The first full day of play begun in Birmingham with the organisers hoping not to repeat the farcical start to the 2012 tournament. Play begun at 9am on Wednesday and mercifully ended on Wednesday, albeit well after 11pm but the first day of this years edition of the All England will be remembered for the amount of seeds crashing out on the opening day of play.
Seeds Tested in Men’s Singles
Kenichi Tago was the sole seed that progressed into the second round without the loss of a game, defeating Viktor Axelsen in his opening round match. Hu Yun and Du Pengyu were the big name casualties of the first round, with Lee Chong Wei, Chen Long, Sony Dwi Kuncoro, Chen Jin and Tien Minh Nguyen all needing three games to progress to the last 16.
Lee Chong Wei takes on Wang Zhengming in the pick of the second round matches, with Chen Long also likely to be tested against Takuma Ueda of Japan. Jan O Jorgensen flys the flag for Europe and takes on Sony Dwi Kuncoro in a miserable day for European badminton, with just six wins coming in 29 matches over the course of the opening days play.
Chinese Misery In Women’s Singles
There is usually five to seven Chinese players left in the draw at the last 16 stage, but this week just three remain. Li Han takes on Tine Baun whilst the other two Chinese players, Wang Shixian and Jiang Yanjiao play against one another in the second round. The major shocks in the competition come at the expense of China with Olympic champion Li Xuerui losing in two games to Bae Yeon Ju whilst the third seeded Wang Yihan lost to Indonesia’s Lindaweri Fanetri, also in two games.
Both Saina Nehwal and Wang Shixian needed three games to ensure their passage into the second round but there was no such trouble for the European seeds. Juliane Schenk set up a tough second round match against P.V. Sindhu and Tine Baun’s future in the All England and her career will be tested to the full by Li Han of China.
Lee/Ko Crash Out
A pre-match withdrawal from Cai and Cialis Fu weakened the event but the shock loss of Lee and Ko to Germany’s Kindervater and Schoettler was perhaps the biggest positive from a European standpoint on the day. The loss of Cai and Fu as well as Lee and Ko has made the top half of the men’s doubles draw all the easier for the top seeded Boe and Mogensen, who take on China’s Liu and Qiu in tomorrow’s second round.
Moren and Szkudlarczyk provided their own shock in the bottom half, with a three game victory over the 5th seeded Hong and Shen to ensure there would not be a full compliment of seeds in the bottom half of the draw. Koo and Tan defeated Ellis and Adcock to end English hopes in the competition, with Robert Blair partnering Tan Bin Shen who take on the 4th seeded Endo and Hayakawa in the second round.
Asian Dominance In Women’s Doubles
The second seeded Danish pair of Pedersen and Rytter Juhl crashed out to Bao and Tian in the opening round, ending any hope of a European threat in the women’s doubles. Wang and Yu progressed safely into the second round, joined there by Ma and Tang as well as Cheng and Zhao. Zhao and Tian were previously partners but will play against one another for the first time in their new partnerships in the second round tomorrow.
The sixteen remaining pairs all hail from Asia, with all four European pairs crashing out in the first round. Jenny Wallwork’s retirement in the days leading up to the All England surprised many and asks the question about how far her and partner Alex Langley would have gone in the event this year.
Danish Disaster In Mixed Doubles
Christinna Pedersen’s opening day ended in disaster as her and partner Joachim Fischer Neilsen were the only seeds not the progress into the last 16, beaten by the Indonesian pair of Kido and Bernadeth. Xu and Ma defeated Adcock and White to set-up an all-Chinese second round match against Qiu and Bao. Zhang and Zhao made light work of another Danish pair, Pieler Kolding and Rytter Juhl to reach the last 16.
Day 1 Results:
The Chinese tomfoolery overshadowed day 1, but a full day of excellent play delighted the Seoul crowd on the second day with plenty to cheer about for the Koreans. The European contingent was dramatically cut going into the later stages, with surprise losses for some of the biggest names in European badminton.
Three pretenders to Gade’s throne were all dispatched on the second day, with Zwiebler losing to Lee Chong Wei in two games whilst Viktor Axelsen lost to Hong Kong’s Wong Wing Ki. Jan O Jorgensen’s defeat was the most surprising as he lost out to Russia’s Vladimir Ivanov in two games to set up a quarter final against Du Pengyu of China. The 4th seed is the only seed remaining in the bottom half of the draw and the last Chinese player in the event after Guo Huan’s loss to Chong Wei Feng.
