rian Ardianto (INA) – 76530
6  Li Junhui / Liu Yuchen (CHN) – 69080
7  Goh V Shem / Tan Wee Kiong (MAS) – 68290
8  Hiroyuki Endo / Yuta Watanabe (JPN) – 65030
9  Aaron Chia / Soh Wooi Yik (MAS) – 60600

10  Lu Ching Yao / Yang Po Han (TPE) – 59600
11  Ong Yew Sin / Teo Ee Yi (MAS) – 52240
12  Choi Sol Gyu / Seo Seung Jae (KOR) – 48890
13  Wahyu Nayaka Arya Pangkaryanira / Ade Yusuf Santoso (INA) – 48580
14  Takuro Hoki / Yugo Kobayashi (JPN) – 46140
15  Han Chengkai / Zhou Haodong (CHN) – 45830
16  Ko Sung Hyun / Shin Baek Cheol (KOR) – 44910
17  Liao Min Chun / Su Cheng Heng (TPE) – 44400
18  Kim Astrup / Anders Skaarup Rasmussen (DEN) – 44300

Men’s singles also features 3 top 8 players not in the top 8.  World #3 Shi Yuqi is no surprise.  Forced to stop playing in the Indonesia Open, he then had to skip the Japan, Thailand, and Korea Opens and barely made it through one match at the China Open.  He is now well behind Lin Dan, who is currently in 8th spot in the Race to Guangzhou standings.

Meanwhile, not only is world #4 Anders Antonsen ranked just under 1,000 points behind Lin Dan – along with two-time World Champion Chen Long (pictured) – but the Indonesia Masters winner is one of two players with Super 500 titles who is not yet in range to qualify for Guangzhou.  Antonsen obviously has a very realistic chance, however, unlike Malaysia Masters champion Son Wan Ho, who cannot even start his comeback until the Macau Open.

Men’s singles will again be the toughest race to call, with no fewer than 9 players within 10,000 points of a slumping Lin Dan.  Of those 9, last year’s surprise qualifier Kantaphon Wancharoen may not be the closest but he is the only one who is still entered in the Macau Open.  Parupalli Kashyap just withdrew from the SaarLorLux Open a few days ago.

1  Kento Momota (JPN) – 79540
2  Chou Tien Chen (TPE) – 71020
3  Jonatan Christie (INA) – 68300
4  Anthony Ginting (INA) – 62890
5  Wang Tzu Wei (TPE) – 60910
6  Viktor Axelsen (DEN) – 58310
7  Lee Zii Jia (MAS) – 57700
8  Lin Dan (CHN) – 56020
9  Chen Long (CHN) – 55430
10  Anders Antonsen (DEN) – 55160
11  Kanta Tsuneyama (JPN) – 53670
12  Ng Ka Long (HKG) – 52420
13  Sai Praneeth (IND) – 50800
14  Kantaphon Wancharoen (THA) – 50570
15  Parupalli Kashyap (IND) – 50140
16  Kenta Nishimoto (JPN) – 48240
17  Kidambi Srikanth (IND) – 46630
18  Sitthikom Thammasin (THA) – 43870

In women’s singles, it is India’s two players currently in the world’s top 8 who are well out of that range in the Guangzhou standings.  However, 2018 World Tour Finals winner Pusarla Venkata Sindhu is automatically in because of her win at the World Championships in Basel.

World #8 Saina Nehwal, on the other hand, is nearly 20,000 points behind Sung Ji Hyun (pictured), who is currently bringing up the rear.  Even further back is her fellow Indonesia Masters finalist Carolina Marin.  Marin is entered in both of the remaining Super 100 events in Europe but that will mainly just shore up her world ranking points and will not get her to Guangzhou.

Expect the three-way battle to heat up among Sung, Busanan Ongbamrungphan, and Zhang Beiwen for that last spot.  Only 5,000 points separate them at this point and all 3 are playing the Macau Open before Fuzhou.  Canada’s Michelle Li and Nitchaon Jindapol of Thailand are also within striking distance and are playing Macau but they have a little more ground to make up.

1  Ratchanok Intanon (THA) – 79840
2  Chen Yufei (CHN) – 78860
3  Akane Yamaguchi (JPN) – 70110
4  Tai Tzu Ying (TPE) – 66510
5  Nozomi Okuhara (JPN) – 66000
6  He Bingjiao (CHN) – 60430
7  Sung Ji Hyun (KOR) – 60020
8  Busanan Ongbamrungphan (THA) – 56220
9  Zhang Beiwen (USA) – 55740
10  Sayaka Takahashi (JPN) – 53850
11  Fitriani (INA) – 53150
12  Michelle Li (CAN) – 53140
13  Nitchaon Jindapol (THA) – 53020
14  P. V. Sindhu (IND) – 51220
15  Pornpawee Chochuwong (THA) – 48630

