After Lee Chong Wei’s 24th and 25th Super Series titles in Korea and Malaysia, the world number 1 is the undoubted front-runner for the Olympic title. Compounded with his victory over Lin Dan in Seoul, followed by a defeat by the Olympic champion to Jan O Jorgensen in Malaysia this week. The first two Super Series titles have given us plenty of questions as well as definitive answers.
Lee Chong Wei is #1
His victory over Lin Dan re-asserted his place at the top of the world game whilst his win over Kenichi Tago showed just how far the gap is between himself at most of the field in Malaysia. There was an arrogance and a knowledge that he was the best player in the world in the Malaysian final whilst at the same time Kenichi Tago knew that he was never going to beat the Malaysian before eventually losing for the 11th time to Lee Chong Wei.
Lin Dan needs to improve
A stunning statement to make, but Lin Dan is the favourite for every event that he plays, regardless of his seeding. His defeat to Lee Chong Wei could be put down to lack of match practice or testing out new tactics ahead of the Olympics. His defeat to Jan O Jorgensen is much less forgivable, as well as dropping games in four of his five matches in Korea the week previously.
Chen Long is a legitimate #3 in the world
With the conspiracy theory that China is trying to create a false ranking for some players, Chen Long is a genuine threat in every tournament now. His retirement in Korea seemed to be an actual injury before returning to action and giving Lee Chong Wei a scare in the semi finals in Malaysia. He is perhaps a bigger threat than Lin Dan is at these events and his attendance at the final in Malaysia with no other Chinese presence with him was a telling sign in his commitment to succeed in the coming months and years. He seems to be a student of the game rather that a player engineered to win.
Gade’s schedule will be his downfall
Two early defeats in Korea and Malaysia is a unwanted parallel to Taufik’s demise in Denmark and France last year. He claimed to be fatigued after a busy schedule of the past 4 months but this is his own doing. He claimed that the Olympics would be his final tournament and has attempted to play almost every tournament since the world championships. Should he play the European Team championships in February, it would also definitely hinder his chances at the All-England Champions in early March. Gade needs to have a 6-week lay off before his final push for Olympic success.
Hidayat still competitive
His victory in India before the turn of the year propped him back into the top 10, then a victory over Tien Minh Nguyen saw him reach the last 8 of a Super Series for the first time in recent memory. A 6-week break ahead of the All-England could be just as important to Hidayat as it is to Gade.
Jorgensen’s stock is on the rise
With all the talk of Viktor Axelsen, it has perhaps motivated Jan O Jorgensen more in the past 2 weeks. After seeing his teenage team-mate lose in the opening round in both events, Jorgensen reached the semi finals in Korea and the quarter finals in Malaysia, defeating Lin Dan in the second round. Expect Jorgensen to play most of the European Team Championships as Denmark’s #1, a position that might be his on merit soon enough.
Tago needs to build on his success
After defeating Peter Gade in the second round in Malaysia, the 22-year old defeated Simon Santoso in the quarterfinals and eventually reached the final in Malaysia, before being outclassed by Lee Chong Wei in the final. His performance against Lee Chong Wei in Korea is one that he has to study, taking the Malaysia to two tight games with just a few more points needed to break the 11-match losing run he has against the world number 1.
All-England Premier – March 6-11
Swiss Open GP Gold – March 13-18
With interest in three of the five finals, Korea looked to be a position with Lee Yong Dae and Ha Jung Eun to claim one if not more titles only to be denied by the Chinese juggernaut.
Lee Chong Wei Claims Title
The first meeting of 2012 between Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei went the way of the Malaysian in a three game, 75 minute encounter that bodes well for the world number 1 in an Olympic year. It is the 9th victory over Lin Dan in their 27 encounters and breaks a streak of three consecutive losses to the Olympic champion.