It is a similar story in the women’s singles, with the usual Chinese domination of the event missing with just two players left in the last 8. Wang Shixian has failed to drop a game to date but faces her toughest task yet against Korea’s Bae Yeon Ju in the quarter finals. Li Han takes on Saina Nehwal, with the Indian taking over as the highest seed left in the draw with Wang Yihan’s and Li Xuerui’s retirement on day 1. Minatsu Mitani and Nichaon Jindapon ended the European run in the event with Mitani defeating Tine Baun in three tight games whilst Jindapon disposed of Juliane Schenk in two convincing games.
The Japanese threat in the bottom half of the men’s doubles ended abruptly on day 2 with both HGH seeded pairs crashing out. Endo and Hayakawa, seeded 4 lost to Goh and Lim of Malaysia in two games to set up a quarter final against Lee and Ko of Korea whilst Liu and Qiu ended the end of Hashimoto and Hirata, beating the 8th seeds in two games. The top seeded Boe and Mogensen are safely through to the last 8 and take on Korea’s Kim and Kim in the last 8 clash.
The Chinese has dominated the women’s doubles in recent years and Korea in 2013 this is no different. All 8 seeds progressed into the latter stages, with four of the 8 coming from China. Wang and Yu take on Cheng and Zhao in undoubtedly will be one of the matches of the day, in the same side of the draw Bao and Tian takes on Korea’s big hope in Jung and Kim. Ma and Tang take on the 3rd seed Matsumoto and Takahashi in the bottom side of the draw.
Ma Jin is also safely into the last 8 of the mixed doubles with partner Xu Chen and take on the new English partnership of Adcock and White who defeated the European champions Mateusiak and Zieba in their second round clash. Zhang and Zhao needed three games to dispose of the Russian pairing of Durkin and Vislova and set up a quarter final against Kim and Jung of Korea. Fischer Nielsen and Pedersen take on the 2nd seeded Ahmad and Natsir in the pick of the matches at the quarter final stage, with the Indonesian pair dropping just 37 points on route to the last 8.
Day 2 Results:
A new year offers a new start and a new motivation after the obvious comedown from an Olympic year. The goals for the year alter from London 2012 with all eyes on Guangzhou and the World Championships in early August. Before the summer spectacle, the Super Series and Super Series Premier will pit the best against the best in 2013.
The world’s elite converge in Korea for the first Super Series Premier of the year with the biggest prize fund of the year on offer. 2013 is a year of change within the badminton world, with new events and the last of certain Super Series before the new 2014 schedule. London gains a GP Gold event in early October that leads as a build-up event to the Denmark/France Super Series later in the month.
It will be the last Super Series in Malaysia before it’s upgrade to Premier status in 2013 and China loses its Super Series event this year with Australia claiming Super Series status in 2014 but the China Super Series Premier remains. There will be no Peter Gade in 2013, retiring late last year with a last famous victory over Lin Dan. The double-Olympic champion will pick and choose his events as always and is a noticeable absence in Korea this week.
Lee Chong Wei and Chen Long will be the favourites for the title in the men’s singles but a wealth of Chinese talent looking to defeat the top seed in the opening event of 2013. Wang Zhengming will be the first to claim a victory over the Malaysian and a likely Chinese opponent in the semi final should Lee Chong Wei reach the last 4. Victor Axelsen takes on Taufik Hidayat as the old guard meets the new generation in the match of the opening round.
The women’s singles offers the expected Chinese dominance, with four seeds from the eight but like the men’s singles, a new generation coming through to the overthrow the Chinese hierarchy in the event. Ratchanok Intanon buy xanax without prescription is the newest in line to attempt to defeat the world’s elite and Saina Nehwal will also continue her quest to become world number 1. Tine Baun plays her last Korea Open ahead of her retirement after the All Englands before Juliane Schenk takes over the mantle of the sole European threat at the Super Series level.
Lee and Ko’s meteoric surge up the rankings sees them seeded 6th but any thoughts of a dream final against Cai and Fu will be tempered with neither pair having an easy run to next Sunday’s final. Koo and Tan are the 2nd seeds in Korea and likely semi final opponents for the Koreans whilst Cai and Fu will probably have to defeat the top seeded Boe and Mogensen in order to reach the final.
