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 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.
With less than two months to the opening match of the Olympics, the respective governing bodies have chosen their players to take part in the 2012 Games.
The men’s singles draw will consist of 40 players, with a group stage being introduced for the first time at the Olympics. The draw will consist of 16 groups, with the top 8 players getting a group of just 2 players whilst the 9-16 seeds will be in a group of 3.
1. Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia)
2. Lin Dan (China)
3. Chen Long (China)
4. Chen Jin (China)
5. Peter Gade (Denmark)
6. Sho Sasaki (Japan)
7. Lee Hyun Il (Korea)
8. Kenichi Tago (Japan)
Chen Jin only qualified for the Olympics a mere 4 days before the qualification period ended, with China taking 3 of the top 4 places. Lee Chong Wei’s injury to his ankle at the Thomas Cup puts his presence in the competition at risk, with the Malaysian team claiming that the world number 1 will be out for just a month being an optimistic timeframe for his return to action. If Lee Chong Wei should miss the Olympics or not be 100% then the undoubted favourite for the competition will be the defending champion Lin Dan.
Only the group winners will qualify, but the top 8 will only need to beat a player outside the top 20 in the world to ensure their place in the knockout stages of the event.
9. Simon Santoso (Indonesia)
10. Tien Minh Nguyen (Vietnam)
11. Taufik Hidayat (Indonesia)
12. Jan O Jorgensen (Denmark)
13. Shon Wan Ho (Korea)
14. Marc Zwiebler (Germany)
15. Rajiv Ouseph (Great Britain)
16. Wong Wing Ki (Hong Kong)
Jan O Jorgensen was selected ahead of both Hans-Kristian Vittinghus and Viktor Axelsen to ensure his place at this years Olympics whilst Shon Wan Ho left it to the last possible week to book his place in the qualification spots after jumping from 17 to 14 in the world to ensure a second Korean player in the draw. Taufik Hidayat has made the qualification criteria as he looks for a last flash of brillance to claim his second Olympic title after winning in Athens eight years previously. Rajiv Ouseph is the only British hope in the draw, with the world number 20 narrowly edging out Spain’s Pablo Abian to ensure four European seeds from the 16.
The 9-16 seeds will have a more precarious qualifying process, needing to win the group with three players in it instead of just two.
The remaining 24 players range from the world number 22 Pablo Abian to the two wildcards, Virgil Soeroredjo and Mohamed Ajfan Rasheed who are both ranked outside the top 200 in the world and will be seen as the players the seeded players will most likely want in their groups.
The live draw for the groups will be held in the Olympic Park Main Press Center on July 23 with the final confirmed list of players being released on July 20.
Special thanks to Jan Lin from the BWF for this information
Three powerhouses in world badminton have all safely progressed into the semi final stages of both events, with Denmark and Thailand hoping to claim at least one title in Wuhan this week.
China’s 3-0 victory was a foregone conclusion without the presence of Lee Chong Wei, Daren Liew gave them a brief moment of hope when he surprisingly took the opening game against Lin Dan, only for the world number 2 to fight back to win the next two dropping just 14 points. Cai and Fu doubled the advantage with a two game victory over Koo and Tam before Chen Long sealed the 3-0 win in two games. Their opponents in the semi final will be Japan, who needed all five games to seal their place in the last 4 against Indonesia. Santoso gave Indonesia a 1-0 lead before Kido and Setiawan once against lost to a lower ranked pair and have been the weak point of the Indonesian team this week. Kenichi Tago defeated Taufik Hidayat to put Japan on the brink of the semi final, only for Ahsan and Septano to win a vital elimination match to take the rubber to the final match. Takuma Ueda stunning victory over Dionysius Hayom Runbaka gave Japan a 3-2 victory and a place in Friday’s semi final.
Korea and Denmark meet in the second semi final, with both nations progressing 3-0. Denmark were too strong for Russia, as they dropped just a single game on route to the last 4. Korea also only dropped a single match on route to the last 4 and both nations will be pleased to have missed China in the semi finals.
China were simply too strong for a German squad without Juliane Schenk to lead the line, the 3-0 victory was an accurate result given the gulf in class between the two nations. China’s opponents in the semi final are Thailand, who defeated Denmark 3-1 in their quarter final. Denmark were always going to need two special performances to have any chance against the Thais, but Tine Baun’s sole victory in the opening singles was all that they could get as they fell in 4 matches.
The current Uber Cup champions Korea were one game away from elimination, down 2-1 and level at one game all in the 4th match of their rubber against Chinese Taipei. The world number 3 pairing of Ha and Kim lost their match, as well as the world number 13 Bae Youn Joo after Sung Ji Hyun’s opening victory. Kim and Jung won the 4th match in three games to take the game to a 5th and deciding match, where Hwang Hye Youn won the 3rd singles match to ensure Korea’s qualification into the last 4 in a quarter final that should have been a routine victory. Japan made hard work of their quarter final also, squandering a 2-0 lead after Eriko Hirose and the world number 7 pairing of Niato and Matsuo also failed to win their matches to make the score 2-2 going into the final match. Minatsu Mitani saved Japan’s blushes with a two game victory to reach the semi final stage, with both nations supposed stronger players failing to perform on the day.
