China’s hope to retain all 5 golds won in Beijing resulted in a full compliment of players qualifying for the 2012 Olympics, but the women’s singles is the strongest showing from the Chinese. The world number 1, 2 and 3 all qualified for the Olympics as well as having three more players inside the top 16 to show their strength in numbers within this event.
Wang Yihan goes into the Olympics as the world number 1 after resurrecting a career that saw the Chinese squad demand that she proof herself after the 2010 Uber Cup defeat to Korea. She won the Malaysia Open earlier in this year before a series of surprise losses to her Chinese team-mates again asked the question if she was the best player within the Chinese squad.
Wang Xin and Wang Shixian are China’s more than adaquate back-up plan should Wang Yihan fail to reach the gold medal match. The world number 2 and 3 at the end of qualification have also had a poor year given the high Chinese standards, with Wang Shixian claiming the only title between the two players.
Li Xuerui put in a late surge to the world number 4 spot and was also the form player within the Chinese squad, winning the Asian Championships and the All England title in her run to the world number 4 spot. Has she been selected, she would have been the favourite for the gold medal in London.
What Are Wang Yihan’s Chances Of Gold?
Her recent run of defeats have mostly came against Li Xuerui, with all three of her defeats in 2012 coming against matches with Li Xuerui. Her head to head against her Chinese rivals picked for the Olympics is more pleasing statistic with a 8-2 advantage over Wang Xin and 5-2 advantage against Wang Shixian. Her record against Schenk and Nehwal is even more one-sided (6-1 against Schenk, 5-0 over Nehwal) and you have to go back to October last year for Wang Yihan’s last defeat from a non-Chinese player, losing in two games to Tai Tzu Ying.
What Are Wang Xin’s Likely Expectations?
The Chinese team are very willing to give walkovers or “rigged” matches towards one of their players to ensure progression into the next round and in all likelyhood, the gold medal is Wang Yihan’s to lose. Wang Xin’s is probably looking at a silver medal at best. Her record against the best players in the world is superb, with a winning record over most of her rivals including Wang Shixian who is likely going to be her semi final opponent.
Can Wang Shixian Justify Her Selection With A Medal?
Wang Shixian has dropped to 4 in the rankings, with rumours of Li Xuerui being selected instead of her circlating at the Uber Cup finals. Her sole victory in the event seemed to be enough to get her the nod ahead of Li Xuerui. A few stats stand out that question whether Wang Shixian can claim a medal, the first being her record against Saina Nehwal which stands at 3-1 in favour of the Indian. The other head to head with will cause concern is against Tine Baun, that stands at 2-2 with the Dane taking their most recent encounter. Her hopes of a medal are interconnected with Nehwal, with the Indian hoping to play Wang Shixian in the last 8 whilst the Chinese player would look to avoid Nehwal to reach the semi finals.
The hope of India lies in just one player, as 1.2 billion people will support Saina Nehwal in her quest for a gold medal in London. She has thrived in the pressure situations, winning a Commonwealth gold medal on hope soil two years ago and a junior world championship in 2008 as well as reaching the final in 2006 at just 16.
Her previous venture at the Olympics saw her reach the quarter finals, as a relative unknown in the badminton world. At that time she was Junior World Champion and reached the last 8 before a loss to eventual bronze medalist Maria Kristin Yulianti. At 22, she will arrive in London as the Commonwealth champion and already an experience at the Olympics from Beijing four years previously.
She will enter the 2012 Olympics as the form player in the world, winning the Super Series Premier event in Indonesia and Thailand Open title in her final two events before the Olympics.
Can She Defeat The Chinese?
Her record against Wang Yihan and Wang Xin (ranked 1 and 2 in the world) is undoubtably poor. She has never defeated Wang Yihan in five occasions, despite a match point in Indonesia last year. Her record against Wang Xin is a deceptive 4-2 in favour of the Chinese player, but both of Nehwal’s victories have came in their three most recent meetings. Her record against the third Chinese player selected for London, Wang Shixian is 3-1 in favour of the Indian, with Wang Shixian’s sole victory coming almost two years ago in the 2010 World’s in Paris. Due to her seeding in London of 4, she will not meet a Chinese player until the semi final stages in all likelihood.
Can She Defeat The Europeans?
A likely quarter final against Juliane Schenk or Tine Baun will await Saina Nehwal, for which the Indian has a relatively good record against both. She has a 5-3 head to head against Schenk, with the German taking their last encounter in Japan last year in two games. Schenk is also in excellent form, taking the Singapore Open title last month. Tine Baun has won three of their six encounters, with Nehwal taking the two most recent encounters in tight matches. A quarter final against Baun would be preferable to Schenk.