The women’s doubles is the event to watch after the farcical events of the Olympics. Wang and Yu have returned to competitive action and their biggest rivals of the past few years have been split up to create two new partnerships. It offers Chinese a similar chance to dominate the doubles event as much as the singles with four partnerships that will likely feature in the top 10 in the coming months. Zhao Yunlei forms a new partnership with Cheng Shu, Tian Qing joins with Bao Yixin as well as Ma and Tang will offer Wang and Yu a stern test in 2013.
The mixed doubles offers the closest resemblance to 2012 with a similar field to the previous year. Chris Adcock and Gabby White are the top pairing from the six new English pairings whilst Jillie Cooper and Robert Blair will offer the only chance of Scottish success in the event. The usual suspects are all present in Korea, with Kamilla Rytter Juhl partnering Mads Pieler Kolding after Thomas Laybourn’s retirement after the London Olympics. Ma and Xu are the top seeds, with their Chinese rivals Zhang and Zhao seeded 4th in the 2013 opener.
Play begins in Korea on Tuesday, January 8.
9 Days, 5 Chinese Golds and 8 disqualified athletes as the wait for another Olympics begins once more. The Great British dream turned into a nightmare inside the opening two hours of play whilst a legend was born in the final two hours of play.
Lin Dan successfully defended his Olympic crown with a performance that to an extent, surpasses his victory in Beijing four years previously. There was no partisan crown in Wembley Arena and there was an equal on the court in Lee Chong Wei. It is to date, the greatest Olympic match ever.
Li Xuerui was a relative unknown inside this arena 12 months ago, as she watched on as the world championships took place. Now she leaves London as Olympic champion as the Chinese justified her inclusion ahead of Wang Shixian. What Li Xuerui brings is a trait that is rarely seen in Chinese players, an absolute desire to win that surpasses her talents and ability.
Cai and Fu achieved the final piece of their careers with an Olympic gold, the only title that the Chinese pair had never won. They lost in the final in Beijing four years ago and had to wait until now to redeem themselves, which they did in spectacular fashion as they won gold without the loss of a game.
Indian badminton will consider this a triumph for what they have achieved, with Kashyup Parupalli’s run to the quarterfinals and with Saina Nehwal’s bronze medal. With high hopes going into the 2013 World Championship in Guangzhou as well as the remainder of the 2012 season.
Alex Bruce and Michelle Li were the story of the women’s doubles in the aftermath of the group phase scandal. Their semi-final match was a testament to what the Olympics set out to achieve – despite their defeat to Fujii and Kakiiwa, they had inspired a generation.
Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier came into the Olympics with medal expectations, those expectations were tempered after an opening match defeat and before several of the world’s best singles players had set foot on court, their dream was over. Their success in 2011 was partly due to the lack of expectation and the surprise of their unlikely run to the World Championship final, there was nothing like that in 2012. A nation expected.
Lee Chong Wei came within two points of an Olympic title, only for Lin Dan to snatch glory from the Malaysian’s grasp for the second year running. It is perhaps not has heartbreaking as his defeat in 2011, where he did have a match point in the final but his reaction after his final shot was one of total dejection. Comforted by his coaches as he was forced to watch Lin Dan celebrate in his defeat. Only one final chance in Guangzhou waits for the Malaysian to claim a major title.
Lee Yong Dae and Chung Jae Sung were touted as the favourites for the men’s doubles titles going into the Olympics Online Pokies. Lee Yong Dae’s mixed doubles campaign lasted a mere three games but in the men’s doubles, the Korean pair breezed into the semi finals only to be outdone by the brilliance of an inspired Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen. They ended up with the bronze medal, with the Olympics being Chung Jae Sung’s final event as Lee Yong Dae will have a new partner after this week.
Indonesia will leave London without an Olympic medal, with the failures of Taufik Hidayat, Simon Santoso and the mixed doubles pairing of Ahmad and Natsir failing to secure a bronze medal against Fischer and Pedersen.
Peter Gade’s Olympic career came to an end at the quarterfinal stage, with Chen Long defeating the Dane in two games in a match that Gade claims he played some of his best badminton in recent memory. Just three events remain in the legendary career of Peter Gade – Japan, France and a final farewell in Denmark.