The 2012 Thomas and Uber Cup Finals have seen their fair share of shock results, but the biggest scare of the week so far is Lee Chong Wei’s ankle injury sustained in his match against Peter Gade.
The host nation China had little trouble in winning Group A, with a pair of 5-0 victories over Indonesia and England with the loss of just one game in the 10 matches. Indonesia claimed second place in the group with a 4-1 victory over England to reach the quarter final stage. Japan topped Group B with a perfect record of 10 victories without the loss of a single game, defeating Russia and New Zealand 5-0. Russia claimed the second place in the with their own 5-0 victory over New Zealand to reach the last 8.
Denmark topped Group C after defeating Malaysia in a tight 3-2 victory, but only due to Lee Chong Wei’s retirement in the opening match against Peter Gade. Leading 2-1 in the opening game, the world number twisted his ankle awkwardly attempting to play a routine drop shot and was forced to retire from the match. The estimation of his layoff is set to be 3-4 weeks but other sources claim that the ankle injury is much more serious and the chances of making the Olympics are unlikely. Denmark claimed both doubles matches to ensure a 3-2 victory and top spot in the group whilst Malaysia progress to the last 8 but will be without Lee Chong Wei for the rest of the event. Korea top Group D with a narrow 3-2 victory over Germany as both nations reach the last 8 with both Korea and Germany defeating the US.
China also topped Group A in the Uber Cup after a both of withdrawals in their final match against Indonesia ensured a second 5-0 victory in the group. Indonesia will also go through to the last 8 after defeating South Africa earlier in the group. Thailand and Chinese Taipei go through from Group B, with both nations losing a match in the group stage, the Netherlands shocked Chinese Taipei in the opening match of the group whilst Thailand defeated Netherlands 5-0 before going down 3-2 to Chinese Taipei, meaning the group went down to matches won.
Korea safely progressed without the loss of a match in Group C as Germany’s singles players ensured their place in the last 8 with a tight 3-2 win over Australia to ensure their qualification. Japan edged out Denmark for top spot in Group D as the Dane led Japan 2-0 in the final group match, only for the Japanese to win the next three games and win the rubber as well as the Group.
Lee Chong Wei ensured his second success on home soil in 2012 after his Super Series success in January as Malaysia claimed 4 of the 5 titles this week.
Lee Takes Title
It was a far from dominant display from the world number 1 this week but nevertheless Lee Chong Wei claimed the title in a three game final against the unseeded Sony Dwi Kuncoro. After losing the opening game 21-17, the world number 1 dropped just another 18 points on route to the title. For Kuncoro, it was a positive week that far from reflect his drop in the world rankings to 79 as he defeated three players inside the top 50 in the world.
Three More Titles For Malaysia
Koo and Tan claimed the men’s doubles title, dropping just a single game in the process as Malaysia swept the doubles events. The world number 9 pairing of Chan and Goh have had an excellent year to date and claimed the mixed doubles title without the loss of a game. Chin and Wong defeated the top seeded Sari and Yao in the women’s doubles to claim Malaysia’s fourth title of the week, with the 2nd seeds defeating the Singapore pairing in two tight games.
Busanan Ongbumrungpan claimed the women’s title, as the Thai player defeated another unseeded player in Sayaka Takahashi in the final with the world number 157 claiming the title in two games.
Malaysia have dominated play at their home GP Gold event with Lee Chong Wei as well as Koo and Tan giving plenty reasons for celebration going into the weekend’s play.
Lee Taken To Three
Chong Wei Feng gave the world number 1 a scare in his quarter final, taking Lee Chong Wei to three games before the top seed eventually advanced into the semi final. His opponent in the semi final is Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia, a player who narrowly missed out on the Olympic qualifying standard but has been in excellent form this week. The third seed defeated Sourabh Varma of India to ensure his third straight two game victory on route to the last 4.
The other semi final sees the unseeded Sony Dwi Kuncoro take on Muhammad Hafiz Hashim, with hopes of an all-Malaysia final looming large. Kuncoro needed 76 minutes to defeat the 5th seeded Ueda of Japan to ensure his place in the last 4 whilst Hashim has progressed through with four easy wins.
One Seed Left In Women’s Singles Draw
Only P.V. Sindhu remains from the four seeds that started the week, with the Indian taking on Sayaka Takahashi who is looking to reach her highest ever world ranking. Currently 100th in the world, her previous best was 98th but a good run this week would see her top that. The other semi final features Xing Aiying of Singapore and Busanan Ongbumrungpan of Thailand. The duo played just 6 weeks ago and despite being ranked 90 places lower in the rankings, it was the Thai player who won the match in Vietnam in two games.