Four Titles For China
Wang Shixian claimed the women’s singles in a one-sided all-Chinese encounter against Jiang Yanjiao, taking the title 21-12, 21-17 in 38 minutes. Tian and Zhao claimed the first title of 2012 in the women’s doubles over Ha and Kim in a two game 50-minute encounter which will be a real confidence boost for the Chinese pair after several defeats at this stage in 2011. Lee and Ha were defeated in three games by Xu and Ma of China in the mixed doubles, losing out in a 72-minute match 21-12, 19-21, 21-10.
Cai and Fu levelled their rivalry with Lee and Jung at 10-10 with a victory in the first final of the day in the men’s doubles. Another tight three game match was decided in 78 minutes with the Chinese pairing taking the title 18-21, 21-17, 21-19 to ensure there was no Korean success on home soil in 2012.
The European interest ended on semi finals day, but that was not the biggest shock of the day. Wang and Yu’s stunning run came to an end at the hands of Ha and Kim in the women’s doubles as two Koreans have a chance of two titles in Seoul.
First Meeting Of 2012
The two best players in the world meet for the first time this year, with the momentum with Lin Dan with victories in their previous three matchups. Lee Chong Wei has reached the final with the loss of a single game on route. It is their 27th meeting and the perfect start to the Olympic year.
Jiang Yanjiao claimed a famous win over Wang Yihan to boost her Olympic aspirations, her opponent in the final will be Wang Shixian and a victory over the world number 3 would improve her chances of making the Chinese squad even more. The world number 6 also holds a 4-3 head to head record over her team-mate.
China Against Korea In Doubles
Three Chinese pairs will take on three Korean pairs in the doubles finals. Cai and Fu take on Lee and Jung in the men’s doubles final for their 20th meeting in their rivalry, with Lee Yong Dae hoping to claim a 6th Korean Open title. His second chance comes in the mixed doubles as he teams up with Ha Jung Eun to take on the Chinese pairing of Xu and Ma. Ha Jung Eun claimed the biggest upset of the week as her and partner Kim Min Jung stunned the world number pairing of Wang and Yu in the women’s doubles semi finals to set up a match against Tian and Zhao and become the first non-Chinese pair to beat the world number 1 pairing.
It was a day with German, Danish and Indian involvement hoping to overcome the odds to reach the last 4 against a fierce contingent of local players and the all-conquering Chinese. For the most part, the latter pair of nations took the spoils.
Lee and Lin Ever Closer To A Korean Rematch
Form might be temporary, but this week has seen the form players in the world reach the last 4 with the unlikely inclusion of Du Pengyu who announced his arrival this week with his opening round demolition of Peter Gade. The Chinese player now has his toughest match of the week against the world number 1 Lee Chong Wei, with the hope of setting up a potential all-Chinese final after the Malaysia defeating Kenichi Tago once more in their one-sided rivalry. Lin Dan would be the second part of the final, with a three game victory over Jan O Jorgensen setting up a semi final against Sho Sasaki who ended European chances in the event with his two game victory over Marc Zwiebler.
A Chinese Monopoly Broken
China hoped for an all-Chinese semi final line-up to cement their place at the top of the women’s singles game, however Bae Youn Joo did not read the script in her victory over Li Xuerui to break the Chinese monopoly of the last 4 places. The Korean takes on Wang Shixian in the semi final, with the 2nd seed failing to drop a game to this point. The other semi final is an all-Chinese clash between the world number 1 Wang Yihan and Jiang Yanjiao. The top seed ended European hopes with a two game victory over Germany’s Juliane Schenk whilst Jiang Yanjiao ended India’s hopes with her own two game victory over Saina Nehwal.
China And Korea Dominate Doubles
Of the 12 pairs remaining in the three doubles events, only two are not Korean or Chinese. The men’s doubles has a Korean majority of 3 to 1 over it’s Chinese rivals. With Cai and Fu the lone Chinese hope in the event. The top seeds take on Ko and Yoo of Korea for a place in Sunday’s final whilst Lee and Jung take on their countrymen Kim and Kim who ended Hong and Shen’s run this week to ensure a sole Chinese entry in the semi finals.