The Disgraced Eight
The criticism that has been widespread is not that they opted to lose the matches, but the manner in how they chose to do it. The distain and arrogance on show to blatantly throw the matches with serving into the net and not allowing a rally of more than four points has questioned the professionalism of every badminton player, not just the eight players expelled.
The feeling from within badminton is that given the opportunity to do it once again, all of the pairs would have no problem doing it again. The counterargument is that they are ultimately playing for an Olympic gold medal, which is four years of work and that after putting in so much effort to reach the Olympics – the possibility of making the job easier in one that should be taken.
The Chinese squad, wanted gold and silver from the women’s doubles which was indeed achievable. The Korean and Indonesian pairs merely wanted to avoid the Chinese pairs in the later stages. This all stemmed from a match earlier in the day between Pedersen and Rytter Juhl, who defeated Tian and Zhao in their group. Little did they know that the effect of that victory would eliminate four of their biggest rivals in the next 24 hours as well.
Yu Yang has allegedly retired, walking away from the game that she adores. Wang Xiaoli has promised to regain people’s trust in her and in the middle of it Li Yongbo takes sole responsibility for the actions of his players. It has been a problem throughout the Olympic qualification process, with phantom injuries leading to walkovers.
What the BWF have done with this landmark decision is opened the door for more walkovers instead of these farcical matches but also forced sporting integrity to be upheld. There will undoubtedly be a change to the format of the competition in Rio come 2016, but there will be little change in the nations that dominate the sport as China claimed all five gold medals in London.
The dream of going one better for Adcock and Bankier inside Wembley Arena lasted a mere two days. For some players, it was the start of their campaign but for others the dream has already ended in London..
Session 1 – Adcock & Bankier Out
The home crowd hoped for a reversal from yesterday’s match, but instead it was the same story as their group opener. Adcock and Bankier claimed the opening game against Fuchs and Michels before losing in three games to render their final group match against Zhang and Zhao meaningless. For Li and Bruce, it was another brutal defeat in the women’s doubles – this time it was the Korean pair of Kim and Jung the inflicted their second defeat in Group A and ensured their elimination.
Sho Sasaki and Lee Hyun Il began their campaigns with identical victories – 21-12, 21-7 to book their places in the last 16. Ahmad and Natsir booked their place in the mixed doubles quarterfinals with a two game victory over Lee and Ha of Korea, who will need to win their next two matches to have any chance of progressing.
Session 2 – Jongjit & Issara Impressive
The Thai pairing of Jongjit and Issara came into the Olympics as the world number 19 pairing but have progressed in the last 8 of the men’s doubles with a victory over Ko and Yoo, their third victory against the Korean pair. Another pair safely into the last 8 is the Malaysian pair of Koo and Tan – whose victory over Bach and Gunawan eliminated the American pair.
Zhang and Zhao booked their place in the last 8 in the mixed doubles with a two game victory over Nikolaenko and Sorokina, whilst Laybourn and Rytter Juhl opened up their campaign in Group C of the mixed doubles with a victory over V and Gutta of India to end any chances of them qualifying for the last 8.
Saina Nehwal began her campaign in impressive fashion, defeating Sabrina Jaquet 21-9, 21-4 to join Lianne Tan at the top of Group E. Sayako Sato set up her winner-take-all match with Susan Egelstaff after the 12th seed defeated Maya Tvrdy in two tight games to join the Brit at the top of Group H
Session 3 – Boe & Mogensen Survive Scare
Wang and Yu made it two impressive victories in a row with their win over Vislova and Sorokina to top Group A. There were three more Chinese victories as Xu and Ma started their mixed doubles campaign with a win over Chan and Goh of Malaysia whilst her Spanish opponent Carolina Marin tested Li Xuerui before the 3rd seed eventually won in two games. Cai and Fu completed the Chinese success story with a two game victory over Kindervater and Scholettler but needed to save three game points in the first game.
Cai and Fu’s main rivals in the men’s doubles, Lee and Chung came through in two games against Sato and Kawamae of Japan. The lasting image of the match with being Naoki Kawamae’s smash in the first game that broke his racket with the force of the shot. Boe and Mogensen survived a real scare against the world number 18 pairing of Ivanov and Sozonov as they dropped the first game and were two points away from defeat. However, the Danes fought back to take the second game and were never in any danger in the third game and secured qualification into the last 8.
Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl resurrected their chances of reaching the last 8 of the women’s doubles with a three game battle over Poon and Tse of Hong Kong to set up a Tuesday morning clash with the world number 2 pairing of Tian and Zhao. Rajiv Ouseph was GB’s sole victory on the day he defeated Henri Hurkainen in three games in one of the last matches of the session. Ouseph takes on Guatemala’s Kevin Cordon for the top spot in Group M on Tuesday afternoon.
The group stages for the badminton were one of the first events to begin on Day 1 of the Olympics, with every player understanding that whilst the gold couldn’t be won today – any chance of winning it could be lost on the opening days play.
Session 1 – Heartbreak For GB & Denmark
Ahmad and Natsir began play on the opening day, with the 3rd seeds in the mixed doubles defeating V and Gutta of India in two games to start their campaign in the best possible way. Bae Yeon Ju survived an first game scare against Tee Jung Yi to win her match in three games whilst the current European champion pairing of Mateusiak and Zieba defeated Ikeda and Shiota for the first time to win their mixed doubles opener in Group B.
The second and third matches of the session brought the biggest surprises, with Maeda and Suetsuna defeating the Danish pair of Pedersen and Rytter Juhl to top Group D in the women’s doubles. The world silver medalists in the mixed doubles, Adcock and Bankier suffered a three game defeat to the Russian pair of Nikolaenko and Sorokina to make their qualification chances increasingly difficult, with a victory over Zhang and Zhao almost certainly needed to progress to the last 8.
Zhao Yunlei was on an adjacent court in her women’s doubles opener with Tian Qing, with the Chinese pair needing just two games to defeat the Hong Kong pair of Poon and Tse
Session 2 – No Problem For The Seeds
GB got their first victory of the day, with Susan Egelstaff defeating Maja Tvrdy in two games to make her match with Sayaka Sato all the more important. Cwalina and Logosz had the makings of a surprise against Ko and Yoo, before the Korean’s eventually found their form and won the match in three games.
Li Xuerui defeated Claudia Rivero easily to take top spot in Group L, whilst in the men’s singles Shon Wan Ho and Taufik Hidayat both won their opening group games, with Hidayat defeating Petr Koukal 21-8, 21-8 to signal his intend for the week ahead.
Ha and Kim won their Group C opener in the women’s doubles against the South African pair of Viljoen and Edwards whilst in Group D, Fujii and Kakiiwa defeated Gutta and Ponnappa to top Group B. The Group B mixed doubles has two Europeans in the qualfication spots, with Denmark’s Fischer Neilsen and Pedersen defeating Canada’s Ng and Gao to win their first match within the group.
Session 3 – Top Seeds Start Perfectly
Wang and Yu were never in any trouble in their Group A opener against Li and Bruce, winning in two games to top the group. Zhang and Zhao joined Nikolaenko and Sorokina at the top of Group A in the mixed doubles with an impressive two game victory over Fuchs and Michels.
The top three pairs in the men’s doubles, with Cai and Fu beginning their campaign and Smith and Warfe of Australia, headlined the session. The Chinese pair never looked in any danger as they defeated the world number 38 pairing in two games. The 2005 world champions – USA’s Bach and Gunawan, tested Lee and Chung in their Group D opener. The second seeded Korean’s progressed in two games to sit atop Group D with Koo and Tan.
Denmark recovered from their women’s doubles defeat with a pair of victories in the final session. Boe and Mogensen defeated the South African pair of James and Viljoen in two games to top Group C in the men’s doubles whilst in the men’s singles Jan O Jorgensen defeated Israel’s Misha Zilberman to top Group I, with a match with Derek Wong on Tuesday night to book his place in the last 16.
Day 1 Results:
The group stages have provided countless intriguing matches, from the opening session of play all the way to the final session of the group phase.
All Start Times Are Local Times
Saturday, July 28 – 8.30am
Lee / Ha (Korea) – Laybourn / Rytter Juhl (Denmark)
The toughest mixed doubles group of the four opens up play inside Wembley Arena, with the world number 8 and 9 pairs clashing to take one step closer to the quarter finals. They sole meeting came at the German GP in April and resulted in a one-sided victory for the Danes which they will hope for this weekend. There is also the question of endurance for Lee Yong Dae, as he will be back on court that night in the men’s doubles with Chung Jae Sung over 12 hours after playing his opening mixed doubles match. Saturday will be a long day for Lee Yong Dae.