Whilst most of the Chinese squad have begun a likely 3-month camp ahead of the Olympics, the world number 1 is on home soil this week and has progressed into the quarter finals.
Lee Starts Off Strong
42 minutes was all the world number 1 needed to reach the last 8, with a 19 minute demolition of Michael Fowke in is opening round match and later in the afternoon needed just 23 minutes to defeat his Indian opponent and set up a quarter final against Chong Wei Feng in an all-Malaysian clash. The 2nd seeded Tien Minh Nguyen crashed out in his second match of the day, losing to Sony Dwi Kuncoro in two games. Kuncoro takes on Takuma Ueda of Japan, seeded 5th this week.
The 2nd seeded Minatsu Mitani crashed out of the women’s singles in her opening game to Singapore’s Xing Aiying and takes on Nozomi Okuhara of Japan in the quarter finals. Okuhara was ranked inside the top 60 just a few months previously and is looking improve on her current ranking of 104. The top seeded Sindhu of India is safely into the last 8 where she takes on her own Japanese opponent in Kana Ito who was ranked outside the top 200 last summer herself. Whilst Sindhu’s rise from outside the top 100 to 26th in the world would see her ranking improve further with a win this week.
It was a week for parity to be restored within all five events, with none of the top seeds claiming an All England title to make the run-up to the Olympics all the more exciting.
Turning The Tide In The Chinese Squad
The biggest shocks of the day came in the women’s events, none more so than Tian and Zhao’s demolition of the world number 1 pairing of Wang and Yu. The 21-19, 21-13 scoreline was a accurate representation of the difference, with Wang Xiaoli looking especially flustered by the occasion. Li Xuerui topped Wang Yihan in the women’s singles final as the balance of power within these events is turning towards the lower seeded players and pairings. Li Xuerui was outside the top 10 just 3 months ago but has claimed victories over the world number 4 Saina Nehwal and world number 1 this week.
Indonesia And Korea Claim Titles
The hope of a European winner this week ended in a 43-minute final that seen Ahmad and Natsir defeated the Danish pairing of Laybourn and Rytter Juhl, with the Dane’s impressive run ending at the final hurdle. Lee and Jung took an 11-10 lead in their rivalry over Cai and Fu as they topped the top seeds in three games to tip the balance back on their side just ahead of the Olympics.
A Disappointing End
Even before the match started, there were injury concerns with Lee Chong Wei and throughout the opening game there were signs that the match wasn’t going to go the distance. The Malaysian received treatment during the opening game and after losing the opener 21-19, received yet more treatment. The second game lasted all but 8 points with Lin Dan ahead 6-2 before Lee Chong Wei’s retirement through injury. It is another disappointing exit for one of the world’s great players at the All England, with Gade’s defeating on the opening night.
Three of the biggest rivalries in the game are to be renewed on the finals stage as China’s hope to claim 5 titles ends today.
Lee Takes On Lin
The top two players in the world will meet for the 28th time and the 4th time at the All Englands. Both have secured their place in the final without the loss of a game this week and Lee Chong Wei complete their route to the finals with a victory over Lee Hyun Il, whilst Lin Dan defeated Kenichi Tago to reach tomorrow’s final. Lee Chong Wei has never strung two victories together against Lin Dan, he will hope to change that after defeating Lin Dan in Korea in their previous encounter in January.
All Chinese Finals In All England
Wang Yihan takes on Li Xuerui tomorrow’s women’s singles final after the world number defeated Wang Shixian in her semi final whilst Li Xuerui beat Tai Tzu Ying in the second of the semi finals. The 7th seed does not hold a good record against the top seeded Wang Yihan in previous encounters, losing all of her previous four encounters. Wang and Yu renew their rivalry with Tian and Zhao in the women’s doubles final, with both pairs meeting little resistance on route to the final. It will be their 9th meeting with Wang and Yu winning their last 7 matches.
The 21st Encounter
Cai and Fu take on Lee and Jung for the 21st time in the All England final, with their historic rivalry tired at 10 wins apiece. Cai and Fu have won the previous two matches but this is their first meeting in the All England final, with both pairs not losing a game this week on route to tomorrow’s final with Lee and Jung being especially impressive in their victory over Boe and Mogensen in their semi final.
The mixed doubles final is the only final without Chinese interest, with Laybourn and Rytter Juhl ending the run of the 2011 champions Xu and Ma at the semi final stage in a two game victory. The 4th seeded Ahmad and Natsir will be the Danes opponent in the final after ending the run of the Malaysian pair of Chan and Goh. It will be their 3rd meeting with the Danish pair taking their most recent match in China last November.