With a new Super Series season starting the BWF is once again providing free live streaming in select countries. The first event of the year is the Victor Korea Open 2012.
The coverage begins at 4am GMT on Thursday January 5th.
Round of 16
The first event of 2012 takes the world’s elite to Seoul for the biggest prize money of the year in the opening Super Series Premier event.
Tough Start For Gade
Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan both avoided a potentially tough opener, with the world number 1 taking on Kashyap Parupalli of India whilst Lin Dan has a first round clash with Spain’s Pablo Abian. Chen Long takes on a qualifier whilst Peter Gade has the toughest draw of the top four seeds as he takes on Du Pengyu of China. The world number 4 and world number 11 clash in the biggest match of the opening day of play. Gade holds a 3-0 head to head advantage and won their most recent encounter in China in late November last year.
Tien Minh Nguyen will be tested in his opening round match against Keinchi Tago in another fantastic opening round match with countless intriguing encounters taking place out with the seeded players. Boonsak Ponsana and Wang Zhengming also clash in the opening round, as well as Lee Hyun Il taking on Wong Wing Ki. Taufik Hidayat starts with a potential banana skin against Rajiv Ouseph of England, with a loss almost ensure he will drop out of the top 16 in the world.
Chinese Presence Throughout
The top 3 seeds in the women’s singles are as expected, Chinese. With Wang Yihan claiming the top seed and an opening round match against Jie Yao of Holland, Wang Shixian is seeded 2 and takes on Fu Mingtian of Singapore. The 3rd seed Wang Xin takes on Bae Youn Joo of Korea in the toughest of the three encounters, taking on the world number 14. Saina Nehwal takes on Susan Egelstaff in a rematch of the 2010 Commonwealth Games semi final whilst the final Chinese seed, Jiang Yanjiao take on Bulgaria’s Linda Zechiri in the opening round.
European hopes lie with Tine Baun, seeded 5th this week the Dane takes on the Canadian Michelle Li in a potentially tough opener. Juliane Schenk is seeded 7 but faces Liu Xin of China in her opening match in the biggest match of the opening round in the women’s singles draw. Liu Xin is ranked 10 in the world and holds a 2-0 head to head advantage against her German opponent.
The 3rd Force In Men’s Doubles?
Boe and Mogensen come into 2012 as the form pair in the men’s doubles after success in the Super Series Finals before Christmas and come into this week seeded 3. Their opening round match is against the 2005 world champions, Bach and Gunawan of the USA with a potential rematch with Lee and Jung in the semi finals. The 2nd seeds are the defending champions and take on Kumar and Thomas of India in their opening round match.
Top seeds Cai and Fu crashed out of the Super Series Finals at the group stage and have a potentially tough opener against the Polish pair of Logosz and Cwalina whilst the 4th seeded Korean pair of Ko and Yoo take on the Chinese pairing of Liu and Qiu of China, who are ranked 15 in the world.
Wang And Yu Still The Pair To Beat
World number 1 since June and haven’t lost a match since January of last year, Wang and Yu are the super power of the women’s doubles and come into 2012 looking for an unthinkable run of a year without losing a match. They start 2012 with a opening round match against Wang and Wang of the USA and a likely matchup with the 2nd seeded Zhao and Tian in the final on Sunday. Zhao and Tian start their campaign against Agustin and Maheswari of Indonesia.
2011 World Championship Rematch
Zhang and Zhao take on Adcock and Bankier in a rematch of the 2011 World Championship final, this time in the opening round in Korea. It is a tough blow for the British pair hoping to grab valuable ranking points in a 3-way fight for an Olympic place with Robertson and Wallwork as well as White and Blair. The 8th seeds and 2009 world champions Laybourn and Rytter Juhl wait in the first round for White and Blair. The 2nd seeded Xu and Ma start with a tough opener of their own, taking on Widianto and Marissa of Indonesia with both previous meetings going to three games.
Lee and Eun of Korea are the wildcard of the draw, they take on a qualifier in their opening round before a likely second round match with Prapakamol and Thoungthongkam of Thailand.
The 2012 Olympics signals the end of four legendary careers, with the hope of a last great battle between Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan for the Olympic gold on August 5, 2012. August of this year provided with perhaps the greatest advertisement for the game that there has ever been as Lee Chong Wei took on Lin Dan for the 2011 World Championship.
Malaysia expected as Lee Chong Wei had two match points to claim his first world title, only for Lin Dan to break a nations heart with his refusal to be beaten. A nation distraught as China claimed a clean sweep in London as Lin Dan ripped off his top in celebration after his historic victory. It was the defining image of 2011, that the Chinese were still the nation to beat and that Lin Dan will still the man to beat.