Women’s doubles is again the one with the most vulnerable last qualifier.  Hsu Ya Ching / Hu Ling Fang (pictured) of Chinese Taipei are currently down at #14 but are the 8th tentative qualifiers for Guangzhou because ahead of them are 3 Japanese and 3 Chinese pairs who are all victims of the national quota.  The most gutted of those 6 may be Olympic gold medallists Matsutomo/Takahashi, who are currently #2 in the Guangzhou standings but stand to be excluded because of the wildcard awarded to World Champions Matsumoto/Nagahara.  If this does happen to them, they will basically be trading places with compatriots Fukushima/Hirota, who last year were ranked #1 in the world and #1 in the Race to Guangzhou but still ended up staying home in December.

Hsu/Hu may not hold their spot for long as they have only made it past the second round once this year at a Super 300, while Korea Open runners-up Lee/Shin are now just a win away from passing them.  The Koreans started slow this year, playing only one World Tour event in the first 5 months, but they are back on the march.

Just like in the latter stages of last year’s tour, only the 8th spot is vulnerable.  Thailand’s Jongkolphan Kititharakul / Rawinda Prajongjai have nearly a 15,000-point cushion over Lee/Shin and plan to play Macau to open that a little wider.

1  Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota (JPN) – 82740
2  Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi (JPN) – 81520
3  Mayu Matsumoto / Wakana Nagahara (JPN) – 80280
4  Kim So Yeong / Kong Hee Yong (KOR) – 78670
5  Greysia Polii / Apriyani Rahayu (INA) – 74080
6  Chen Qingchen / Jia Yifan (CHN) – 71450
7  Du Yue / Li Yinhui (CHN) – 63080
8  Jongkolphan Kititharakul / Rawinda Prajongjai (THA) – 62340
9  Li Wenmei / Zheng Yu (CHN) – 57160
10  Nami Matsuyama / Chiharu Shida (JPN) – 55950 [can’t qualify]
11  Liu Xuanxuan / Xia Yuting (CHN) – 50850
12  Ayako Sakuramoto / Yukiko Takahata (JPN) – 49840
13  Dong Wenjing / Feng Xueying (CHN) – 48070
14  Hsu Ya Ching / Hu Ling Fang (TPE) – 47660
15  Lee So Hee / Shin Seung Chan (KOR) – 46040
16  Puttita Supajirakul / Sapsiree Taerattanachai (THA) – 44990
17  Chow Mei Kuan / Lee Meng Yean (MAS) – 42780

Mixed doubles is the most straightforward of the five disciplines.  All winners from Super 500 and above are on track to qualify for the World Tour Finals and it is the only category apart from men’s singles where the actual top 8 in the Race to Guangzhou standings are the 8 pairs who would be invited, were qualification to end now.

The only difference between the top 8 in the Guangzhou standings and the corresponding octet atop the world rankings is that World #8 Marcus Ellis / Lauren Smith would be replaced by Indonesia’s Hafiz Faizal / Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja (pictured).  The English pair’s world ranking is still kept high by their finishes in continental and world championships and by several good results last autumn but they lag far behind in the race to Guangzhou for 2019.

The most realistic threat to the current #8 comes from Goh Soon Huat / Shevon Jemie Lai (pictured bottom) of Malaysia.  The other front-runners in the chase pack are all having to chase compatriots who are ranked far above them.  Things could look different if Ellis/Smith win the last two Super 100 events, as they did in 2018, but they will have to augment that with strong showings in the Super 750s if they want to give Seo Seung Jae and Chae Yoo Jung a run for their money.

1  Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying (MAS) – 78490
2  Dechapol Puavaranukroh / Sapsiree Taerattanachai (THA) – 77770
3  Zheng Siwei / Huang Yaqiong (CHN) – 76470
4  Wang Yilü / Huang Dongping (CHN) – 74970
5  Hafiz Faizal / Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja (INA) – 69660
6  Praveen Jordan / Melati Daeva Oktavianti (INA) – 68660
7  Yuta Watanabe / Arisa Higashino (JPN) – 67940
8  Seo Seung Jae / Chae Yoo Jung (KOR) – 60580
9  Rinov Rivaldy / Pitha Haningtyas Mentari (INA) – 55290
10  Goh Soon Huat / Shevon Jemie Lai (MAS) – 53230
11  Tontowi Ahmad / Winny Oktavina Kandow (INA) – 50110
12  Tan Kian Meng / Lai Pei Jing (MAS) – 49710
13  Lu Kai / Chen Lu (CHN) – 49470
14  Nipitphon Phuangphuapet / Savitree Amitrapai (THA) – 48580
15  Marcus Ellis / Lauren Smith (ENG) – 46910
16  Mark Lamsfuss / Isabel Herttrich (GER) – 45770

Click here for the latest Race to Guangzhou standings

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