Sunday, July 29 – 8.30am
Zhang / Zhao (China, Seeded 1) – Adcock / Bankier (Great Britain)
Wembley Arena has brought them together once more, with the playing field evened ever so slightly from little under a year ago. The Brits have claimed two famous victories since their defeat at the World Championships against this Chinese pair, both coming at Super Series Premier events. Zhang and Zhao claimed their most recent match in Indonesia last month, but the British pair have something they didn’t have a year ago, belief that they could beat the Chinese. There was hope last year that their run the final would continue on for one more day, but on Sunday morning there is a belief and a track record to support them – as well as a capacity crowd.
Sunday, July 29 – 1.40pm
Chen Long (China, Seeded 3) – Boonsak Ponsana (Thailand)
On paper, this should be a routine victory on route to the last 16 for the 3rd seed but their head to head suggests differently. The world number 22 has a 2-1 advantage over Chen Long from Ponsana’s time inside the world’s top ten. Their last match was over 18 months ago but this is far from an easy match for Chen Long.
Monday, July 30 – 9.05am
Wang Yihan (China, Seeded 1) – Michelle Li (Canada)
The Canadian has struggled with food poisoning in the build up this week, but there will be no excuses available to Wang Yihan should she fail to reach the last 16. It will be their first match against one another, with the world number 1 a massive favourite to go through. Michelle Li’s draw in the women’s doubles is just as tough as she will take on the world number 1 pairing of Wang and Yu the day before her opening singles match.
Monday, July 30 – 2.15pm
Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia, Seeded 1) – Ville Lang (Finland)
The national secret over the rehabilitation of Lee Chong Wei’s ankle will be revealed and tested on Monday afternoon, by the Finnish workhouse of Ville Lang. His 104-minute marathon against Christian Lind Thomsen in April has proven that is physically capable of withstanding a demanding match, he will lengthen rallies to tire opponents and he will test out Lee Chong Wei’s right ankle. Few are expecting a Lee Chong Wei defeat if he is anywhere near his best, but his rivals will watch this match intently for signs of discomfort and weakness.
Monday, July 30 – 7.44pm
Peter Gade (Denmark, Seeded 5) – Pedro Martins (Portugal)
And so the legend ends. Peter Gade’s final Olympics will begin on Monday night against Portugal’s Pedro Martins with the knowledge that a win will take him through to the last 16. It has been over two months since Gade’s last competitive victory, with a pair of losses to Lee Hyun Il and Sony Dwi Kuncoro adding more doubt to the legendary Gade’s chances of medalling in London. A strong performance will cast those doubts aside for at least a few days.
Monday, July 30 – 8.15pm
Lin Dan (China, Seeded 2) – Scott Evans (Ireland)
Lin Dan’s title defence starts against Scott Evans, a reserve for the event who know has the unthinkable task of ending the run of the defending champion. The pair have played three times previously with their most recent match taking place inside Wembley Arena at the 2011 Worlds, with Lin Dan winning comfortably. Scott Evans has never taken a game against Lin Dan, he’ll need two for the biggest shock of the Olympics.
Tuesday, July 31 – 2.19pm
Sayaka Sato (Japan, Seeded 12) – Susan Egelstaff (Great Britain)
Susan Egelstaff’s draw was considered favourable as she avoided the top 10 players in the world, but on further observation this could be the biggest shock of the group stages as well as one of the best moments inside Wembley Arena for the GB team. Egelstaff holds a 1-0 advantage in the head to heads, with a victory at the 2010 All England Championships but Sato also comes into the Olympics in a poor run of form – winning just 8 of her 22 matches this year.
Tuesday, July 31 – 3.20pm
Lee / Chung (Korea, Seeded 2) – Koo / Tan (Malaysia)
There will be something riding on this match in all likelihood for at least one of these pairs, whether it is for the group win or simply to qualify. Koo and Tan have failed to record a victory over the Korean pair since the 2010 Worlds in Paris and will probably need a victory to ensure their place in the last 8 with Boe and Mogensen or Chai and Guo waiting in the quarter finals for one if not both of the pairs.
The London Olympics are just days away, the realisation that four years have passed since Lin Dan’s masterclass in Beijing and that five champions will be crowned – before it all ends for another four years come August 5.