Can She Win Gold?
A favourable draw would be needed, avoiding Schenk in the quarter finals would be a boost with the Indian having a good record against other potential quarter final opponents (Inthanon Ratchanok, Cheng Shao Chieh and Sung Ji Hyun) and a semi final draw against Wang Xin or Wang Shixian would be desirable. The biggest question is if she can beat Wang Yihan, which is entirely possible with the world number 1′s erratic form this year. Losses to Li Xuerui on three separate occasions as well as Jiang Yanjiao will fuel the 22-year olds belief that she can win Olympic gold.
Enigmatic, Controversial, Genius, Shocking, Greatest Ever. Words that surround the career of the Chinese superstar and current Olympic champion Lin Dan and divide fans like no other player in badminton. At just 28, he has won every major honour that his discipline can offer him several times over, all that remains is a second Olympic gold to cement his place as the greatest ever player.
On the court, there is nothing quite like Lin Dan in full stride. His victory over his rival Lee Chong Wei in Beijing four years ago was perhaps the single greatest performance we’d ever seen on a badminton court but there is the other side to Lin Dan, the arrogant and petulant side that divides fans of the sport.
An incident in the 2008 Korean Open final that resulted in Lin Dan going match point down after a poor line call resulted in an altercation between the coaches and Lin Dan having to be restrained by BWF officials. His outburst and then assault of the Chinese coach Ji Xinpeng just three months before the Beijing Olympics in 2008 had fans and critics alike demanding that he be withdrawn from the Thomas Cup team and then he shouldn’t participate in the 2008 Games at all.
Few people question his ability on the badminton court, already a 4-time world champion at just 28 years old and talk of retirement should he claim his second gold medal in London has quietened over recent months but the possibility looms that “Super Dan” might have his final swansong in Wembley Arena.
Would A Gold Cement His Legacy?
Nobody has ever defended an Olympic gold in the men’s singles, just like nobody has had as much success as Lin Dan within the sport. A gold medal cements his place as the greatest player of this generation. The critics will claim that Lee Chong Wei has been just as successful, but the lack of world and Olympic titles tilts the argument to Lin Dan, even more so with a second gold in London
Can Anyone Stop Lin Dan?
The biggest question going into the men’s singles is Lee Chong Wei and his ankle injury. A 100% fit Lee Chong Wei would have been a genuine contender for the gold medal but it is unknown as to what standard of fitness and confidence Lee Chong Wei has in his ankle or in his Olympic hopes. Even then Lin Dan holds a 19-9 record over Lee Chong Wei going into the Olympics, winning four of their last five meetings.
Will This Be Lin Dan’s Final Tournament?
Lin Dan himself has denied that he plans to retire as recently as 3 weeks ago but this is almost certainly his final Olympics. His playing schedule has slowly decreased over the past few years, just as his list of withdrawals and retirements has increased also. He has promised another year after the Olympics, which means that there is life after the Olympics for one of the greatest rivalries within the game.
In about a months time, the career of Peter Gade will end on the Olympic stage in London. Gone are the days of a spikey blonde haired man oozing with arrogance claiming the world number 1 spot at just 21, replaced with a 35-year old man with all the deceptive skills that the Dane claimed title after title with in the early parts of the 2000′s, but missing that explosion and a body slowly betraying him.
His legacy has shaped European badminton, an ambassador both on and off the court as well as a role model to countless players of this generation. His technique is idolized in his home nation, where he has claimed his national title on no less than 10 occasions. A European champion on five different occasions as well as an All-England Champion in 1999 but like Lee Chong Wei, there is a lack of a World or Olympic gold medal in his career, only a World Championship silver in 2001 in Seville.
2012 has seen a significant drop off in his results, something that Gade himself has admitted that he was struggling with an ankle injury and trying to find an extra 10-15% to push him back to the top of the game. He has played just 16 matches in the past few months, losing 7 of those 16. Losses to Shon Wan Ho, Du Pengyu, Lee Hyun Il and most noticeably Henri Hurskainen at the European Championships has fueled the belief that there is nothing left in the tank.
Is Gade Europe’s Best Chance?
Even with all of his recent losses, he is still Europe’s top ranked player. The likes of Jorgensen, Zwiebler and Ouseph simply don’t have the experience of a Gade at this level. Dispite his recent poor run of form, Gade is still competitive. His losses to Kuncoro and Lee Hyun Il were in three games and his loss in the All England was one of the most farcical moments in recent badminton history after being put on court at 1am due to a scheduling disaster.