As much as the Chinese tactics are questionable on how they get so many players to qualify, there is little doubting they are the nation to beat going into next years Olympics. Malaysia and Lee Chong Wei’s last chance waits in London once more, in the arena that robbed him of a world title 12 months previously.
From the stunning mistake by Lin Dan at 19-19 in the third game, to his net play and smashes that saved the two match points before his precise pushes into Lee Chong Wei’s forehand that forced the errors that led to the match point and the eventual winning point, it was an absolute master class on the greatest stage by both players. They simply are the best two players in the world and the only two men capable of winning gold in London.
Fighting For Gold
Lee Chong Wei was the overall best player of 2011; winning almost every event he entered and claimed his first All England title against Kenichi Tago in March. The last three months have seen him lose to China’s Chen Long no less than three times which is the only real worry for the Malaysian going into 2012. He will undoubtedly play a full schedule going into the Olympics, with the chance of a second All England title looming large.
Lin Dan goes into 2012 in top form, winning his last three events including the Super Series Finals earlier in December. He won the opening Super Series Premier in Korea in January and followed it up with Asian Games gold, an event that Lee Chong Wei did not play. The top two in the world played each other 5 times in ranking events, with Lin Dan winning four of the five meetings with Lin Dan holding a 18-8 advantage in their 26 meetings to date.
Gade’s Last Chance
Peter Gade celebrated his 35th birthday this month but there was little to celebrate on the court for the Dane as he failed to claim a single title in 2011 as Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei proved too strong throughout the year in a recurring theme for Europe’s number 1. In his 12 meetings with the top two players, he won just three games and failed to win a single match.
His record against the top two is 32-4, with his last victory over Lin Dan over 18 months ago and almost three years since his last win over Lee Chong Wei. His chances of a stunning upset and a Danish gold in London look grim whilst in the Super Series events he will be a perennial contender and will reach the latter stages of most of the events he participates in, but his chances of gold in London are slim.
Taufik’s Fall From Grace
The decline of Taufik started in May of this year when his #2 ranking slipped to 3 and then came the double defeat to Marc Zwiebler in the US and Canada Open. The foundation of his ranking came from his Denmark and France Super Series victories in 2010. His defeat in the second round to Viktor Axelsen in Denmark followed by his opening round loss to Wang Zhengming in France ensured Hidayat’s decline out of the top 10 of the world rankings for the first time in recent memory.
He ended the year with a whimper, losing all three games in the Super Series Finals and taking just a single game against Kenichi Tago. He will start 2012 with a world ranking of 12, still inside the qualifcation zone for the Olympics but he is currently the #2 ranked player from Indonesia with Simon Santoso ranked 7 in the world and Tommy Sugiarto a threat to Hidayat’s qualification also, ranked 17th in the world.
The Chinese Threat
The 2009 world champion Chen Jin as well as the new star of Chinese badminton, Chen Long are just the tip of a massive Chinese threat going into any major tournament in 2012. With 5 Chinese players inside the top 16, there is a massive internal battle within the Chinese squad to claim one of a potential three spots in the Olympics, should China manage to get three players inside the top 4 in the world.
Chen Long is clearly the new star of Chinese badminton, the 22-year old begun this year well outside of the top 10 and his stunning loss to Kevin Cordon in the opening round of the world championships could have derailed his promising career. However, he returned to form later in the year with a trio of titles including a Super Series Premier title in China before his milestone victory over Lee Chong Wei in Japan the next week. This became a recurring theme, with another victory over Lee Chong Wei in Denmark and then finally in their most recent matchup in the Super Series Finals. He is the main threat to the top two in the world going into 2012.
Chen Jin claimed just a single title this year, in the Singapore Super Series after a Lin Dan walkover in the final and without Lee Chong Wei even in the draw. His two runner-up medals were defeats to Lin Dan and Chen Long to firmly establish himself as the third force of Chinese badminton now.
Du Pengyu and Wang Zhengming are the two wild cards of Chinese badminton. They have all but been eliminated from being able to qualify for the 2012 games but will be vital in ensuring a massive Chinese presence at the London Olympics. Ranked #10 and #14 in the world will put them in a position of being seeds in some events but potentially facing one of the seeds in the Premier events of 2011, like Wang Zhengming taking on Taufik Hidayat in the French Super Series in October. They will also play a role in ensuring Chinese success at these events, with the Chinese squad allowing walkovers to occur in all-Chinese matchups, meaning more rest for the higher ranked Chinese players in their big events.
