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.
Marc Zwiebler claimed the European title against an unlikely opponent in Henri Hurskainen whilst two other potential German titles were undone by their Danish opponents on finals day.
Marc Zwiebler needed to defeat just a single Danish player on route to his European title, with Axelsen and Gade both falling to his opponent in the final Henri Hurskainen. His victory over Jan O Jorgensen was the catalyst for his success this week and had little trouble in defeating his Swedish opponent in his most one-sided victory over the week, winning 21-15, 21-13.
Tine Baun repeated her success over Juliane Schenk from two years in the longest match of the day, with the top seeded Dane taking the title in 68 minutes winning 21-19, 16-21, 21-19. There was another Danish success over Germany in the men’s doubles final, with Boe and Mogensen defeating Fuchs and Roth in a very one-sided final with the Danes winning 21-11, 21-11 in just 34 minutes. The all-Danish final in the women’s doubles was won by the top seeded Pedersen and Rytter Juhl defeating the 3rd seeded Damkjaer Cruse and Roepke in two games, but needing 5 chances to claim the second game.
Mateusiak and Zieba Take Mixed Title
The Polish pair came into this week on top form after taking the Dutch title, but few people expected them to repeat their success in Karlskrona. After defeating the top seeded Fischer Neilsen and Pedersen in the quarter finals and a victory over Adcock and Bankier at the semi final stage they had little trouble in defeating Pieler Colding and Houmann to claim the European title in to games, winning 21-11, 24-22.
Henri Hurskainen’s victory over Peter Gade could have been deemed a fluke result over an legend in his final year of competition, but in his last two matches he has defeated Peter Gade and the future of Danish badminton, Viktor Axelsen.
Hurskainen Takes On Zwiebler
There is always usually a standout performance from a pair or person playing in from of his home crowd. Adcock and Bankier’s performance at the 2011 Worlds was made possible in front of a partizan London auidence. Hurskainen’s last two performances have seen him play above and beyond his world ranking of 57 to claim two incredible victories just 3 months ahead of the Olympics. His three-game victory over Axelsen has seen him progress to his first European final, where he takes on Germany’s Marc Zwiebler.
Zwiebler fell at the semi final stage in 2010, losing in three games to Peter Gade but his impressive two game victory over Jan O Jorgensen ensures that he reached the final without the loss of a game and that the European title wouldn’t be returning to Denmark for the first time since 1990.
Danish Presence In Four Finals
Whilst the clean sweep of golds is no longer an option, Denmark have secured at least one gold in the women’s doubles final. Tine Baun takes on Juliane Schenk in a rematch of their 2010 final in Manchester, with the top seeded Baun defeating Linda Zechiri to reach the final whilst the second seeded Schenk was impressive in her 21-13, 21-10 victory over Jie Yao to ensure the German like Zwiebler, reached the final without the loss of a game.
Boe and Mogensen will hope to go one better than 2010 as they take on Fuchs and Roth in the men’s doubles final. The top seeded defeated Adcock and Ellis to reach the final whilst their German opponents ended any chance of an all-Danish final with their victory over Bonde and Kristiansen in a three game, 62-minute semi final. Their previous and only meeting was over two years ago, with the Danes taking the match in three games.
Pedersen and Rytter Juhl take on their team mates Damkjaer Kruse and Roepke in the women’s doubles final, with the 3rd seeds ending the run of the 2010 winners Vislova and Sorokina in three games. The top seeds needed just two games and half the time to defeat Michels and Marinello of Germany to ensure their place in the final with the loss of just 96 points to date this week.
The mixed doubles final features the 2010 runners-up Mateusiak and Zieba taking on the Danish pair of Pielder Colding and Houmann. Both pairs needed three games to defeat their higher seeded opponents, with the 7th seeded Poles defeating the 4th seeded Adcock and Bankier whilst the 8th seeds defeated their team mates and 2010 winners Laybourn and Rytter Juhl who were seeded 2nd this week. Their only meeting came at the 2011 World Championships, which the Polish pair won in three games.