The 2017 BWF Superseries season is officially under way. What can we expect on the road to Dubai this year?
It’s that time again. Now that the dust has settled following another successful edition of the BWF World Superseries Finals in Dubai last December, the world’s top badminton stars are back on the circuit for the 2017 season, which kicked off with the YONEX All England Open at the start of the month.
Vision Sport was on hand in Birmingham, where the sport’s leading shuttlers shared their thoughts on the new campaign and fondly recalled their favourite moments from Dubai…
What are your expectations for this season?
Lee Chong Wei, Malaysian men’s singles world no. 1 and four-time Superseries Finals champion: I enjoy every Superseries I compete in; I love participating in all the competitions. I’m focusing on my condition at the moment because I’ve just come back from injury.
Joachim Fischer Nielsen, Danish mixed doubles world no. 5 and three-time Superseries Finals champion: It's going to be a long season. The next four months are going to be crazy with so many tournaments going on, and also the Sudirman Cup in Australia, so there are a lot of goals to aim for. But we're here, and we've prepared as well as we can; let's see how far we can go.
Do you think this year will be easier for you knowing there's no Olympic tournament to prepare for?
Christinna Pedersen, Danish mixed doubles world no. 5 and three-time Superseries Finals champion: When there isn't an Olympic tournament there's a World Championships, so for me there's not that much of a difference. We'll have some tournaments where we'll want to do really well, and of course the Dubai Superseries Finals will hopefully be one of them. We're just looking forward to all of the upcoming challenges.
Viktor Axelsen, Danish men’s singles world no. 4 and 2016 Superseries Finals champion: You have to remember that the year leading up to the Olympics is also very stressful. You need to get enough points to qualify, and from my point of view it was also about getting into the top four in the world rankings so you could get a seeding at the Olympics. It was only during the Dubai Superseries Finals that I felt comfortable again after winning bronze in Rio. It definitely helps that we don't have such a big event as the Olympics this year.
How exciting is it to play in Dubai and what makes playing there so special?
Tai Tzu Ying, Chinese Taipeiese women’s singles world no. 1 and two-time Superseries Finals champion: There’s a lot of desert! I’ve been to Dubai a number of times now, and when I’m not concentrating on my badminton I love taking part in activities such as camel riding and sand boarding. I find it all very interesting.
Tian Houwei, Chinese men’s singles world no. 6 and 2016 Superseries Finals runner-up: I like the city; it's an excellent venue for badminton in terms of the accommodation and the way it's organised. It's all very professional. Of course it's a special place to play; it's the Finals, it's the highest level of competition in the game with the top eight players in the world. I hope I can do better this year.
Any funny moments from your time in Dubai?
Mads Pieler Kolding, Danish men’s doubles world no. 7: Last year, we laughed about Viktor winning the best-dressed man award at the BWF awards ceremony. He came dressed as a lumberjack!
Viktor Axelsen: Winning the best-dressed man award was also a big surprise for me. It didn’t mean as much as winning the Superseries Finals, but it was great because all the other players gave me a lot of banter and talked a lot of trash, so it was my time to laugh at them!