The Breakout Stars of 2011
2011 seen the emergence of Sho Sasaki, Lee Hyun Il, Simon Santoso and Marc Zwiebler into the top 16 players in the world. 29-year old Sho Sasaki has been grinding away a career that seen him ranked as low as 40 in June of this year after a string of opening round losses to start 2011. He then reached the semi finals in the Indonesian Super Series Premier and followed that with a win in the US Open in July. An excellent run to the last 8 of the world championships boosted his ranking into the top 10 and finishes the year with his highest ever world ranking of 7. A lot is expected of Sasaki in 2012 with impressive victories over Lin Dan and Du Pengyu in 2011 but has to ensure no opening round upsets that marred his 2011 season.
Lee Hyun Il ended his career after the Beijing Olympics, only to be talked back into playing competitively just 20 months ago. Ranked 196th in May of 2010, he has returned to the world’s top 10 going into 2012, winning his last two events of 2011. A former world number 1 in 2004, his return to the top 10 is nothing short of stunning with victories over Chen Jin, Wang Zhengming , Du Pengyu and Simon Santoso confirming his top 10 status. He will benefit in 2012 with being seeded for most of the early Super Series events of the year to bolster his place in the top 10.
Simon Santoso was touted to overtake Taufik Hidayat as Indonesia’s number 1 in the summer after Hidayat’s poor run in the US and Canada Open. He entered the world championships ranked 19th but his run to the semi finals in China and Macau, that featured a victory over Peter Gade seen Santoso become the top ranked Indonesian player and ensured his place in the top 10 in December. His victory over Hidayat in the China Masters saw the passing of the guard to the 26-year old.
Marc Zwiebler has cemented his place as Europe’s number 2 behind Peter Gade, but his double victory over Taufik Hidayat has pushed him into the spotlight. Ranked as high as 11 earlier in the year, he has levelled out within the 15-17 ranking in the later half of the year following his Canada Open success. Big things are expected of Zwiebler in 2012 as he is set to take on the mantle of Europe’s #1 after the Olympics.
The New Breed
Denmark’s future lies with Viktor Axelsen, the 2010 junior world champion and current European junior champion carefully scheduled his 2011 calender, with a victory in Spain before his greatest moment of his career in the Denmark Open as he defeated Taufik Hidayat in his hometown to reach the last 8 of a Super Series for the first time. He took a game off Peter Gade in his quarterfinal before losing out in three games but that propelled him onto the world stage. He played the Hong Kong and China Masters in the latter half of 2011 and will likely take on a full schedule in 2012 as he looks to improve on his ranking of 36.
Wong Wing Ki’s victory over Lin Dan in Denmark was the 21-year old’s first breakthrough victory of his career and a series of promising results to end 2011 has him just outside the top 20 in the world going into 2012. He has been competitive against the world’s elite throughout the last year with only his standout victory against Lin Dan to show for it, he will hope to have several more impressive wins in 2012.
The European Hopefuls
Pablo Abian, Rajiv Ouseph have been the powerhouses of the EBU circuit, whilst Jan O Jorgensen has been reaching the latter stages of the Super Series towards the end of 2011 after a health scare during the week of the Denmark Open.
Pablo Abian started 2011 just inside the top 50 in the world before taking four titles in the first half of the year, including a victory over Viktor Axelsen in Sweden in January to claim his first title. Opening round defeats in the Denmark and France Open will have to be improved on in 2012 to break into the world’s elite.
Rajiv Ouseph will go to the London Olympics as GB’s only chance of a medal in this event but his success in 2011 has came in Europe, with victories in Ireland and Scotland, choosing to play the European events instead of the Super Series Premier event in China. He goes into 2012 in need of a notable run in a Super Series to boost his confidence ahead of the pressure of performing on home soil after a poor attempt this year in a 21-8, 21-18 defeat to Peter Gade in the opening round of the 2011 world championships.
Jan O Jorgensen is a former top 10 player whose health scare in Denmark forced him into a layoff of 4 weeks that seen him dip to 19 in the rankings. Three quarter final appearances in Super Series events in 2011 will be the very minimum he will need to ensure his place at the Olympics ahead of Viktor Axelsen, as the two battle it out to be Denmark’s number 1 after Gade’s retirement.
However, Hans-Kristian Vittinghus is also a contender in the debate. Ranked outside the top 30 at the start of 2011, the Dane took the Dutch Open title in April to push him into the top 25 and another victory in the Bitburger Open sees him inside the top 20 and finished the year with a close match with Chen Long of China. The performance in the China Open will be one that Vittinghus hopes to emulate throughout 2011 to ensure his name is in the discussion over Denmark’s top men’s singles player.
The Asian Contingent
The rarely spoken about Tien Minh Nguyen has been inside the top 10 in the world for almost two years without any major runs in the Super Series, the Vietnamese player earns his ranking points from the GP Gold series of events but did put have a good run at the world championships, eventually losing out to Peter Gade in three games at the quarter final stage. Defeats to Sho Sasaki and Jan O Jorgensen in the latter part of 2011 still raise question marks over Nguyen’s true ability and significance within the rankings.