Can He Beat Lin Dan or Lee Chong Wei?
Gade would have to roll back the years in order to consider beating Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei. His record against both is poor (Lin Dan leads 16-3, Lee Chong Wei leads 16-1) and has failed to post a victory against either in over two years. Gade’s “victory” over Lee Chong Wei at the Thomas Cup in May came after just 3 points in the opening game.
Can Gade Win A Medal?
It would be a fitting way to Gade’s career for him to claim a medal in London, his main threats will come from Chen Jin and Chen Long in his quest for a medal. Gade’s record against both of the Chinese players is also poor (Chen Jin leads 8-2 and Chen Long leads 3-2) and without a victory over Chen Jin in almost four years, any hint of injury or fatigue will make a medal of any colour very difficult for Gade in London. He could win a medal, but the Olympics have came probably one year too late for Gade to be considered a medal contender.
With less than 4 weeks to go until the 2012 Olympics, the world’s best players are preparing for the biggest tournament since Beijing four years previously.
The first player to preview is Lee Chong Wei, who was the favourite for the men’s singles until an ankle injury in the Thomas Cup five weeks previously cast doubt whether the Malaysian will make the Olympics at all.
Lee Chong Wei was the on-form player and perennial favourite for almost every Super Series in the past 12 months, he claimed his first All England in 2010 and defended successfully in 2011 but the one criticism of Lee Chong Wei’s career is the lack of World Championships, Asian Championships or Olympic golds.
He has lost his world number 1 for the first time in recent memory with his injury layoff to beg the question if he will in fact take part in the Olympics and potentially risk his final year in the sport that will end at the 2013 World Championships.
Does He Need An Olympic Gold To Cement His Legacy?
The answer is probably yes. His last match in the Olympics in 2008 was Lin Dan at his absolute best and Lee Chong Wei needs one of those landmark moments in his career to validate his place in the all-time greats of the game. 199 weeks at the world number 1 spot and 42 titles mean nothing without an Olympic gold or a gold medal at the 2013 World Championships. Another defeat to Lin Dan in London would cement his place at the second best player of this generation, which a win puts him into the discussion of greatest player in recent history.
Can He Win Olympic Gold?
Before his injury, he was the favourite to claim Olympic gold. Even with a 19-9 deficit in his head to heads to Lin Dan, he won their last meeting of relevance in Korea in January of this year. With this ankle injury, his recovery was meant to be a month that sounded like an optimistic estimation. Now, the same people are saying it will be 6 weeks since his injury (May 22) that gives the Malaysian 22 days to be 100% for the Olympics. However, the mindset of Lee Chong Wei is questionable whether his confident in his body and with the speculated attempt suicide of his father just 3 weeks ago hardly the perfect build up to the Olympics.
Can He Beat Lin Dan?
To win Olympic gold, is it almost a certainty that he will need to defeat at some stage. His form going into the Olympics was excellent, losing just one match to Shon Wan Ho in India in late April. Two injury withdrawals against Lin Dan and Peter Gade ask the question if Lee Chong Wei is physically capable to defeat Lin Dan, with the Chinese player gearing his training and scheduling for the greatest chance of retaining his Olympic title.
The usual Chinese dominance in the Super Series was never likely to take place, with the Olympics so close and the Chinese into their pre-Olympic camp. What it did allow is for some of the forgotten names in badminton to emerge from the crowd and make a claim for a medal in London just over a months time.
Ponsana and Schenk Take Singles Titles
In just over 9 months, Boonsak Ponsana went from inside the top 10 in the world to outside the top 30. Today, he rolled back time to claim a two game victory over Wang Zhengming to claim his first his second Singapore title, five years after his first. Juliane Schenk is the forgotten woman of European badminton, often overlooked because of Tine Baun but the German claimed the women’s singles title over Cheng Shao Chieh in two games. It was Schenk’s second consecutive victory over Cheng, who ended Schenk’s run at the 2011 World Championships at the semi final stage.
Kido and Setiawan Claim Title
The former world number 1 pairing of Kido and Setiawan assured their critics that they would be a threat in London in a month’s time. They defeated Ko and Yoo of Korea in three games and also claimed a 3-2 head to head advantage over the Korean’s going into the Olympics. Cheng Wen Hsing’s quest for two titles was half-completed, as her and partner Chen Hung Ling defeated the Japanese pairing of Ikeda and Shiota in a one-sided mixed doubles final as well as taking their head to head over the Japanese pair to 5-0 in their favour.
