China claimed their second straight clean sweep of the gold medals but that has not been the only story of this year’s world championships with several players and partnership stealing the headlines throughout the week.
If the match between Cai/Fu and Lee/Jung in the 2009 world championships final was the greatest match of that event, the 2011 final between Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan has to be considered the greatest match in recent memory in the men’s singles. The 81-minute match had everything you’d want from a final and the drama of the last few points only confirmed the greatness of the match. Lee Chong Wei had two chances to be world champion, only for Lin Dan to save those match points and take the title 23-21.
The main disappointment of the week was Taufik Hidayat’s early exit to Zi Liang Derek Wong of Singapore in two games, asking the question if the Indonesian will continue playing until the 2012 Olympics. For Peter Gade, his last chance of a world championship ended at the semi final stage to Lin Dan but was just six points away from the final, leading 15-14 in the third game before the 2nd seeded Lin Dan scored seven unanswered points.
Wang Yihan claimed the women’s title in one-sided final over Cheng Shao Chieh of Chinese Taipei to claim her first world title ahead of three other high seeded Chinese players. The 2nd seeded Chinese player dropped just a single set on route to the final in her 2nd round match against Inthanon Ratchnok whilst her opponent reached the final with the loss of a game including victories over Wang Shixian and Juliane Schenk.
It was yet further disappoint for Wang Shixian, whose recent run of form since winning the All England in March has been poor. Two defeats to Cheng Shao Chieh, one defeat to Tine Baun and a surprise defeat to Lu Lan in the Asian Games was far from the best preparation for this week. Wang Yihan however, came in with the best preparation with a victory in the Indonesian Premier event and with her victory this week will put behind her the poor 2010 season.
Cai and Fu claimed their 4th world title after a shaky start in the opening two rounds before hitting their best form and defeating the top two Korean pairs in the semi final and final to win their 3rd straight world title. Ko and Yoo played exceptional all week but the Chinese pair were too strong in the final and questions will now be asked over the future of the partnerships in this discipline, with Ko and Lee teaming up in the events leading up to the world championships.
Boe and Mogensen’s defeat in the quarter final compounds their recent run of poor form, since failing to win a single match in the Sudirman Cup the pairing has almost been in free fall, but there were signs ever before that in their shock defeat to Bosch and Ridder in the Swiss Open. The new pairing of Conrad-Petersen and Rasmussen had a better run this week and could be a changing of the guard in Danish badminton.
Wang and Yu played against one another in the final of this event last year, but since teaming up have been almost unstoppable. Losing just one match since combining as a partnership and were the runaway favourites for the women’s doubles title and failed to disappoint. Their 22-20, 21-11 victory over Tian and Zhao, the only pairing to ever beat them was a warning to the rest of the women’s doubles field that they are the undoubted best partnership in the world, by a long way.
Both partnerships were rarely troubled on route to the final, with both failing to drop a game in reaching the final. The Japanese pairings of Maeda and Suetsuna as well as Fujii and Kakiiwa weren’t in the same league as the two Chinese pairs and that clearly showed in their quarter and semi final matches. The best two partnerships in the world met in the final and that seems to be the way it will be for the near future.
Zhang and Zhao might have claimed the gold in the mixed doubles, but the heroics of Adcock and Bankier will be the story of the championships. The Chinese pair were the undoubted favourites coming into this week, with victory in the Asian Games and the most recent Premier event in Indonesia. Their opponents in the final defeated four seeds just to reach the final and with every victory their confidence grew, as did the emotional and physical fatigue. Zhang and Zhao needed just 7 games to reach the final whilst Adcock and Bankier needed 11 and almost a hour more on court.
For Imogen Bankier, this is not new territory as one of her previous partnerships with Robert Blair propelled them into the top 20 of the world ranking but this partnership is clearly the future of British badminton with Robertson and Wallwork’s shock defeat in their opening match this week. Tian and Jiaming as well as Ahmad and Natsir will wonder how they were defeated by the British pair in such a convincing manner, with the Olympics being held in the same arena in just a years time with Adcock and Bankier looking to go one better than in 2011.