Park Sung Hwan’s year was cut short with an injury after the world championships. After surgery on his knee in September there was further complications after it was revealed that the Korean had circulation problems in his shoulder but is expected to return to action in the opening months of 2012. He was ranked inside the top 10 before his lay off due to injury.
Boonsak Ponsana is another player in the Tien Minh Nguyen mould in that he was almost discounted as a threat in the opening half of 2011 when he was ranked 6th in the world, mostly due to ranking points gained through the GP Gold series. His quarter final defeat to Lee Chong Wei is the highlight of a poor year for the Thai player that has seen him crash out of the top 10 but surgery has sidelined Ponsana for most of the second half of 2011, with 2012 seeing the Thai player hopefully return to the court.
The End Of An Era
Regardless of the results in London, Lee Chong Wei and Peter Gade have confirmed their intentions to retire after the Olympics. Lin Dan and Taufik Hidayat likely to follow suit, especially should Lin Dan claim his second Olympic title. Hidayat’s dip in form will likely be a contributing factor especially with his place in London far from guaranteed.
2012 will provide us with the end of an era and the chance to crown a new world number 1 after the Olympics. Whether that is Lee Chong Wei winning gold for Malaysia, Lin Dan retaining his Olympic title or the dream finale to Peter Gade’s stunning career, the countdown has begun. There is no more putting off talking about the likely retirement of these four players, for it is now a matter of months, not years now.
The 2012 season starts in just a few weeks, with the Korean Open Super Series Premier being moved 3 weeks to the first week in January, with the Malaysian Open Super Series the next week to ensure an exciting start to the year. The doubleheader of the Indonesia Premier and Singapore Super Series will be the final event before the run-in to the Olympics in late July.
Then, another 6 week break before the China Masters and the first opportunity to survey the aftermath of the 2012 Olympics. The year ends with the China Open Premier and the Hong Kong Super Series in late November to conclude what is likely to be a historic year of badminton.
With the obvious Chinese involvement in their home event, it has been Peter Gade who has ensured some European interest going into the weekend.
Gade’s 80 minute match against Du Pengyu got off to the worst stuff when the 5th seeded Chinese player took the opening game, but the experienced Dane battled back to ensure his place in the last 4 by winning the next two games to set up a semi final with Chen Long. The other semi final sees the last two world champions battle it out as Chen Jin takes on Lin Dan, with the top seed look to be back to his best form with a 21-15, 21-6 demolition of the 6th seeded Sho Sasaki.
The women’s singles, as expected will see the top four players in the world battle it out in a Chinese monopoly of the semi finals. Both Baun and Schenk led the European charge going into the quarter finals but both were easily beaten by their Chinese opponents in Wang Xin and Wang Shixian, who now face off against one another. Top seeded Wang Yihan ended Saina Nehwal’s run at the last 8 with a 21-8, 21-12 victory and takes on the 4th seeded Jiang Yanjiao for a place in Sunday’s final.
Only Cai and Fu remain in the men’s doubles for the Chinese, with Korea taking two spots and Boe and Mogensen of Denmark ensuring some European interest going into the weekend. 4th seeded Ko and Yoo go up against the top seeded Cai and Fu with the recent form between the two pairs very much going in the Chinese pairs favour. The other semi final sees Lee and Jung take on Boe and Mogensen for a place in the final on Sunday.
The women’s doubles as expected still sees the top seeded Wang and Yu as overwhelming favourites, their two game victory over Jung and Kim puts them into the last 4. There was a shock with the 8th seeded Cheng and Pan losing out to their unseeded team mates Huan and Tang in three games but the other unseeded pair of Yixin and Zhong has no such luck against the 4th seeded Tian and Zhao who won in two games.
European interest is down to just one in the mixed doubles, with the 3rd seeded Fischer Neilsen and Pedersen defeating Laybourn and Rytter Juhl in an all-Danish quarter final. British interest ended with the defeat of Adcock and Bankier as well as Blair and White with both losing to unseeded pairs in three games. Xu and Ma defeated Zhang and Zhao, but it was a reverse of the semi final with the top seeded Chinese pair having to retire due to injury.
After Jiaming and Tian’s surprise defeat yesterday, there were no Chinese slip-ups on day 2 with the world’s best safely progressing into the quarterfinals.
