The London Olympics are just days away, the realisation that four years have passed since Lin Dan’s masterclass in Beijing and that five champions will be crowned – before it all ends for another four years come August 5.
All the favourites are present this year, Lee Chong Wei has recovered from his ankle injury but to what extent remains unclear. His first match will be against Finland’s Ville Lang, a EBU tour veteran whose physical approach to the game will be a intriguing test for the Malaysian and his ankle. Lin Dan takes on Scott Evans, with the Irishman making it into the Olympics from second reserve to be the first hurdle in Lin Dan’s defence of the title. A last 16 clash with Taufik Hidayat potentially awaits, as the 2004 and 2008 Olympic champions face one another in 2012.
Peter Gade starts his campaign against Portugal’s Pedro Martins, but matches with Shon Wan Ho and Chen Long await on his path to the semi final stage and any chance of a medal. British hopes lie in the hands of Rajiv Ouseph, who takes on the European silver medalist Henri Hurskainen and world championship quarter finalist Kevin Cordon – with the group winner taking on Sho Sasaki unless one of the greatest upsets in the history of the Olympics and Virgil Soeroredjo sensationally defeats the 6th seeded Sasaki.
Michelle Li will be the top seeded Wang Yihan’s opening round match, with the Canadian meeting the top seed in both her events at the Olympics. Wang Xin takes on the USA’s Rena Wang whilst Li Xuerui has to take on both Carolina Marin and Claudia Rivero to ensure her place in the last 16. Saina Nehwal’s quarter of the draw is laden with Europeans, with no less than 14 of the 16 players coming from European – headlined by the 5th seeded Tine Baun, Saina Nehwal’s likely quarter final opponent. Susan Egelstaff couldn’t have hand picked a better group, with Britain’s sole entry taking on the 12th seeded Sayaka Sato and Slovenia’s Maja Tvrdy, both of which she has a superior head to head against.
Perhaps the toughest groups of the Olympics is in the men’s doubles, with Lee and Chung of Korea taking on the 2005 world championships Bach and Gunawan, as well as the Japanese pair of Sato and Kawamae then finally Koo and Tan of Malaysia. Another intriguing group features the 4th seeded Ko and Yoo, who take on Issara and Jongjit of Thailand, a pair they have never beaten, as well as Poland’s Cwalina and Logosz before the hardest of their group matches against Ahsan and Septano.
The women’s doubles groups have varying degrees of difficulty, with Ha and Kim as well as Jauhari and Polii receiving a fortunate group featuring the African and Oceania entries for the Olympics. Whilst Group D has three pairs inside of the top 10, with Tian and Zhao, Maeda and Suetsuna as well as Rytter Juhl and Pedersen all battling for one spot. Not to mention the Singapore pair of Tse and Poon who have excellent records against all the pairs except the Chinese 2nd seeds in their group.
As if the script wasn’t written for this, Zhang and Zhao will take on Adcock and Bankier inside Wembley Arena once more. Both were put into Group A with Fuchs and Michels of Germany and Nikolaenko and Sorokina of Russia with the Brits being favoured to claim at least one of the qualification spots on offer. Group C is without a doubt the “group of death” at this year’s Olympics. With three of the top 9 pairs in the world in the same group, with the 4th pair being ranked 13th. Ahsan and Natsir, Laybourn and Rytter Juhl as well as Lee and Ha will have to fight for two places, with the Indian pair of V and Gutta undoubtably going to have some say in the final standings of this group also.
China’s hope to retain all 5 golds won in Beijing resulted in a full compliment of players qualifying for the 2012 Olympics, but the women’s singles is the strongest showing from the Chinese. The world number 1, 2 and 3 all qualified for the Olympics as well as having three more players inside the top 16 to show their strength in numbers within this event.
Wang Yihan goes into the Olympics as the world number 1 after resurrecting a career that saw the Chinese squad demand that she proof herself after the 2010 Uber Cup defeat to Korea. She won the Malaysia Open earlier in this year before a series of surprise losses to her Chinese team-mates again asked the question if she was the best player within the Chinese squad.
Wang Xin and Wang Shixian are China’s more than adaquate back-up plan should Wang Yihan fail to reach the gold medal match. The world number 2 and 3 at the end of qualification have also had a poor year given the high Chinese standards, with Wang Shixian claiming the only title between the two players.
Li Xuerui put in a late surge to the world number 4 spot and was also the form player within the Chinese squad, winning the Asian Championships and the All England title in her run to the world number 4 spot. Has she been selected, she would have been the favourite for the gold medal in London.
