Two of the Dutch seeds in the doubles both crashed out earlier today as there were shocks throughout the draw in Karlskona.
Two Swedes Into Last 8
Henri Hurskainen and Mattias Wigardt are both into the last 8 to the delight of the home crowd but face their toughest tests of the week as they take on the top 2 seeds in the draw next. Hurskainen defeated Lukas Schmidt and Ivan Sozonov, who defeated their 5th seeded Pablo Abian in his second round clash but the Swede defeated the Russian in two games to set up his quarter final against Peter Gade. The top seed defeated Ville Lang in his second round clash and defeated the Ukrainian Valeriy Atrashchenkov in two games to reach the last 8.
Mattias Wigardt takes on Jan O Jorgensen after wins over Stilian Makarski and Vladimir Ivanov to reach the last 8. Jorgensen defeated Kari Gunnarsson and Eetu Heino in straight games to safely progress into the quarter finals. The other two quarter finals sees the 7th seeded Viktor Axelsen take on Dieter Domke, who ended the run of the 3rd seeded Hans-Kristian Vittinghus on route to the last 8. The only quarter final with two seeds involved is between the 4th seeded Marc Zwiebler and 6th seeded Rajiv Ouseph, with both players not losing a game on route to the last 8.
Two Seeds Gone In Women’s Singles
Pi Hongyan was the biggest casualty in the women’s singles, losing her opening match to Germany’s Karin Schnaase before losing out in the next round to Kristina Gavnholt. The unseeded Czech takes on the 7th seeded Linda Zechiri who progressed without the loss of a game. Tine Baun set up her quarter final against Carolina Marin with two solid performances against two past Scottish Open winners in Judith Meulendijks
and Elizabeth, whilst the 6th seeded Marin defeated Tatjana Bibik and Neslihan Yigit to reach the last 8 in impressive fashion.
Jie Yao has been clinical in reaching the last 8, defeating Ellinor Widh and Kirsty Gilmour with the loss of just 40 points to date. Her opponent in the quarter final, Petya Nedelcheva as dropped just 35 points as the 3rd seeded Bulgarian reached the last 8 with little resistance. The last quarter final sees Juliane Schenk take on Switzerland’s Sabrina Jaquet, who defeated the 8th seeded Agnese Allegrini in two games to set up her quarter final against Schenk.
Double Disappointment For The Dutch
8th seeded Bosch and Ridder crashed out to the French pairing of Quere and Ronan in the third round, with the French pair being rewarded with a quarter final against Bonde and Kristiansen of Denmark who defeated their team mates and 2nd seeds, Conrad-Petersen and Rasmussen to reach the last 8. Boe and Mogensen are safely into the last 8, where they take on the Russian pair of Ivanov and Sozonov in their quarter final matchup.
Piek and Tabelling are one success story for the Dutch, reaching the last 8 after a third round win over Cooper and Gilmour of Scotland to set up a quarter final against the top seeded Pedersen and Rytter Juhl. However, there was disappointment for the 5th seeded Van Dooremalen and Jonathans as they lost out to Augustyn and Wojtkowska of Poland in two games, with the Polish pair taking on Damkjaer Cruse and Roepke in the their quarter final.
The mixed doubles got underway today, with all 8 seeds progressing into the quarter finals. The top seeded Fischer Nielsen and Pedersen take on the 7th seeded Mateusiak and Zieba after two straight forward victories. The 2nd seeded Danes Laybourn and Rytter Juhl take on Fuchs and Michels of Germany in their quarter final, with both pairs progressing without the loss of a game. The third Danish pair, 8th seeds Pieler Colding and Houmann take on the 3rd seeded Russian pairing of Nikolaenko and Sorokina, with the 3rd seeds needing just a single victory to progress into the last 8 after the withdrawal of Careme and Fontaine.
The last of the quarter finals is an all-British clash between the 4th seeded Adcock and Bankier against the 6th seeded Robertson and Wallwork. Whilst no ranking points are on offer this week, it is still a massive match with the Olympics just 100 days away. They are separated by just 10 spots in the world rankings and both pairs have taken a match in their two encounters previously this year.
Play began on Monday evening in the Telenor Arena in Karlskrona with a single match with resulted in a win for Sweden’s Magnus Sahlberg. The first full day of action seen just a sole seed crash out of the five events.
Dane Loom Large
The full compliment for the second round was completed today after Sahlberg’s win on Monday evening with four Danes in the draw. The top four seeds begin their campaigns tomorrow, with Peter Gade taking on Ville Lang whilst Jan O Jorgensen takes on Iceland’s Kari Gunnarsson. Hans Kristian Vittinghus is the 3rd seed this week and takes on Dieter Domke of Germany whilst Domke’s teammate, Marc Zwiebler takes on Petr Koukal of the Czech Republic after both Domke and Koukal defeated Scottish opponents in their opening round.