All the favourites are present this year, Lee Chong Wei has recovered from his ankle injury but to what extent remains unclear. His first match will be against Finland’s Ville Lang, a EBU tour veteran whose physical approach to the game will be a intriguing test for the Malaysian and his ankle. Lin Dan takes on Scott Evans, with the Irishman making it into the Olympics from second reserve to be the first hurdle in Lin Dan’s defence of the title. A last 16 clash with Taufik Hidayat potentially awaits, as the 2004 and 2008 Olympic champions face one another in 2012.
Peter Gade starts his campaign against Portugal’s Pedro Martins, but matches with Shon Wan Ho and Chen Long await on his path to the semi final stage and any chance of a medal. British hopes lie in the hands of Rajiv Ouseph, who takes on the European silver medalist Henri Hurskainen and world championship quarter finalist Kevin Cordon – with the group winner taking on Sho Sasaki unless one of the greatest upsets in the history of the Olympics and Virgil Soeroredjo sensationally defeats the 6th seeded Sasaki.
Michelle Li will be the top seeded Wang Yihan’s opening round match, with the Canadian meeting the top seed in both her events at the Olympics. Wang Xin takes on the USA’s Rena Wang whilst Li Xuerui has to take on both Carolina Marin and Claudia Rivero to ensure her place in the last 16. Saina Nehwal’s quarter of the draw is laden with Europeans, with no less than 14 of the 16 players coming from European – headlined by the 5th seeded Tine Baun, Saina Nehwal’s likely quarter final opponent. Susan Egelstaff couldn’t have hand picked a better group, with Britain’s sole entry taking on the 12th seeded Sayaka Sato and Slovenia’s Maja Tvrdy, both of which she has a superior head to head against.
Perhaps the toughest groups of the Olympics is in the men’s doubles, with Lee and Chung of Korea taking on the 2005 world championships Bach and Gunawan, as well as the Japanese pair of Sato and Kawamae then finally Koo and Tan of Malaysia. Another intriguing group features the 4th seeded Ko and Yoo, who take on Issara and Jongjit of Thailand, a pair they have never beaten, as well as Poland’s Cwalina and Logosz before the hardest of their group matches against Ahsan and Septano.
The women’s doubles groups have varying degrees of difficulty, with Ha and Kim as well as Jauhari and Polii receiving a fortunate group featuring the African and Oceania entries for the Olympics. Whilst Group D has three pairs inside of the top 10, with Tian and Zhao, Maeda and Suetsuna as well as Rytter Juhl and Pedersen all battling for one spot. Not to mention the Singapore pair of Tse and Poon who have excellent records against all the pairs except the Chinese 2nd seeds in their group.
As if the script wasn’t written for this, Zhang and Zhao will take on Adcock and Bankier inside Wembley Arena once more. Both were put into Group A with Fuchs and Michels of Germany and Nikolaenko and Sorokina of Russia with the Brits being favoured to claim at least one of the qualification spots on offer. Group C is without a doubt the “group of death” at this year’s Olympics. With three of the top 9 pairs in the world in the same group, with the 4th pair being ranked 13th. Ahsan and Natsir, Laybourn and Rytter Juhl as well as Lee and Ha will have to fight for two places, with the Indian pair of V and Gutta undoubtably going to have some say in the final standings of this group also.
The mixed doubles offers the best chance of a European medal at the Olympics, with even a gold medal being discussed for several European pairs inside the world’s top 16. There is also the undeniable Chinese threat from the top two pairs in the world, with countless Asian threats also looking to claim a medal in London.
The current world number 1 and world champions Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei will be the favourites in London – where they claimed the World Championship almost a year ago in the same arena as the one being used for the Olympics. However, there are question marks over their credentials going into the Olympics with two losses against the pair they defeated in the 2011 World Championship final, Chris Adcock and Imogen Bankier. Both defeats came at the Super Series Premier Events, where they also crashed out of the Indonesia Super Series Premier to Sudket Prapakamol and Saralee Thoungthongkam.
The current world number 2 pairing of Xu Chen and Ma Jin have had their own struggles this year also. Since their victory in Korea in early January, they have failed to win a title after defeats in the All England by Thomas Laybourn and Kamilla Rytter Juhl, followed up by defeat in Indonesia by Tantowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir – who are currently ranked 3rd in the world.
