It was the day of the underdog at the start of the 2016 Dubai World Superseries Finals on Wednesday, with Olympic champions and world no. 1s falling to unexpected defeats. Gruffudd Owen reports live from Dubai
The reputation of the Dubai World Superseries Finals as one of badminton’s most competitive events was further strengthened today as the crowd at the Hamdan Sports Complex witnessed a number of upsets on the first day of this year’s competition.
In the men’s singles, world no. 1 Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia – tipped by many as the comfortable favourite to win the tournament – was soundly beaten by second seed Son Wan-ho (21-10, 21-16), a result that will give the other players in the draw some encouragement that the 34-year-old is not as dominant as he perhaps once was.
Unlike Lee Chong Wei, no. 1 seed Jan O Jorgensen was in fine form, crushing Hong Kong’s Hu Yun 21-8, 21-5 in 23 minutes. The latter now faces a tough ask to progress from Group A, as does Marc Zwiebler, who fell to third seed Tian Houwei (21-15, 21-7).
If Lee Chong Wei’s loss was the most surprising result of the day, then Carolina Marin’s defeat at the hands of China’s Sun Yu (21-18, 24-22) in the women’s singles was a close second.
The world no. 2 won Olympic gold in Rio this summer but has been out of sorts since the biggest triumph of her career. Despite threatening to pull off an impressive comeback in the second game, the Spaniard eventually succumbed to Sun Yu, leaving her with some work to do in a very tricky group.
A silver medallist in Rio, India’s PV Sindhu looked to be heading towards the same opening day fate as her Olympic conqueror Marin, only to clinch the final two games to seal a comeback win over Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi (12-21, 21-8, 21-15).
Group A was more straightforward, as Tai Tzu Ying – no. 1 in both the world and Destination Dubai rankings – brushed past He Bingjiao of China 21-16, 21-13. Sung Ji Hyun’s 21-19, 21-12 victory over Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand completed the women’s singles results.
To the doubles competitions, and men’s top seeds Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda maintained the trend of unexpected defeats by falling to the Danish pair of Mads Conrad-Petersen and Mads Pieler Kolding (21-15, 21-17).
Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi at least justified their top seed status by beating Japanese compatriots Naoko Fukuman and Kurumi Yonao 21-19, 21-19 in the women’s doubles, while husband and wife pair Chris and Gabby Adcock – last year’s mixed doubles champions – were delighted with their convincing 21-15, 21-9 win over another Japanese pair in Kenta Kazuno and Ayane Kurihara.
“They’re a very good pair, but we had a very specific game plan that we wanted to come out and execute,” Gabby Adcock revealed after the match.
“We felt like we stuck to that today, so we’re really proud of doing that. The coach did a good job of setting us a plan. It’s onwards to tomorrow now, but first we’ll have a little rest – maybe by the pool.”
Play begins on the second day of the 2016 BWF World Superseries Finals at 09:00 (UAE time) on Thursday 15 December. The tournament takes place at the Hamdan Sports Complex in Dubai.
Gruffudd Owen will be reporting live from the event - go to www.vision.ae or @visionsportae on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook for more updates