Viktor Axelsen completes the four, with the 7th seeded taking on Eric Pang who defeated France’s Brice Leverdez in one of the tightest games of the day, with the Dutchman taking the deciding game 23-21 after saving two match points.
The men’s doubles is a similar story with three Danish pairs into the last 16. Boe and Mogensen were relentless in their 21-5, 21-4 victory over Charalambidis and Orlis of Greece and take on the Polish pair of Moren and Szkudlarczyk in the 3rd round. The other two Danish pairs play against one another as Bonde and Kristiansen take on the 2nd seeded Conrad-Petersen and Rasmussen with a likely match against the 8th seeded Bosch and Ridder awaiting in the quarter finals.
Last week’s Dutch Open runners up De Ruiter and Khodabux take on the 5th seeded Ivanov and Sozonov of Russia in one of the matches of the day whilst another Dutch pairing in the last 16, Arends and Jelle taking on Fuchs and Roth of Germany, seeded 7 this week.
White and Wallwork Out
The only seed to crash out to date is the 8th seeded Wallwork and White in the women’s doubles, defeated by Piek and Tabelling who came within 2 points of winning the Dutch Open last week. The Dutch pair take on the Scottish pair of Cooper and Gilmour in the second round after coming through against their Estonian opponents Margus and Talviste 21-10, 21-8. The top seeded Pedersen and Rytter Juhl progressed safely into round 2, as well as the second seeded Russian pair of Vislova and Sorokina who set up a second round clash with the Swedish pair of Ekberg and Hogstrom.
The eight seeds in the women’s singles start their campaign tomorrow, with Tine Baun starting with a potentially tricky encounter with Judith Meulendijks whilst the second seed Juliane Schenk also has a tough opener against Denmark’s Line Kjaersfeldt. Karin Schnaase takes on the 4th seeded Pi Hongyan in another exciting second round encounter, whilst the 3rd seeded Petya Nedelcheva faces a tough last 16 clash against Karina Jorgensen or Anastacia Prokopenko should she defeated Slovenia’s Spela Silvester in her opening match of the week.
The European contingent took a massive hit today, with player crashing out of every event leaving just a handful of European hopefuls left in the draws.
8 Of The Best Remain
Even without Lee Chong Wei or Peter Gade, the quarter final lineup has plenty of intrigue. The re-emergence of Taufik Hidayat is both unexpected but welcome as he refuses to give up on an Olympic spot. Shon Wan Ho is Hidayat’s quarter final opponent, whose run has been highly impressive in dropping just 61 points in three matches. Viktor Axelsen continues to appear in the later rounds of these events but takes on Lee Hyun Il of Korea in his quarter final. This will be a fantastic test of how good the Danish teen is. Chen Long is also through to the last 8, taking on Hans-Kristian Vittinghus in the quarter finals after the Dane defeated the 7th seeded Tien Minh Nguyen of Vietnam.
Chinese Withdrawals Open Up Draw
The withdrawals of Wang Yihan and Jiang Yanjiao are somewhat strange in their timing, with having the opportunity to progress without the loss of a Chinese player which is often the reason for such withdrawals during events. Wang Shixian and Liu Xin remain in the draw to add further question marks, with Wang Shixian taking on Juliane Schenk and Liu Xin taking on Saina Nehwal in tough quarter final matches.
Adcock and Bankier Claim Tight Victory
The all-British encounter was talked about as being the potential deciding game on who would make the Olympics for Team GB. After 68 minutes and saving 3 match points, with the world number 14 pairing of Adcock and Bankier progressing 25-23 in the third game. Their reward is a quarter final against the unseeded Japanese pair of Hayakawa and Matsutomo whilst the other match in the top half is a rematch of the All England semi final with Ahmad and Natsir taking on Chan and Goh.
The top seeded Chai and Guo crashed out to the unseeded pairing of Goh and Teo of Malaysia who take on the 5th seeded Indonesian pair of Chandra and Gunawan. There is one Chinese pair left in the draw, the unseeded pair of Hong and Shen take on the 8th seeded Japanese pair of Endo and Hayakawa. The world number 13 and 14 pairs have played twice previously with both pairings claiming a victory.
6 of the 8 seeds in the women’s doubles are safely into the quarter finals, with the top seeds Ha and Kim taking on the 7th seeded Chien and Cheng of Chinese Taipei. The sole European hope lies with the 5th seeded Pedersen and Rytter Juhl who take on one of the unseeded pairs in Chin and Wong in their quarter final.
