The regular badminton season is over, and the best performers of the past year are now looking ahead to the prestigious Superseries Finals in Dubai next month. Gruffudd Owen talks us through the lucky few who have qualified
After twelve intense qualifying competitions spanning nine months and three continents – with an Olympic tournament thrown in the middle for good measure – the regular season of the BWF World Superseries is over, and the line-up for next month’s Dubai Finals now confirmed.
November’s YONEX-SUNRISE Hong Kong Open represented the last chance for the world’s leading shuttlers to register valuable Destination Dubai ranking points, and with only the top eight ranked players in each category qualifying for the season-ending Finals, there was everything to play for.
At his home event, Angus Ng Ka Long became the first-ever Hong Kong representative to win the men’s singles title, beating India’s Sameer Verma 21-14, 10-21, 21-11 to clinch his spot at the Dubai Finals.
Joining the 22-year-old will be the Danish duo of Jan O Jorgensen and Viktor Axelsen. Jorgensen’s consistent performances this season – including victory at the THAIHOT China Open earlier in November – saw him top the Destination Dubai rankings, while the much-fancied Axelsen qualified in fifth place.
The pair could have been joined by a third compatriot – XIAMENAIR Australian Open winner Hans-Kristian Vittinghus – were it not for the rules dictating that a maximum of two players from each country are eligible to qualify for Dubai.
Chen Long of China, who finished well outside the top-eight places but secured a wildcard entry courtesy of his Olympic gold medal in Rio this summer, will replace Vittinghus.
Completing the men’s draw in Dubai next month are world no. 1 Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, Korea’s Son Wan Ho, the Chinese world no. 6 Tian Houwei and Marc Zwiebler, who will be the first man in Finals history to fly the flag for Germany.
In the women’ singles, Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu sealed a remarkable comeback by stealing eighth place in the Destination Dubai rankings right at the death.
Seemingly dead and buried in 16th place with just two events to play for, the Indian brought her class to the court when it mattered most, first winning the THAIHOT China Open – her first Superseries title – before reaching the final in Hong Kong, which proved enough to qualify for Dubai.
Sindhu’s conqueror in Hong Kong was Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei, the 2014 Superseries champion. Just 22 years old, she topped the rankings and will head to the Finals as one of the favourites.
Elsewhere, the exploits of Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi and He Bingjiao of China will be fascinating to watch, with both tipped for great things in the sport.
World no. 1 Carolina Marin will hope to rediscover the form that won her Olympic gold in Rio, having stuttered to a seventh-place finish in the Destination Dubai rankings, while Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon – who won three Superseries events this year – promises to be a dangerous opponent.
Sun Yu of China and Korean shuttler Sung Ji Hyun make up the remainder of the Finals qualifiers in the women’s singles.
With plenty of interesting doubles match-ups also to look forward to, the stage is set for another week of drama and excitement at the Dubai Finals next month.
The BWF Dubai World Superseries Finals take place between 14-18 December at the Hamdan Sports Complex