Lin Dan did survive a scare in his second round match against Muhammed Hafiz Hashim after the Malaysian took the opening game, only for Lin Dan to respond with two stunning games of badminton and a victory in three games. The top seed will take on Sho Sasaki of Japan in the last 8, whose most recent meeting was at the world championships that seen the Chinese top seed progress in two games. All four quarter finals have Chinese interest but the most intriguing match of the four sees Peter Gade take on Du Pengyu, with Gade winning their only match to date in Singapore in July.
China have five of the remaining eight players left in the women’s singles, with Wang Shixian progressing much more safely than her previous match with a two game victory over Fu Mingtian. The 2nd seed will take on one of the two Europeans left in the draw in Juliane Schenk who defeated world championship finalist Cheng Shao Chieh in three games. Saina Nehwal suffered a similar fate to Wang Shixian, needing the full distance and more to defeat Japan’s Ayane Kurihara. The Indian eventually winning 27-25 to set up a quarter final clash with top seed and world champion Wang Yihan.
All three Chinese world champions are safely into the last 8 in the doubles events, with Cai and Fu needing three games to eventually progress and face England’s Adcock and Ellis. Chris Adcock is also through to the quarter finals of the mixed doubles with partner Imogen Bankier whose remarkable form recently continues with a victory over the 4th seeded Chen and Cheng of Chinese Taipei. Five pairs remain in the women’s doubles, headlined by Wang and Yu but the unseeded pairing of Huan and Tang also stole some of the limelight with their victory over the second seeded Maeda and Suetsuna of Japan.
The pick of the all-Chinese encounters tomorrow comes in the mixed doubles, as a rematch of the world championship semi final sees Zhang and Zhao take on Xu and Ma for a place in the last 4. Ma Jin’s ankle injury in London robbed the fans of a superb match that was finely poised going into the second game, but the last two full matches between the pairs have result in six excellent games of badminton and a victory apiece going into tomorrow.
The first post-World Championships Super Series in China was a perfect way for the host nation to bolster it’s place at the top of world badminton and to an extent they did, but one shock defeat leaves a bittersweet taste on a successful day for the host nation.
World Champion Lin Dan progressed safely into round 2 and was followed by Chen Jin, Zhou Wenlong, Chen Long, Du Pengyu and Wang Zhengming. Only Peter Gade and Kazushi Yamada were able to defeat Chinese opponents in the opening round as the European interest in the men’s singles shrunk to just two after the opening round. Hans-Kristian Vittinghus and Peter Gade are Europe’s sole hopes this week with early exits for Rajiv Ouseph, Jan O Jorgensen and Marc Zwiebler.
Wang Shixian needed the full distance to reach the second round against Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei, eventually coming through 30-29 in the final game in 71 minutes and saving eleven match points. There is a massive Chinese involvement in round 2 as expected, with Wang Yihan, Wang Xin, Jiang Yanjiao, Liu Xin and Yao Xue making up six of the sixteen remaining players. Tine Baun and Juliane Schenk will be Europe’s main hopes of an unlikely victory on Chinese soil.
The men’s doubles has but just 3 pairs from China, but the top seeded Cai and Fu will be the pair to watch. Hashimoto and Hirata defeated the 8th seeded Chandra and Gunawan to book their place in the last 16 but there were little surprises in the other matches in the opening round. The women’s doubles will be another event to watch for the all-conquering world champions Wang and Yu whilst Europe has it’s entire hope placed solely on Rytter Juhl and Pedersen’s shoulders for success.
The mixed doubles seen the biggest shock of the day as China’s 2nd seeds Jiaming and Ting to unseeded Indian pair Gutta and Valiyaveeti in three games. Their reward is a match against Lee and Ha of Korea, a pair that easily beat them in Switzerland earlier in the year. Last week’s winners Ko and Eom have the toughest task in round 2 as they take on the world champions and top seeded Zhang and Zhao for a place in the quarter final.
With the pending retirement of Lee Chong Wei looming after the 2012 Olympics, the Malaysian world #1 has focused all of his efforts this year claiming one of the few titles to elude him in his career. His performances this year has propelled him to the undoubted favourite for the title, even with Lin Dan in the draw. The Chinese 2nd seed has also allegedly set his retirement after the 2012 Games in London, with both players not even reaching 30. China’s big hope has hand picked the events he has played since his Olympic triumph in Beijing three years ago.
There is the European threat, with Peter Gade who never considered a retirement before the age of 30 but still looking to claim his first world title. He is seeded 3rd this year to break up the Asian dominance in the top seeds this year. The next generation could break through this year with the likes of Chen Long, Kenichi Tago and Du Pengyu all receiving seeds this year.
There are some players to watch also from the 48 unseeded players, Kazushi Yamada reached the last 8 in Paris last year, Shon Wan Ho was a top 16 this year and Spain’s Pablo Abian is one of the most consistent players on the EBU Circuit.