What Are Wang Yihan’s Chances Of Gold?
Her recent run of defeats have mostly came against Li Xuerui, with all three of her defeats in 2012 coming against matches with Li Xuerui. Her head to head against her Chinese rivals picked for the Olympics is more pleasing statistic with a 8-2 advantage over Wang Xin and 5-2 advantage against Wang Shixian. Her record against Schenk and Nehwal is even more one-sided (6-1 against Schenk, 5-0 over Nehwal) and you have to go back to October last year for Wang Yihan’s last defeat from a non-Chinese player, losing in two games to Tai Tzu Ying.
What Are Wang Xin’s Likely Expectations?
The Chinese team are very willing to give walkovers or “rigged” matches towards one of their players to ensure progression into the next round and in all likelyhood, the gold medal is Wang Yihan’s to lose. Wang Xin’s is probably looking at a silver medal at best. Her record against the best players in the world is superb, with a winning record over most of her rivals including Wang Shixian who is likely going to be her semi final opponent.
Can Wang Shixian Justify Her Selection With A Medal?
Wang Shixian has dropped to 4 in the rankings, with rumours of Li Xuerui being selected instead of her circlating at the Uber Cup finals. Her sole victory in the event seemed to be enough to get her the nod ahead of Li Xuerui. A few stats stand out that question whether Wang Shixian can claim a medal, the first being her record against Saina Nehwal which stands at 3-1 in favour of the Indian. The other head to head with will cause concern is against Tine Baun, that stands at 2-2 with the Dane taking their most recent encounter. Her hopes of a medal are interconnected with Nehwal, with the Indian hoping to play Wang Shixian in the last 8 whilst the Chinese player would look to avoid Nehwal to reach the semi finals.
The hope of India lies in just one player, as 1.2 billion people will support Saina Nehwal in her quest for a gold medal in London. She has thrived in the pressure situations, winning a Commonwealth gold medal on hope soil two years ago and a junior world championship in 2008 as well as reaching the final in 2006 at just 16.
Her previous venture at the Olympics saw her reach the quarter finals, as a relative unknown in the badminton world. At that time she was Junior World Champion and reached the last 8 before a loss to eventual bronze medalist Maria Kristin Yulianti. At 22, she will arrive in London as the Commonwealth champion and already an experience at the Olympics from Beijing four years previously.
She will enter the 2012 Olympics as the form player in the world, winning the Super Series Premier event in Indonesia and Thailand Open title in her final two events before the Olympics.
Can She Defeat The Chinese?
Her record against Wang Yihan and Wang Xin (ranked 1 and 2 in the world) is undoubtably poor. She has never defeated Wang Yihan in five occasions, despite a match point in Indonesia last year. Her record against Wang Xin is a deceptive 4-2 in favour of the Chinese player, but both of Nehwal’s victories have came in their three most recent meetings. Her record against the third Chinese player selected for London, Wang Shixian is 3-1 in favour of the Indian, with Wang Shixian’s sole victory coming almost two years ago in the 2010 World’s in Paris. Due to her seeding in London of 4, she will not meet a Chinese player until the semi final stages in all likelihood.
Can She Defeat The Europeans?
A likely quarter final against Juliane Schenk or Tine Baun will await Saina Nehwal, for which the Indian has a relatively good record against both. She has a 5-3 head to head against Schenk, with the German taking their last encounter in Japan last year in two games. Schenk is also in excellent form, taking the Singapore Open title last month. Tine Baun has won three of their six encounters, with Nehwal taking the two most recent encounters in tight matches. A quarter final against Baun would be preferable to Schenk.
Can She Win Gold?
A favourable draw would be needed, avoiding Schenk in the quarter finals would be a boost with the Indian having a good record against other potential quarter final opponents (Inthanon Ratchanok, Cheng Shao Chieh and Sung Ji Hyun) and a semi final draw against Wang Xin or Wang Shixian would be desirable. The biggest question is if she can beat Wang Yihan, which is entirely possible with the world number 1′s erratic form this year. Losses to Li Xuerui on three separate occasions as well as Jiang Yanjiao will fuel the 22-year olds belief that she can win Olympic gold.
Indonesia has two finalists at it’s home Premier Series event, whilst another top seed is toppled on semi finals day in Jakarta.