Peter Gade’s withdrawal today and Lee Chong Wei’s pre-event withdrawal has opened the door for a Chinese victory on Sunday with 3 players into the last 16.
Strong European Showing
6 Europeans make up the last 16, with Jan O Jorgensen being the biggest name of the six. He also has the toughest task to reach the last 8 as he takes on Chen Jin in the third round. Vittinghus and Axelsen complete the Danish line-up, with the 14th seed taking on Tien Minh Nguyen whilst Axelsen takes on Sakai of Japan, who benefited from Gade’s retirement. Chen Long is the top seed and has progressed into the third round with little resistance and takes on Ueda of Japan in the last 16.
Chinese Seeds Loom Large
The four Chinese seeds are positioned in different quarters of the draw, making the chance of an all-Chinese semi final a real possibility. Wang Yihan, Liu Xin, Jiang Yanjiao and Wang Shixian all progressed into the last 16 with a potential seeded opponent for all waiting in the last 8. Juliane Schenk is the big European hope in the draw but has a tough second round match against Eriko Hirose of Japan before considering a quarter final against Wang Shixian.
All British Showdown
Ahmad and Natsir continue on their form from the All Englands with a straightforward win but the story of the second round tomorrow will be the all-British clash between Adcock and Bankier against Robertson and Wallwork. The world number 17 and 19 will face off in what could potentially be the deciding match on who represents GB at their home Olympics. Robertson and Wallwork lead the head to head 1-0 but both pairs are in excellent form with both reaching the All England quarter finals.
The seven seeds that started the day in the men’s doubles all progressing without many problems, with Hashimoto and Hirata needing three games to reach the last 16. Seven seeds remain in the women’s doubles too, with the 4th seeded Maeda and Suetsuna crashing out to Anugritayawon and Voravichitchaikul of Thailand in two games in the opening round.
From 10am on Wednesday, all the way to Wang Xin’s entrance onto court at 2.15am local time that topped one of the longest and most dramatic days of badminton in recent memory.
Gade Crashes Out
Peter Gade walked onto court at 1.15am local time, 5 hours later than scheduled and after claiming the first, the 4th seed hoped to get off court in double quick time. Rajiv Ouseph took the second game and with it came the realisation that the end of Gade’s history at this event was coming to an end. After going 12-1 down in third, he mounted three minor comebacks before losing the deciding game 21-14.
The likes of Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan were most likely asleep whilst play ended, with both securing a place in the second round tomorrow with routine two game victories. Kenichi Tago defeated Viktor Axelsen in two games in a match that could be repeated countless times in the next decade, with these two players highly regarded as the future of the game. Tago takes on Kazushi Yamada in an all-Japanese second round match. Taufik Hidayat takes on Chen Jin in the second round in one of the matches of the day, with both players progressing in two games today.
5 From 16 For China
Am almost full compliment of Chinese players reached the last 16 in the women’s singles, with Wang Yihan and Wang Shixian booking their places in the second round. Juliane Schenk, Tine Baun and Saina Nehwal leading the non-Chinese charge with Schenk and Nehwal needing three games to progress and the 8th seeded German finishing her game just before 2am local time.
Wang Xin was another big name casualty today, arriving on court at 2.15 local time against Sung Ji Hyun of Korea and failing to produce anything like her best in a 21-8, 21-13 defeat to the world number 12. Li Xuerui is the only Chinese player left in the bottom half of the draw, after battling back from a game down to defeat Bulgaria’s Linda Zechiri.
Bankier and Adcock Strike Again
Ko and Yoo were another big name to crash out on the opening day, with the Korean 4th seeds losing out to Fang and Lee of Chinese Taipei in two games. Lee and Jung had little trouble in reaching the second round, neither did Cai and Fu in their straight forward win over Liu and Ng of Canada. Boe and Mogensen are the main European threat this week and progressed to a second round meeting against Kido and Setiawan tomorrow. Adcock and Ellis kept local interest alive in the competition with a opening round win, but take on the 2nd seeded Lee and Jung in the second round tomorrow.
Wang and Yu made light work of Wallwork and White in their return from a 2-month hiatus, whilst their team mates Ma and Zhong surprised the 4th seeded Fujii and Kakiiwa with a three game victory. The third Chinese pair through is the unseeded pair of Huan and Tang, the German Open winners set up a second round match against Chien and Cheng of Chinese Taipei after their three game victory in the opening round. The fourth Chinese pair are the 2nd seeded Tian and Zhao, who defeated Chin and Wong of Malaysia to reach the second round.