Lee Chong Wei
Seeded – 1
2010 Result – Quarter Finals
1st Round Opponent – Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk (Thailand)
Likely Threats – Park Sung Hwan (Last 16) Chen Long (QF)
His performances in the past 8 months have put him at a level of invincibility that Lin Dan had going into the 2008 Olympics. His opener against the world #32 Saensomboonsuk is s favourable start as Lee Chong Wei could have hoped for. He hold a 5-0 head to head advantage and has failed to drop a game in any of the five matches.
His 3rd round match if the seeds go according to plan is the world #9 Park Sung Hwan, who he holds an 11-1 head to head advantage against with that single victory for the Korean coming in 2004. Chen Long is a likely quarter final opponent, but the Chinese player has only claimed a single win over the Malaysian in five matches and that was in 2009.
This event is ultimately Lee Chong Wei’s to lose. With four Super Series victories in 2011 already to his name as well as winning two of their last three Super Series against Lin Dan.
Seeded – 2
2010 Result – Quarter Finals
1st Round Opponent – Kestutis Navickas (Lithuania)
Likely Threats – Peter Gade (SF)
The 2009 world champion tamely crashed out last year and controversy had surrounded the Chinese player since. Withdrawals before matches with Chinese players has been given as various injuries but losses to Sho Sasaki as well as Lee Chong Wei on numerous occasions have seen Lin Dan’s aura of invincibility disappear.
It will be his first meeting with Navickas on his opening round match, with a massive question mark looming over a potential quarterfinal match with Du Pengyu. Peter Gade should be his likely semi final opponent, who defeated him in the Swiss Open in 2010 but his overall record over the Dane is an impressive 14-3 in the Chinese players favour.
Lin Dan is capable of winning this event, if he turns up without the controversy that his plagued him for the past 12 months.
Seeded – 3
2010 Result – Semi Finals
1st Round Opponent – Rajiv Ouseph (England)
Likely Threats – Simon Santoso (Last 16) Lin Dan (SF)
The 34-year old goes into the event knowing that he is capable of reaching the final of the world championships, a feat he accomplished ten years ago in Seville. His record against the top two seeds is poor, to say the least but his sole victory of Lee Chong Wei resulted in his last Super Series victory (Korean Open, 2009).
His opening match against England’s Rajiv Ouseph is a favourable one, with the Dane holding a 6-0 head to head advantage and the Englishman failing to claim a single game in any of the six defeats. His 3rd round match against Simon Santoso will be his first main test, with the Indonesian claiming a victory this year against Gade in Korea.
Seeded – 6
2010 Result – Winner
1st Round Opponent – Raul Must (Estonia)
Likely Threats – Taufik Hidayat (QF) Lee Chong Wei (SF)
To say that Chen Jin was a surprise winner last year would be an understatement. It was so improbable that few could have believed that a Taufik Hidayat – Chen Jin final was possible. The two could potentially meet once again at the last 8 stage, with Chen Jin leading the head to head 3-1.
Raul Must is Chen Jin’s first opponent this week and their first meeting ever. Chen Jin’s recent form has been average, after inheriting the Singapore Open title with a Lin Dan withdrawal and three defeats to Sho Sasaki this year has seriously dented his credentials of retaining his world title.
Seeded – 4
2010 – Runner-Up
1st Round Opponent – Rodrigo Pacheco Carrillo (Peru)
Likely Threats – Chen Jin (QF) Lee Chong Wei (SF)
Taufik Hidayat took the decision to play the US Open and Canada Open in the build up to the World Championships and suffered a double dose of defeat from Marc Zwiebler, who defeated him in both tournaments.
His opening match against Peruvian Rodrigo Pacheco is one of the easiest matches the Indonesian could have faced and has already defeated the world #61 previously in the world championships, albeit eight years previously.
Hidayat has to prove he is capable of competing with the top 10 players once again and put the double disappointment of the US and Canada Open behind him.
Seeded – 14
2010 Result – 3rd Round
1st Round Opponent – Valeriy Atrashchenkov (Ukraine)
Likely Threats – Chen Long (Last 16) Lee Chong Wei (QF)
No player is coming into the event on a better run of form than the German, two victories in the US Open and Canada Open has put him well inside the top 20 in the world and with a very favourable opening two rounds before his biggest test against Chen Long.
2010 Result – Quarter Finals
1st Round Opponent – Daniel Paiola (Brazil)
Likely Threats – Du Pengyu (Last 32)
He appeared from almost nowhere in 2010 before losing out to Peter Gade in the quarterfinals, his run last year was a warning to all of the top players that the world championships is the premier event of the year and anyone can beat anyone on their day, can Yamada repeat the feat in 2011?