The women’s doubles has two China-Korea matches, with Wang and Yu taking on Ha and Kim in the first semi final in a meeting that has been monumentally one sided. The 6-0 advantage to the Chinese pair is a similar record to most of the other pairs in the world as the world number 1 pair look to extended their unbeaten run to a calendar year. The other semi final sees Tian and Zhao take on Jung and Kim, an unseeded pair who defeated the 7th seeded Matsuo and Naito to reach this stage.
European hopes lay in the mixed doubles, with interest in both semi finals. Fischer Neilsen and Pedersen will be the pair that people will easily recognise, they take on Xu and Ma in the second semi final between the top highest seeds left in the draw. The other semi final features Lee Yong Dae, looking for a historic double in his home country with partner Ha Jung Eun. The Korean pair take on the Russian pairing of Nikolaenko and Sorokina, who defeated He and Yixin in their quarter final in the biggest win of their careers to date.
After losing the top seed in the mixed doubles, the Chinese squad got back on track in Seoul today whilst the Danish contingent had little to celebrate in the second round.
Four Seeds Remain
The top two in the world progressed to the last 8 with both needing the full three games to ensure their place in the quarter finals. Lee Chong Wei was tested by Shon Wan Ho before eventually setting up his quarter final match with Kenichi Tago. Simon Santoso is the other seed remaining in the top half of the draw who will likely move up the rankings after this week after securing a quarter final match against Du Pengyu who continues his excellent run with a three game victory over Hu Yun.
A lot was expected of Marc Zwiebler after his double victory over Taufik Hidayat and he has finally delivered with a run to a Premier quarter final against Sho Sasaki. The Japanese 6th seed was impressive in his two game victory over Wang Zhengming to ensure his place in the last 8. Jan O Jorgensen claimed the biggest scalp of the day in his victory over Chen Jin in three games to set up a quarter final against Lin Dan, who had his own struggles in beating Lee Hyun Il before progressing in three games.
Chinese Presence In All Quarter Finals
All four of the quarter finals will have some Chinese presence as the three seeded players are joined in the last 8 by Li Xuerui. Juliane Schenk is the sole European in the draw but will have a tough test to still be in the draw after the end of play tomorrow as she takes on Wang Yihan, whilst Jiang Yanjiao or Saina Nehwal will face the winner depending on the result of their quarter final in the top half of the draw. Wang Shixian takes on Gu Juan for a place in the last 4 whilst the only non-seeded Chinese player Li Xuerui takes on Bae Youn Joo in the second quarter final in the bottom half of the draw.
Seeds Topple In Men’s Doubles
Only three seeds remain in the draw, with a Cai/Fu versus Lee/Jung final looming large. Boe and Mogensen crashed out to Hong and Shen of China who take on Korea’s Kim and Kim for a place in the semi final. Lee and Jung needed three games to ensure their place in the last 8 where they will take on the Chinese Taipei pair of Fang and Lee a place in the last 4. Cai and Fu saved a match point before booking their place in the quarter finals against the German pairing of Fuchs and Roth, the last remaining European pair in the draw. Ko and Yoo will hope to ensure an all-Korean final as they try to progress into the last 4 in their match against Endo and Hayakawa of Japan.
Chinese Powerhouses Cruise Into Last 8
Wang and Yu progressed into the last 8 in straight forward fashion, and were joined by their team-mates Tian and Zhao in equally impressive fashion. The prospect of a ninth meeting of the year in Sunday is almost a foregone conclusion, such is their gap at the top of the world’s elite. Xu and Ma are into the last 8 in the mixed doubles and take on the 2009 world champions Laybourn and Rytter Juhl in their quarter final matchup. Whilst in the top half, He and Yixin ensured a Chinese involvement after their victory over Adcock and Bankier in the second round.
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.