Adcock and Bankier defeated Zhang and Zhao for the second time this year to reverse the result of the 2011 world championship final. A stunning three game victory sees them topple the world number 1 pairing in both Super Series Premier events this year and set up a second round clash with Yoo and Jang of Korea. Lee and Ha were another seeded pair to crash out today, with the 7th seeds losing out to Sato and Matsuo of Japan in two games. Ma and Xu cruised into the second round as one of only two Chinese pairs left in the draw, with He and Yixin defeating Fuchs and Michels of Germany to also reach the last 16. Robertson and Wallwork are also into the last 16, where they will take on the 5th seeded Chen and Cheng of Chinese Taipei as they battle with Adcock and Bankier for the GB spot at the 2012 Olympics.
Only England and Holland can claim two titles on finals day in Stockholm, whilst the remaining six places in finals day are taken up by 6 different nationalities.
Axelsen and Lang Toppled
Viktor Axelsen fell at the quarter final stage in two games to Ville Lang, but the 5th seed couldn’t continue his form in his semi final. His three game defeat to Eric Pang was the 8th seed second victory over another seeded player on the day, taking out the 2nd seeded Kashyap Parupalli earlier in the day. Yan Kit Chan progressed into the final after a pair of three game victories, first taking out Christian Lind Thomson before defeating Raul Must in the semi final.
Gavnholt Takes On Pi
The unseeded Czech Kristina Gavnholt has been the star of the event this week, taking out Ai Goto in the second round and then continuing her stunning form with a victory over Anastasia Prokopenko to reach the last 4. She ended any chance of an all-French final with her victory over Sashina Vignes Waran in the semi final to set up a final against Pi Hongyan. The 2nd seed has failed to drop a game on route to the final, with Germany’s Karin Schnaase being her toughest opponent to date but still winning comfortably 21-13, 21-12.
English Threat In Doubles
Unseeded Dutch pair of De Ruiter and Khodabux take on the 2nd seeded Russian pairing of Ivanov and Sozonov in the men’s doubles final. The Dutch pair defeated two Danish pairings to reach the final and have also dropped just a single game to date. The Russian have been equally as impressive, dropping a single game this week in their quarter final against the pairing of Magee and Elbjorn on route to the final.
The women’s doubles sees the 2nd seeded English pair of Agathangelou and Olver take on the American pairing of Lee and Obanana. The English pair have not dropped a game to date having spent just over 90 minutes on court. The American pairing ended the run of the 4th seeded Wallwork and White in the 2nd round before defeating another British pairing in the semi final, this time beating the Scottish pair of Cooper and Gilmour in two tight games.
The highly anticipated rematch between Wallwork and Robertson against Bankier and Adcock never materialised, with the 4th seeded Pieler Colding and Houmann ending the top seeds run at the semi final stage. Robertson and Wallwork however did reach the final, defeating their Danish opponents Sorensen and Kjaersfeldt in three games to book their place in tomorrow’s final.
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
Lee Chong Wei’s final Super Series event in his home nation started with an all-Malaysian encounter with Daren Liew, wrapped up in just over a half hour to give his fanatical home support a brief glimpse of what he is capable of this week.
Every Seed Through
The week has started completely differently to Seoul just 7 days ago, every seed has progressed as well as Taufik Hidayat, who has propped himself back into the top 10 in the world with a win in India over the Christmas period. Jan O Jorgensen’s reward for his three game battle with Du Pengyu is a even bigger Chinese threat, world number 2 Lin Dan. The 2nd seed defeat Viktor Axelsen in two games to set up his second round match, with the Danish teenager getting a lot more experience at Super Series level with the pending retirement of Peter Gade. Gade progressed in two tight games over Wong Wing Ki to set up a second round match against Kenichi Tago. Taufik Hidayat defeated Chou Tien Chen in two games to book his place in the last 16 against Tien Minh Nguyen of Vietnam, seeded 7.
6 Through To Last 16
The all-conquering Chinese squad are here in numbers in the women’s singles, with the prospect of 6 players in the last 8 looming tomorrow. Top seeded Wang Yihan takes on Bae Youn Joo of Korea, a quarter finalist in Korea last week. 2nd seeded Wang Xin takes on Eriko Hirose of Japan in her second round match, with a likely quarter final match with Jiang Yanjiao should the 6th seeded defeat Pi Hongyan of France. The European threat as always comes from Tine Baun and Juliane Schenk, with both players progressing to the second round, with Baun having the toughest draw facing Liu Xin of China in her second round match.