Seeded – 11
2010 Result – Did Not Play
1st Round Opponent – Brice Leverdez (France)
Likely Threats – Du Pengyu (Last 16) Lin Dan (QF)
His impressive 2011 has made him into a player that nobody wants to face, Lin Dan, Chen Jin, Boonsak Ponsana , Park Sung Hwan and Tien Minh Nguyen have all lost to Sasaki in 2011. His second round match could be easier than his opener against Leverdez, who Sasaki was ranked lower than 12 month previously.
Seeded – 15
2010 Result – 2nd Round
1st Round Opponent – Ajay Jayaram (India)
Likely Threats – Chen Jin (Last 16) Taufik Hidayat (QF)
His heroics in the 2010 All England proved he could play with the best in the world, his impressive wins over Zweibler and Santoso in the Sudirman was a reminder just a few months ago that he is a player not to be taken likely. His most recent match against his potential 3rd round opponent was a victory over Chen Jin in his run the 2010 All England final.
Play begins on August 8, with two days of first round matches.
Men’s Singles Draw:
Lu Lan’s unlikely run to the Asian Championship final was completed with her third victory over a Chinese seed whilst there was a more likely story in the men’s singles with Lin Dan reaching the final with his semi final victory over Du Pengyu.
Lin Dan’s opponent in tomorrow’s final will be Bao Chunlai, who defeated the second seeded Chen Long in two games to book his place in the final. Lin Dan’s victory over Du Pengyu was equally as impressive, winning 21-16, 21-13. Tomorrow’s final will be the 25th meeting between the two players, dating back to the 2001 Singapore Open with Lin Dan winning 19 of the previous 24 meetings between them.
Lu Lan’s run this week has been at the expense of three Chinese seeds, now she takes on a 4th in tomorrow’s final against Wang Yihan. Lu Lan defeated Jiang Yanjiao in two tight games to reach the final whilst Wang Yihan run to the final has been an easier affair without meeting a seed on route to tomorrow’s final. This will be their 8th meeting, with Wang Yihan edging the series 4-3.
Hashimoto and Hirata’s victory over Chai and Guo ensured there wouldn’t be a Chinese monopoly on finals day, their two game victory over the 5th seeds to set up a match with top seeded Cai and Fu in the final. The Chinese pair defeated their team-mates Xu and Zhang in two games to book their place in the final without the loss of game this week and will be the favourites tomorrow in the first meeting between the two pairs.
Wang and Yu were pencilled in for the final from their opening match and their run this week has been truly impressive, they have never looked like dropping a game at any point but were given their toughest challenge in the semi final from the 8th seeded Bao and Zhong before winning 21-17, 21-19. Their opponents in the final will be another Chinese pairing, that of Tian and Zhao seeded 6 this week, who defeated the 5th seeded Korean’s Ha and Kim in a three game match that lasted over an hour. The 6th seeds are one of the few pairs in the world that can claim a victory over the Wang and Yu partnership, defeating them in the final of the Malaysian Super Series but were defeated just a week later by Wang and Yu in Korea.
The mixed doubles sees one of China’s specialist in the discipline, Ma Jin with partner Xu Chen reach the final at the expense of Prapakamol and Thoungthongkam of Thailand with the Chinese pair winning in two games. Their opponents in the final are the top seeded pair of Zhao and Zhang who defeated unseeded team-mates Pan and Hong in two games to reach tomorrow’s final. It will be the third meeting between the pairs, with Xu and Ma winning their previous encounter at the All Englands in March.
Semi Final Results:
2011 heralds the beginning of the new top-tier “Premier Series”, a five event series that boasts bigger money than the previous “Super Series” name. There is still seven Super Series events but the five Premier Series events are now stand out events on the 2011 calendar.
As well as the stand out events, there will be clear stand out players for 2011. 2010 was the year of Lee Chong Wei as he widened the gap between himself at the rest of the world. Only Lin Dan can claim any sort of argument what debating the best player in the world at the moment.
The Super Series starts off in Malaysia on January 18 before the opening Premier Series event in Korea taking centre stage at the end of January. The All-England provides another massive injection of money into the game as the second Premier Series event of the year and is followed the next week by the newest Super Series event in India.
The opening 3 months of 2011 offers the top players in the world four Super Series opportunities, two of which are Premier Series events.
Two players instantly shine out in these kinds of draws. 2010 was Lee Chong Wei’s year, with six Super Series titles, two GP gold titles and the Commonwealth Games gold medal. There is little to debate his place atop the world rankings, all except his Asian Games defeat to his long-term rival Lin Dan who is the only player on the circuit who is in the discussion with Lee Chong Wei when debating the best player on the men’s singles circuit.