The women’s doubles however, went to the Chinese pair of Bao and Zhong in one-sided final. The Chinese pair have propelled themselves from outside the top 40 at the start of 2012 to a top-5 pair in the world. They will be the strongest pair not to qualify for the 2012 Olympics but Bao Yixin’s time will come, with the 19-year old inside the top 15 in the mixed doubles with He Hanbin.
European hopes lay solely with Juliane Schenk after Viktor Axelsen lost out to China’s Wang Zhengming at the semi final stages.
Wang Takes on Ponsana
Some people will question the value of this Super Series title with many of the top 10 opting out so close to the Olympics, but Wang Zhengming and Boonsak Ponsana will play in tomorrow’s final for the title. Wang Zhengming defeated Viktor Axelsen comfortably in two games, whilst Boonsak Ponsana needed three games and 70 minutes to end the run of Tien Minh Nguyen.
Juliane Schenk takes on Cheng Shao Chieh in the women’s final, with Schenk needing 82-minutes to defeat Sung Ji Huyn in her semi final. It will be their ninth meeting, with Cheng Shao Chieh winning five of their previous eight encounters but Schenk took the most recent match between the two in Korea at the start of the year.
Cheng Going For Two Titles
Cheng Wen Hsing has two shots at titles in the women’s and mixed doubles finals. She takes on the Chinese pairing of Bao and Zhong in the women’s doubles final with Chien Yu Chin, but their head to head against the Chinese pairing has seen them their only matchup in Japan last September.
Cheng’s mixed doubles opponents are a pair that her and partner Chen Hung Ling have an excellent record against. Chen and Cheng have defeated Ikeda and Shiota in all four of their previous meetings with the most recent victory coming at the Super Series finals at the end of 2011.
Ko and Yoo take on Kido and Setiawan in the men’s doubles final, with the Indonesian’s hoping that a Korean pair doesn’t defeat them for the second week running. The head to head between the two pairs is evenly matched at 2 matches all, with their last meeting in Denmark nine months ago going the way of the Indonesian pairing.
Viktor Axelsen edges ever closer to his first Super Series title, reaching the semi finals at the expense of Sony Dwi Kuncoro.
Axelsen Takes on Wang
The Danish teenager has been making headlines since his world junior title in 2010, but a win this week would surpass any other achievements within the game. A win would validate his credentials as being Denmark next big hope, but standing in his way is the world number 18 Wang Zhengming. Their previous meeting resulted in a victory for the Chinese player in this event last year, but the growth of both players almost rendered that result obsolete when predicting a winner in this match.
The other semi final sees two other players looking for validation of a different kind, that they deserve the respect of a top 20 player. Tien Minh Nguyen and Boonsak Ponsana were both top 10 players until last autumn but both have fallen outside of that elite level. They meet in the second semi final for the fourth time, with the Vietnamese player holding a 2-1 advantage in their head to heads, for one it will be a chance to validate their credentials and for another, it will be another event where they aren’t mentioned on finals day.
Juliane Schenk is the sole European hope in the women’s singles and takes on Sung Ji Hyun as the top two seeds battle out for a place in the final. Singapore as it’s own interests, with Xing Aiying taking on the world silver medalist Cheng Shao Chieh. It will be their first meeting, with 36 places in the world rankings meaning nothing in front of a partizan home crowd.
Seeds Reign Supreme
11 of the 12 pairs in the doubles events are seeded, with Endo and Hayakawa benefitting from the withdrawal of Lee and Jung to book their place in the semi finals. The Japanese pairing takes on Kido and Setiawan of Indonesia, for the 3rd time in their head to head history. Their last encounter came at this event last year with the Japanese pair defeating the seeded Indonesian in two games.
The other semi final sees the highest two seeds in the draw battle it out, Ko and Yoo of Korea take on Ahsan and Septano of Indonesia with the Koreans holding a 4-0 advantage in their head to heads to date. Their most recent meeting was in the Thomas Cup, where the Indonesians came within two points of victory and saved five match points before eventually falling to the Korean pair.
Bao and Zhong are the sole pair from China, who are usually the dominant force in the women’s doubles. The 5th seeds take on Maeda and Suetsuna of Japan after they battled past Sari and Yao in three games, saving no less than seven match points before taking the match on their first match point however the Japanese pair have never won a game against the Chinese pair they take on in the semi finals.
Cheng and Chien take on Jauhari and Polii in the second semi final, in what will be the fifth meeting between the pairs. The Chinese Taipei pairing have won three of the previous four meetings, but lost their last encounter with the Indonesian pair.