Santoso Into Final
Simon Santoso has benefited from the absence of several top name players and shock exits to book his place in the men’s singles final. His two game victory over Kashyap Parupalli set up his final against Du Pengyu, with the Chinese 8th seed defeating Hu Yun in two games to book his place in the final.
Wang Yihan crashed out at the semi final stage, losing her all-Chinese clash with Li Xuerui in two games to ensure the 4th seed would represent China in the final. Her opponent will be the 5th seeded Saina Nehwal, who defeated Sung Ji Hyun to book her place in the final and her 6th meeting against Li Xuerui, with the 4th seeded Chinese player winning four of their past five meetings.
Top Two Clash
Lee and Jung set up their highly anticipated match with Boe and Mogensen in the men’s doubles final. The Danish pair failed to drop a game on route to the final whilst the Korean pair needed three games to end the run of Kido and Setiawan to ensure their place in the final.
Wang and Yu set up their 10th meeting against Tian and Zhao in the women’s doubles final, with the 2nd seeds claiming victory in their last meeting at the All Englands in March. The top seeded Wang and Yu have won seven of the previous eight meetings however and the top seeds have needed just six games to reach the final.
Ahmad and Natsir defeated Xu and Ma to claim a famous victory and a place in the mixed doubles final and take on the unseeded Thai pairing of Prapakamol and Thoungthongkam, who defeated Ko and Eom of Korea to book their place in the final.
The Chinese contingent in Indonesia lost some of it’s stars as Saina Nehwal claimed her 3rd victory against Wang Shixian in a 96-minute classic.
Unlikely Bunch In Last 4
Parupalli, Hu, Santoso and Du. One of those four names would claim the men’s singles title and their first Premier Series title. Parupalli’s stunning week continued with a victory over Hans-Kristian Vittinghus to set up a semi final against Simon Santoso of China. Du Pengyu ended the run of Sony Dwi Kuncoro to book his place in the last four against Hu Yun of Hong Kong, who defeated Tien Minh Nguyen to reach the semi final stage.
Both Wang Xin and Wang Shixian crashed out of the women’s singles, with the 2nd seed losing out to Sung Ju Hyun in two close games. Wang Shixian lost her third of her four meetings with Saina Nehwal, with the 3rd seed having to save three match points to win in the second game but Nehwal was too strong in the third and booked her place in the last 4. The other semi final is an all-Chinese affair between the top seeded Wang Yihan and Li Xuerui, seeded 4. Both defeated their European opponents in the semi final, with Wang Yihan needing just two games to defeat Tine Baun.
World’s Elite Into Last 4
Whilst the singles had an unlikely bunch at this stage of the week, the doubles was very much business as usual. Lee and Jung were still on track for their matchup with Boe and Mogensen in the final on Sunday with both pairs progressing into the last 4 without the loss of a game today. Boe and Mogensen take on the 8th seeded Koo and Tan of Malaysia in their semi final whilst Lee and Jung take on the last Indonesian hope in the draw, Kido and Setiawan.
Wang and Yu enjoyed a day off as they watched their team mates Bao and Zhong book their place in the semi final against the top seeded pair. Jauhari and Polii are the sole Indonesian pair left in the draw where they take on the second seeded Tian and Zhao.
Zhang and Zhao crashed out of the mixed doubles to Thailand’s Prapakamol and Thoungthongkam in a day of surprises in the mixed doubles, with the 4th seeded Fischer Neilsen also crashing out to Ko and Eom of Korea, who defeated their team-mates Laybourn and Rytter Juhl in the first round. The 2nd seeded Xu and Ma are safely into the last 4, where they will take on the 3rd seeded Indonesian pairing of Ahmad and Natsir for a place in Sunday’s final.
Olympic build-ups were brought to an abrupt end as big names crashed out in Indonesia for the second day running, only today seen a massive upset as Chen Long crashed out in the second round.
Chen Long Out
Kashyup Parupalli was too strong for Chen Long in a one-sided match, winning the match in two games in just 44 minutes. The world number 24 takes on another unseeded player in Hans-Kristian Vittinghus, who defeated the 5th seeded Lee Hyun Il to take the number of seeds left in the draw down to just two. Simon Santoso is the last seed left in the top half of the draw whilst Du Pengyu is the sole seed left in the bottom half of the draw. The 8th seeded Chinese player will play the on-form Sony Dwi Kuncoro, who defeated Taufik Hidayat in an all-Indonesian second round clash.