Shocks and Withdrawals Open Door For New Winners
The men’s doubles is without the top two in the world this week, leaving Ko and Yoo as the clear favourites this week. Their run lasted just a single round as they were shocked in the 1st round by Endo and Hayakawa of Japan. The draw is wide open with the 3rd seed Chai and Guo being the top seeds left in the draw but needing three games to beat Ellis and Mills of England in their opening round matches. There were wins for the 4th seeded Koo and Tan as well as the 5th seeded Ahsan and Septano to ensure some seeds remained in the draw.
Without the top two Chinese pairs in the women’s doubles, the draw is an absolute lottery as there will be a non-Chinese winner of this event for the first time in almost a year. Fujii and Kakiiwa are the top seeds this week and started off strongly with a three game victory over the Chinese pair of Huan and Tang. Finalists last week, Ha and Kim are the second seeds this week and they also started strong with a two game victory over Wallwork and White of England. The biggest casualty of the opening round was the 3rd seeded Maeda and Suetsuna who crashed out to Malaysia’s Woon and Hoo in three games.
The mixed doubles has a full compliment of Chinese pairs, with four in the last 16. Zhao and Zhang are safely into round 2 with a two game victory over Lee and Chien whilst the bottom half sees an all-Chinese second round clash between Ma and Xu playing He and Yixin after both pairs won in two games. The Russian pair of Nikolaenko and Sorokina continue their excellent run of form, disposing of the 6th seeded Prapakamol and Thoungthongkam to reach the second round where they will take on the 2009 world champions Laybourn and Rytter Juhl.
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.
The final match of the second day in Hong Kong gave us the first look at the present elite against the future elite as the world number 1 took on the 2010 world junior champion in the last of the second round games in the men’s singles.
Lee Chong Wei Into Last 8
For the opening portion of the match, there was little to separate the two players but Lee Chong Wei eventually progressed safely in two games against Viktor Axelsen, but there will be positives to be taken for the Dane ahead of next week’s China Open. Ajay Jayaram is the Malaysian’s quarter final opponent after the Indian’s victory over Hashim of Malaysia in three games. Lin Dan takes on Shon Wan Ho in his quarter final, with the Korean beating the 8th seeded Marc Zwiebler in his second round match.
Indian qualifier RMV Gurusaidutt has been the story of the bottom half of the draw, he impressed in qualifying and today provided the biggest victory over his career over the 7th seeded Du Pengyu of China. His reward is another Chinese player in the next round, the 2nd seeded Chen Long for a place in the semi finals. The fourth quarter final is a battle of the veterans of the game as Peter Gade takes on Chen Jin for the 11th time. Gade was forced to three games by Yamada in his second round match whilst Chen Jin disposed of Gade’s countryman Jan O Jorgensen in just two games.
Triple Threat From China
Three Chinese and three Japanese players started the last 16, only Ai Goto remains from the Japanese squad whilst all of the Chinese seeds are into the last 8. Ai Goto takes on the top seeded Wang Yihan tomorrow, with her record against the world number 1 far from stellar with just one game won in their four meetings to date. The only match not containing a Chinese player sees the 4th seeded Saina Nehwal take on Tine Baun as they meet for only the 4th time, with the Indian taking their most recent match at the Indonesia Premier event in June.
Bach and Gunawan match into quarterfinals
The 2005 world champions have managed once again to upset the worlds elite and reach the last 8 of a Super Series event. After their three game victory over Kawamae and Sato they have the unenviable task of taking on the world number 1 pairing of Cai and Fu, with the Chinese pair looking to continue their unbeaten run to 7 against the American pair. The two Korean threats of Lee and Jung as well as Ko and Yoo are on a collision course for the semi finals after both pairs won in two games to reach the last 8.
Win number 51 of the year was never in doubt for Wang And Yu, taking their streak of matches without the loss of a game to 8, dating back their semi final victory in Denmark last month. Tian and Zhao amassed their 41st win of the year and look set to meet their Chinese team-mates Wang and Yu in the final for the third straight Super Series event, who have been responsible for 6 of the 8 losses inflicted on Tian and Zhao.
Four of the remaining eight pairs in the mixed doubles are Chinese, with at least Chinese pair guaranteed in the last 4 from the all-Chinese quarter final of Zhang and Zhao against He and Yixin. The possibility of an all-Chinese semi final lies in the hands of Pan and Hong, who take on Chen and Cheng after both pairs progressed to the last 8 in two games. Ko and Eom of Korea take on the on form Danish pair of Fischer Neilsen and Pedersen whilst Valeria Sorokina’s excellent week sees her in both the women’s doubles and mixed doubles quarter finals after defeating seeds in both her second round matches. Sorokina partners Nikolaenko in her quarter final in the mixed doubles against Xu and Ma of China.