Singles to return to spotlight for BWF awards?

In 2018, 4 of the six categories of BWF player awards all went to doubles players.  Will singles take back at least some of the spotlight in 2019? By Don […]

In 2018, 4 of the six categories of BWF player awards all went to doubles players.  Will singles take back at least some of the spotlight in 2019?

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) released its shortlists for the Player of the Year and related awards, to be announced next week at the gala dinner preceding the .  In total, 3 of the 2018 winners have been nominated in their respective categories again, including two-time Male Players of the Year Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo.

Last year, doubles specialists won all of the awards apart from those in Para-Badminton, where most of the top athletes excel in two and sometimes three events.  Indeed, for 2019, 7 of the 8 candidates for Para-Badminton Player of the Year titled in singles at the Para-Badminton Worlds in Basel this year and 5 of those also added a doubles World Championship title, in addition to numerous other titles.

As for the other awards, only the Eddy Choong Most Promising Player of the Year is dominated by singles candidates, who account for 3 of the 4 players on the shortlist.  In the other three categories, there is just one singles player in a shortlist of four.  This is similar to last year, when singles players were one of three in the two shortlists for Player of the Year, and one of four candidates for Most Improved Player.

Female Player of the Year honours are a different decision compared to last year.  The BWF has named very talented players to its shortlist, of course, but only one World Champion and most of the candidates saw a noticeable drop from the dominance they displayed last year.

Mixed Doubles World Champion Huang Yaqiong again has more titles than any other woman.  6 may be down from the 10 she won in 2018 but she is still world #1 and repeated her success in Basel.  3-time World Championship runners-up Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota similarly went from 6 titles in 2018 to 4 this year, and women’s singles world #1 Tai Tzu Ying went from 8 to 3.

Women’s doubles world #1 Chen Qingchen / Jia Yifan were the only candidates who have improved over last year, going from just an Asian Games gold in 2018 to winning 5 titles this year, including two Super 1000 titles.

On the shortlist for Male Players of the Year, two-time winners of the Gideon/Sukamuljo also dropped, but only barely, from 9 to 8 titles in 2019.  Their compatriots Hendra Setiawan / Mohammad Ahsan have the fewest titles from among the shortlisted players, with just 3, but that includes the coveted All England in addition to the Worlds.

Zheng Siwei is nominated again.  In 2019, he had another stellar year, but he finished with fewer titles than last season, dropping from 10 to 6.  Last year, with the Asian Games gold and the World Championship and 8 other titles, the BWF would almost have been compelled to retract their decision if he and Huang Yaqiong had succeeded in winning the World Tour Finals as well, but Gideon/Sukamuljo were such strong and deserving contenders themselves that it was really splitting hairs.

Kento Momota is obviously the strongest candidate among singles players in 2019.  Not only did he repeat as World Champion, but he is the only one to finish the World Tour with 9 additional titles.  While for many years, the BWF seemed to favour singles players in these awards, Momota would be the first men’s singles player to be named Player of the Year since Lee Chong Wei was in 2016.  The last women’s singles player to take the corresponding honour was Carolina Marin in 2015.

The Eddy Choong Most Promising Player of the Year will almost certainly go to a singles player in 2019.  Only one of the previous 4 winners have been singles specialists but this year there is an obvious choice.  Not only is Korea’s the youngest of the 4 candidates but she is the only one with a title in a tournament with 6-figure prize money.

The other two singles players named to the shortlist – 20-year-old Koki Watanabe and 21-year-old Kantaphon Wangcharoen – have just one Super 100 title between them.  The only doubles players on the shortlist, Leo Rolly Carnando / Daniel Marthin, won the Asian and World Junior Championships but the two 18-year-olds have not yet reached a semi-final in a major senior event.

Most Improved Player of the Year has one singles player as well, Macau Open winner Michelle Li.  She is also the only one without a title in a Super 500 tournament or above.  The three doubles pairs named all won their first Superseries-equivalent title in 2019, although Praveen Jordan had won multiple titles with a previous partner.

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy / Chirag Shetty had never reached a Superseries final nor won any title above a Super 100. Kim So Yeong had never been in a Superseries final and her partner Kong Hee Yong had never won an international title before she and Kim won the Japan Open.

On the shortlist for Male Para-Badminton Player of the Year is 2016 awardee Lucas Mazur.  Mazur finished the season with 10 titles, but both Qu Zimao and Pramod Bhagat finished with 11 and Dheva Anrimusthi was not far behind, with 8.  Apart from Mazur, all candidates won world titles in both singles and doubles.

2018 Female Para-Badminton Player of the Year Leani Ratri Oktila is up for the award again.  Both she and China’s Liu Yutong won 9 titles this year, including both singles and doubles at the Worlds in Basel.  Japan has two candidates on the shortlist, Sarina Satomi and Ayako Suzuki.  If either Liu or Qu are selected, it will mark the first time a Chinese Para-Badminton athlete has been given this honour. 

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 @