Destination Dubai: focus back on the Superseries following World Championships

Following the conclusion of the TOTAL BWF World Championships, Gruffudd Owen – reporting from Glasgow – speaks to several leading players about their hopes for the rest of the season and the Superseries Finals

The 2017 TOTAL BWF World Championships came to a thrilling end on Sunday, with the eventual winners tasting success in the prestigious tournament for the very first time in all but one of the categories played at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena.

However, attention has now swiftly turned back to the BWF Superseries, which resumes at the VICTOR Korea Open in September.

The Seoul spectacle will see us enter the second half of the season, and there are plenty of ranking points to be accrued both in Korea and elsewhere as the sport’s top players try to secure a place at the Dubai World Superseries Finals, the end-of-year grand finale which will once more offer a total prize pot of USD$1,000,000.

Following a strong showing in Glasgow that led to a bronze-medal finish, men’s singles world no. 1 Son Wan Ho will be determined to make it to the latter stages in Korea too, particularly with the support of the home crowd behind him.

“Since my injury at the beginning of the season, it was hard for me to get back to my old self,” he revealed at the World Championships.

“But I have been playing well recently, and I’ll try my best to keep on improving for the rest of the season.”

The 29-year-old should be wary of his rivals, of course. The upper echelons of the men’s singles is fiercely competitive – as the defending Dubai World Superseries Finals champion, Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen is a world-class shuttler and will be buoyed by his gold medal in Glasgow, while the old masters Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei, despite their advancing years, are always dangerous opponents.

There was disappointment in the women’s singles at the World Championships for Sung Ji Hyun, who failed to take advantage of the absence of world no. 1 Tai Tzu-ying by falling in the third round to India’s Saina Nehwal.

Despite this setback, the Korean is still on course to qualify for the Superseries Finals as she is currently ranked second in the Destination Dubai rankings.

“I’ve been working hard to do my very best in competitions this season,” she explained.

“At the start of the season, I was ranked third in the world. That was my highest ranking so far in my career.

“I hope I can keep getting good results, keep trying hard and climb the rankings even further.”

While Tai Tzu-ying is still very much the one to beat, expect strong challenges throughout the remainder of the Superseries from two other bright young stars in the women’s game: Nozomi Okuhara of Japan and India’s PV Sindhu, who claimed the gold and silver medals at the World Championships respectively.

In the mixed doubles, Indonesia’s Liliyana Natsir won her fourth World Championships gold medal alongside her partner Tontowi Ahmad.

As it stands, they appear to be the only realistic pairing capable of threatening the dominance of the Chinese in that category – a solitary victory at their home event in Indonesia has been the only time a Chinese pair has failed to win a Superseries title this season. 

The men’s doubles duo of Liu Cheng and Zhang Nan clinched gold at the World Championships and will take great confidence from that win as they aim to climb the rankings table, while women’s doubles bronze medallists and Danish veterans Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl are simply happy to be on court, a positive attitude that will surely stand them in good stead for the Dubai Superseries Finals.

“The past year has been the best ever year for us as a pairing,” Pedersen said.

“After the Olympics we were 30 and 33 years old and we thought we might not be able to stay at the top of the sport.

“But if anything we’ve been improving over the past year, and that’s also the reason why you see us smile - we just love to play badminton.”

The VICTOR Korea Open takes place from 12-17 September in Seoul, while the Dubai World Superseries Finals will be held in December