OLYMPIC MS Preview – The “final” in the semi-final

The post-Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei era has reset the focus away from super celebrity auras and ultra-superlatives which were double edge swords affecting performances. By Aaron Wong.  Photos: […]

The post-Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei era has reset the focus away from super celebrity auras and ultra-superlatives which were double edge swords affecting performances.

By Aaron Wong.  Photos: Badmintonphoto

Finale #1: Popular dream

The dream men’s singles final would star local hero and world #1 Kento Momota against Anthony Ginting. Theirs is a dance combining differing styles of unbelievable stroke production delivered at pace that’s a pleasure to behold because the rallies carry on until you discover your jaw dropping.

In terms of predisposition, one could liken Momota to Yang Yang and Ginting to Zhao Jianhua, who were geniuses of the 80s that the all fans could admire despite being partial to one camp.

Finale #2: The grudge

Another scenario for the final also features conspicuous similarities, the battle of the six-footers between world #2 Viktor Axelsen and world #8 Lee Zii Jia. It’s the Danish grudge rematch of the recent All England, featuring the heaviest and sharpest smashes on tour.

But there are question marks about the Japanese and the Malaysian.

Momota bowed out in straight games at the quarter-final stage of this year’s All England to an opponent who’d never beaten him in six attempts. And there’s the unique mantle of his Olympic debut on home soil while being top seed, twice reigning World Champion and securing 10 major titles during the last full calendar season. Overthinking outstanding prior achievements is known to kill one’s confidence.

Lee is one of the fortunate ones, for whom the Olympic delay benefitted his progress, allowing his talent to mature and settle sufficiently over 2020 just in time to make a splash which he has fulfilled in being crowned All England champion.

What the 23-year-old Malaysian has yet to demonstrate is the knack for building strong results tournament upon tournament. On the bright side, that means the 17-1 odds on him are pretty attractive.

Finale #3: Long and short of it

The above questions leave the door open for an Axelson versus Ginting affair, a match where each player is continually readjusting to an opponent whose playing rhythms are markedly different given the dramatic height difference.

As good as it gets

Anthony Sinisuka Ginting is arguably the most skilful player on tour when he’s in form according to the Danish BWF commentators.

Finding himself in the bottom half of the Olympic draw is as good as Indonesia’s world #5 could have hoped for.

His opponents increase in difficulty with each round but importantly they’re all surmountable. The luckiest part is his entire half of the draw being free of China’s Shi Yuqi, against whom Ginting has an awful record.

Ginting occupies this interesting reputation space wherein any match he enters few would admit he doesn’t have at least an even chance of winning, yet it transpires that Momota is by far the successful title campaigner.

To use a now redundant analogy, all of Ginting’s matches are worth taping on video cassette especially if he goes all the way.

Sole defending champion

Chen Long is the only defending Olympic champion and the most viable path towards emulating Lin Dan’s double gold entails passing Lee Zii Jia, Chou Tien Chen, Anders Antonsen, followed by Axelsen.

The tricky early hurdle pits the Chinese world #6 against a Malaysian who has ostensibly improved upon Chen’s technique by adding a dimension of proactiveness.

A lot rests on Chen avoiding speedy proactive styles, which amounts to just second seeded Chou Tien Chen. The rest are significantly younger men with accumulated experience and a lead foot on the accelerator.


2019 World Championship silver medallist Anders Antonsen’s most important job could be to remove Ginting to free up the possibility of reaching the final for himself as well as the entire bottom quarter of the draw.

Momota or Axelsen

Any way you look at it it’s hard to go past the medium term unbelievable consistency of Momota and the fresh resurgence of Axelsen with the lived experience of Olympic bronze up his sleeve. They are the men everybody must be prepared to beat.

Unfortunately, if they’re still true to form, the world #1 and 2 must battle at the semi-final stage and Anthony Ginting might prefer to meet Momota in the final; whereas Axelsen would fancy his chances against Ginting.

Interesting preliminary rounds:
– Group F: Nhat Nguyen (IRL) vs Niluka Karunaratne (SRI)
– Group G: Jonathan Christie (INA) vs Loh Kean Yew (SGP)
– Group K: Kantaphon Wangcharoen (THA) vs Toby Penty (GBR)
– Group L: Anders Antonsen (DEN) vs Nguyen Tien Minh (VIE)
– Group M: Brice Leverdez (FRA) vs Lee Zii Jia (MAS)

Click on a player’s photo in the photo draw below to see detailed head-to-head results with his first likely seeded opponent.

Aaron Wong

About Aaron Wong

Aaron Wong only ever coveted badminton's coolest shot - a reverse backhand clear. He is renowned for two other things: 1) Writing tournament previews that adjust the focus between the panorama of the sport's progress, down to the microscopic level of explaining the striking characteristics of players; 2) Dozing off during men's doubles at the London Olympic Games. Contact him at: aaron @ badzine.net