The European threat will be a trio of pairings looking to keep at least one gold medal in Europe, with the highest ranked pair of Joachim Fischer Neilsen and Christinna Pedersen being Europe’s best hope in the event. Currently ranked 4th in the world, their last title was the French Super Series title over 9 months ago and their records against the rest of the Olympic field is far from stellar. Only a 4-2 head to head over the current world number 1 pairing of Zhang and Zhao offers any kind of optimism, but even then the last two victories have been for the Chinese pair.
The 2009 World Champions, Laybourn and Rytter Juhl are the second Danish pair hoping to claim a medal next week but that will be unlikely with only the German GP Gold title to their name this year. With both Danish male players well into their 30′s, this will be both their final chance at Olympic success.
The bright new hope for European badminton is the British pairing of Adcock and Bankier, fueled by their silver medal in London in 2011 at the World Championships. Every single Super Series Premier this year has seen them take on the world number 1 pairing of Zhang and Zhao, winning the head to head 2-1 and only enhancing their belief of going one better in London this year. Their only title this year has came in Finland but their run of victories was good enough to earn qualification over Nathan Robertson and Jenny Wallwork as well as reaching the top 10 in the world rankings.
Who Are The Favourites?
There is no real favourite, which is why the event will be so competitive. Cheng and Chen of Chinese Taipei won the most recent Super Series event in Singapore, whilst Ahmad and Natsir took the prestigious All England title. There will be a threat from the 3 European pairs, whilst the Chinese pairs will both come expecting a medal. Under the radar however, is the Korean pair of Lee Yong Dae and Ha Jung Eun who are ranked 7th in the world. Lee Yong Dae is the current holder of the mixed doubles title from Beijing and whilst their run into the top 10 has been impressive, it has been without a single title being won.
Who Could Surprise?
The current European champions, Robert Mateusiak and Nadiezda Zieba were formerly world number 1′s and have claimed the Dutch and European title in the run up to the Olympics. Expect another strong showing from Adcock and Bankier also, regardless of their previous run of results. They had little to no expectations or form going into the 2011 World Championships and they are a pair that will thrive inside Wembley Arena with a partizan home crowd.
The last major event before the Olympics has attracted the worlds best to Indonesia for the 3rd Premier Series event of 2012, but for Denmark it has been an early exit for many of it’s top players.
Gade and Axelsen Out
Sony Dwi Kuncoro added another big name scalp to his recent run of good form, after defeating Lin Dan in Thailand he disposed of the 3rd seeded Peter Gade in three games to claim one of the biggest casualties of the men’s singles to date. The biggest casualty was the 2nd seeded Chen Jin, who retired from his match against Jan O Jorgensen trailing a game and 10-7 in the second game. Viktor Axelsen crashed out to Ajay Jayaram but there was a second Dane through to the last 16, Hans-Kristian Vittinghus defeated Daren Liew to set up a second round match against Lee Hyun Il.
All five of the Chinese seeds are safely into the second round, with both Wang Xin and Wang Shixian needing three games to advance into the last 16. Saina Nehwal and Tine Baun also needed three games to progress in their opening round match whilst two of the Chinese seeds needed less than a game to progress with Wang Yihan and Jiang Yanjiao benefitting from retirements from their opponents.
Indonesian Presence In Doubles
There is a large contingent of Indonesia pairs left in the draw, but the top seeds are still safely in the draw also. Lee and Jung are the top seeded pair that started the week and started with a simple two game win to reach the last 16. Their main threats this week will come from the 3rd seeded Boe and Mogensen and 4th seeded Ko and Yoo who both progressed without the loss of a game. The main Indonesian threat will come from Kido and Setiawan, after the unseeded pair took out the 7th seeded Fang and Lee in the opening round.
Pedersen and Rytter Juhl are the biggest names to crash out of the women’s doubles, losing to Indonesia’s Bernadeth and Pradipta in two games. The top seeded Wang and Yu took little time in reaching the last 16, losing just 10 points on route to the second round. Their perennial rivals Zhao and Tian also safely progressed into the second round with a two game victory.
Zhang and Zhao defeated Adcock and Bankier in the biggest match of the day in the mixed doubles, with the world number 1 pairing winning in two games to reach the last 16. Laybourn and Rytter Juhl compounded a poor day for the Danes by crashing out at the first round against Ko and Eom in two games. The bottom half of the draw is littered with Chinese pairings, with the standout match of the second round being the 2nd seeded Xu and Ma taking on He and Bao in an all-Chinese second round clash.