Seven of the 8 seeds remain in the women’s singles draw, with the 6th seeded Jiang Yanjiao defeated by Sung Ji Hyun of Korea to ensure 8 of the top 10 players in the world are represented at the quarter final stage. Wang Xin is the Korean’s next opponent in an fantastic line-up of quarter final matches. Wang Shixian takes on Saina Nehwal in the other quarter final match in the bottom half of the draw. The top half of the draw sees the top seeded Wang Yihan taking on Tine Baun, whilst Li Xuerui takes on Juliane Schenk.
Usual Suspects In Last 8
The perennial contenders in the doubles events are again into the last 8, with Lee and Jung headlining the men’s doubles draw. The 2nd seeded Korean pair take on Malaysia’s Hoon and Tan for a place in the semi finals, whilst the 3rd seeded Boe and Mogensen are the top seeds in the top half of the draw and take on Chai and Guo of China in the only all-seeded quarter final.
Wang and Yu have already booked their place in the semi final, after winning their second round match and their quarter final opponents of Matsuo and Naito withdrew from the event. Bao and Zhong defeated the 4th seeded Fujii and Kakiiwa to book their place in the last 8 and will take on the 7th seeded Jung and Kim of Korea for a semi final match against the top seeds. Tian and Zhao are safely into the last 8 and will take on another Chinese pair in the quarter finals, Huan and Tang.
Zhao Yunlei is also safely into the last 8 in the mixed doubles with her partner Zhang Nan, with the top seeds taking on Prapakamol and Thoungthongkam for a place in the semi finals. Fischer Neilsen and Pedersen are the sole Danish pair left in the draw and take on the Korean pairing of Ko and Eom who ended their team-mates Laybourn and Rytter Juhl’s run in the opening round. Xu and Ma’s reward for defeating He and Bao is another all-Chinese match in the quarter finals, taking on Jiaming and Huan for a place in the last 4.
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.
China claimed both the Thomas and Uber Cup on home soil in Wuhan in a perfect build up to the Olympics in two months time.
A perfect record of 19 victories from 19 ensured China’s successful defence of the Thomas Cup, with a 3-0 victory over Korea in the final. Lin Dan defeated Lee Hyun Il, before Cai and Fu doubled the lead against Lee and Kim in a two tight games before Chen Long completed their rout of Korea with a two game victory over Shon Wan Ho. China dropped just 2 games from their 40 games this week.
China’s women reclaimed the Uber Cup against the holders Korea in another one-sided final. Wang Yihan dropped the opening game to Sung Ji Hyun before fighting back to save four match points and take the second game 22-20. The third game was more dominant from the world number 1, taking the decider 21-13. Wang and Yu had little trouble doubling the lead with a 21-15, 21-13 victory over Ha and Kim before Wang Xin clinched the match with a 21-10, 21-16 win over Bae Youn Joo.
Sixteen nations begun the week in Wuhan but come the weekend, only two remain. China and Korea will fight it out for Uber Cup glory on Saturday, then once more for the Thomas Cup on Sunday.
Korea’s hopes this week fell on a squad without Jung Jae Sung, but Lee Hyun Il gave them the perfect start with a victory over Peter Gade, whose form recently has been far from the heights of even a year ago. Boe and Mogensen ensured parity after 2 matches with a convincing two game victory over Ko and Yoo. Then came the between the world number 13 and 14 for a chance to put their nation within a match of the Thomas Cup final. Shon Wan Ho defeated Jan O Jorgensen in three games to put Korea on the brink of the final. 73 minutes later, they were in the final as Lee and Kim defeated Rasmussen and Fischer Neilsen to ensure Korea’s place in Sunday’s final. For Denmark, it was a stunning loss that could have been avoided had Gade not lost his opening singles, with Viktor Axelsen waiting in the 5th match to take on the world number 166 Lee Dong Keun.
China needed just 3 matches and 6 games to book their place in the final. Lin Dan started the semi final with a two game victory over Sho Sasaki, soon followed by Cai and Fu winning their doubles. Chen Long completed the task against Kenichi Tago in an hour to book China’s place in the Thomas Cup Final.
It was a pair of one-sided finals in the Uber Cup, with Korea defeating Japan 3-0 with the loss of just a single game but the story this week has been the dominance of the Chinese. Wang Yihan started with a two game victory over Inthanon Ratchanok, then the world number 1 pairing of Wang and Yu put China within a match of the final but the most impressive performance was left until last. Wang Xin’s stunning 21-17, 21-2 victory over Porntip Buranaprasertsuk was a message of intent after their stunning 2010 loss to Korea in the Uber Cup final.
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.