The duo played three times in 2010, with Lin Dan winning two at the “major” events in the calendar at the Asian Games and at the Thomas Cup in May where he comfortably defeated the Malaysian in two games like his Olympic triumph in 2008, such was the margin of victory (21-17, 21-8).
These two are the absolute top of the game, however Lin Dan’s schedule has continually decreased since winning gold in Beijing three years ago. Winning just one Super Series last year in September at the China Masters and playing just 6 Super Series events total. Add in two withdrawals in China and Hong Kong, which takes the tally to just 4 events he could have potentially won. Losing one to Lee Chong Wei in Japan and his poor run in March that seen him lose to Bao Chunlai at the All England (Bao Chunlai’s first win over Lin Dan in over three years) and a two game loss to Peter Gade in the Swiss Super Series has only added to the speculation that he has either lost interest in the game or only peaks for major events.
The lure of the new Premier Series could bring the best out in Lin Dan once more, whilst Lee Chong Wei continues to perform at a level that the rest of the players cannot match.
Peter Gade, current European Champion and Europe’s #1 is never to be overlooked in this events. In a year shortened by a back injury, he rolled back the years at the All-England until meeting Lee Chong Wei in a one-sided semi final. He followed up the performance at the Swiss Super Series, beating Lin Dan before losing to Chen Long. He has played just three events since the World Championships in August, reaching the semi finals in Japan and then losing to Joachim Persson at the French Super Series after withdrawing from his home Super Series the week previously. Since then, question marks have surrounded his future especially in light of losing to Joachim Persson, a player tipped a few years ago to take over Gade’s mantle as Denmark’s number 1. His recent return of form at the Super Series Finals shows he still has the ability to win at this level, but only proved that the gap between himself and Lee Chong Wei was a large one.
Gade’s time is slowly fading, without a Super Series win since the Korean Open in 2009. However, the future is bright in Danish badminton with the emergence in recent years of Jan O Jorgensen this year, Jorgensen played 11 of the 12 Super Series events, the most of anyone (only Hu Yun played 11 also) but only featured in one semi final in Denmark, a title that he won but the early part of 2010 was marred with four defeating in the second round and a second round defeat to Rajiv Ouseph in the World Championships. There was little to promote Jorgensen’s chances of winning in Denmark after another set of defeats in Japan and Indonesia at the third round stage. He lost his seeding in Hong Kong in December last year and had to play Lin Dan in the opening round, a match he lost comfortably in two games.
Question marks loom over Taufik Hidayat’s future also but there is little doubt that he still has the ability at win at the highest level. He narrowly missed out in winning the Denmark Super Series, but bounced back to take the French Super Series the very next week. He is one of the few people to claim a victory over Lee Chong Wei in 2010, winning their quarter final matchup in the World Championships and going all the way to the final before losing to Chen Jin.
The Chinese contingent this year is as strong as ever, with as many as five potential winners entering every event this year. Current world champion Chen Jin will hope to reclaim his 2008 All England title, with his Swiss Open title he won last year no longer on the Super Series circuit. Chen Long goes into the opening event of the year as the highest ranked Chinese player in the world at the moment, ranked 4th. Bao Chunlai and Du Pengyu are also ranked inside of the top 15 in the world, with the pair battling it out for the China Open title in May last year.
Boonsak Ponsana has cemented his place as a top-10 player in the past year but still needs to have that landmark victory to push him into the world’s elite however early defeats in the later half of 2010 need to be resolved before he is considered a real contender every event.
The Ones To Watch:
Viktor Axelsen burst onto the scene in 2010, taking the junior world title and then the Cyprus International. His performances in qualifying for the French and Denmark Super Series has already established himself as capable of playing at the very highest level and his second round match to Jan O Jorgensen in the Denmark Open was much closer then anyone expected.
Joachim Persson has made an unlikely resurrection of a career almost forgotten by Jorgensen’s emergence. He has slipped to 20th in the world rankings but still managed to reach the French Super Series final after venturing back into the European circuit to regain the confidence lost in the past few months.
Kenichi Tago burst onto the world scene with his unlikely run to the All-England final last year and has continued to progress on from his experience in that final, reaching a world ranking of 17 but as yet no Super Series titles to show for his efforts.
The 2011 Calendar:
Malaysia – 18-23 January
Korea Premier – 25-30 January
All-England Premier – 8-13 March
India – 16-21 March
Singapore – 14-19 June
Indonesia Premier – 21-26 June
China Masters – 13-18 September
Japan – 20-25 September
Denmark Premier – 18-23 October
France – 25-30 October
Hong Kong – 15-20 November
China Open Premier – 22 – 27 November
Super Series Final – 14-18 December