The mixed doubles also has the three highest seeded pairs remaining, with the top two facing off in the semi finals as Chen and Cheng take on Chan and Goh. The 2nd and 3rd meets have four times previously, with the Chinese Taipei pairing winning three of those matches but the previous two matches have required extra points in the deciding game. The second semi final is an all-Japanese affair between Sato and Matsuo, taking on Ikeda and Shiota in their first meeting.
Lee Hyun Il became the second seed to crash out early this week as the 2nd seed lost out Daren Liew in three games as well as other seeded casualties throughout the five events.
Axelsen and Kuncoro Meet in Quarters
The two form players this week will meet in the last 8, with Viktor Axelsen defeating Anand Pawar to set up a quarter final against Song Dwi Kuncoro. Only one seed remains in the draw, the 6th seed Tien Minh Nguyen who takes on Daren Liew after the Malaysian defeated the second seeded Lee Hyun Il in three games to reach the last 8.
Four seeds remain in the women’s singles, with the second seeded Juliane Schenk defeating Chen Xiao Jia to set up a quarter final against Thailand’s Porntip Buranaprasertsuk. The 3rd seeded Sung Ji Hyun safely progressed into the last 8, where she will take on Eriko Hirose who defeated 5th seed Tai Tzu Ying in two games. Two seeds will meet in the quarter final as 4th seeded Cheng Shao Chieh takes on the 7th seeded Sayaka Sato for their 5th meeting, who both players taking 2 matches each in their previous 4 encounters.
Seeds Fall In Doubles
Fang and Lee as well as Kawamae and Sato both crashed out before the quarter finals, with both pairs losing in three games to unseeded partnerships. Ko and Yoo are the highest seeds this week and take on Hong and Shen, with the two pairs meeting for the 5th time and have shared the previous four matches. Ahsan and Septano take on Hashimoto and Hirata in the second quarter final featuring two seeded pairings, with the two pairs meeting for the first time.
Seven of the eight seeds successfully reached the quarter finals, with the 2nd seeded Jung and Kim losing out to the Indonesian pairing of Augustin and Maheswari in three games to set up a quarter final against Jauhari and Polii for an all-Indonesian clash. The top seeded Fujii and Kakiiwa set up a quarter final against the 5th seeded Bao and Zhong with the lower seeded pair winning the previous three meetings.
Chen and Cheng are safely into the last 8 and will take on the Indian 6th seeds for a place in Saturday’s semi final. Yoo and Jang won the all-Korean match against Ko and Eom, with the men’s doubles partners facing off for the second time, with Yoo and Jang winning both encounters. The Korean pair take on the 3rd seeded Chan and Goh in their quarter final, with the Malaysian defeating Hirata and Maeda in three games to reach the last 8.
It was a day of shocks in Singapore with the men’s singles draw losing three seeds in the opening round, most notably the top seeded Sho Sasaki losing to Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen.
Sasaki, Hidayat and Du Pengyu Out
Long before Sasaki’s loss to Axelsen, the 5th seeded Du Pengyu had crashed out to the on-form Sony Dwi Kuncoro in a one-sided match and was followed in the very next match on court by Wei Feng Chong defeating the 7th seeded Taufik Hidayat in a tighter two game loss then the previous match. The big shock was the victory of Viktor Axelsen over Sho Sasaki in three games, the 49-minute match saw Axelsen ease into a one game lead before letting the second game slip but claimed the victory in a 21-10, 15-21, 21-12 victory to set up a second round match against Anand Pawar of India.
Juliane Schenk is the highest seed in the women’s singles this week and started off with a two game victory over Salakjit Ponsana. The next two highest seeds players are the 3rd seeded Sung Ji Hyun whose two game victory set up a second round match against Fu Mingtian of Singapore. Cheng Shao Chieh is the highest seed in the top half of the draw and takes on Chen Jiayuan who defeated Jie Yao to book her place in the second round.
A Near Full Compliment Of Seeds Remain
Apart from the pre-event withdrawals, every seed has safely progressed except 1 is into the last 16. Ko and Yoo are the the highest seeds in the men’s doubles after Lee and Jung pulled out before the event and safely reached the last 16, defeating Smith and Warfe of Australia in two games. Their biggest threat from the top half of the draw will be the Indonesian pairing of Kido and Setiawan, the 4th seeds defeated the Austrian pairing of Koch and Zauner to reach the 2nd round.
All eight seeds are into the last 16 of the women’s doubles, with several pairs receiving opening round byes. Sari and Yao are the big local hope this week, but the 7th seeds needed three games to reach the last 16. The mixed doubles are without the top seeds and 5th seeds this week after both withdraw pre-event. The only doubles seed to fall is the 8th seeded Rijal and Susanto of Indonesia, who were defeated by Yoo and Jang of Korea.