There was a triumphant return in the men’s singles at the CELCOM AXIATA Malaysia Open last week, while the women’s world No. 1 continued to assert her dominance. Gruffudd Owen reviews the third BWF Superseries event of the season
1. Super Dan is back
2016 was an inauspicious year by Lin Dan’s standards. Not only did the former world No. 1 miss out on a podium finish at the Rio Olympic Games, having won gold at both Beijing 2008 and London 2012, he also failed to qualify for the season-ending Dubai World Superseries Finals – leading many to regard the 33-year-old as a player in terminal decline.
If his performances this year are anything to go by, however, such talk of a genuine badminton legend fading away is hopelessly premature. After a promising run to the semi-finals of the YONEX All England Open in March, the Chinese star convincingly beat current world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei in Malaysia last week to claim his first Superseries title of the season. Write ‘Super Dan’ off at your peril.
2. A new era of domination?
Is women’s badminton as competitive as once thought? Carolina Marín’s Olympic gold and the breakthrough of India’s PV Sindhu last year were meant to signal the start of a golden age in women’s singles, but since the Dubai World Superseries Finals, one player has dominated.
Tai Tzu-ying’s latest tournament success – a hard-fought victory over Marín in Malaysia – sees the world No. 1 remain undefeated in this season’s Superseries. The unassuming 22-year-old from Chinese Taipei is seemingly unstoppable at the moment: it will take some doing to prevent her from marching to another Finals triumph in Dubai come December.
And while we are on the topic of players who dominate their Superseries circuit, the achievements of Indonesia’s Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo in the men’s doubles cannot be overlooked.
Having been crowned champions in Malaysia, the pair have now won all three Superseries events this season. Can they make it four in a row when the OUE Singapore Open starts this week?
3. Chen Qingchen finds her groove
Chinese doubles sensation Chen Qingchen was one of the standout shuttlers at last year’s Dubai World Superseries Finals, becoming only the second player in the competition’s history to lift two titles in two different categories during the same tournament.
Nevertheless, empirical evidence proves that placing too much faith in a young and inexperienced sportsperson on the back of one early sign of greatness can lead to disappointment.
And so it initially seemed with Chen Qingchen. Her outings at the start-of-season All England Open yielded a first-round exit in the women’s doubles and a second-round loss in the mixed doubles – two forgettable performances that hardly befit a badminton wunderkind.
It hasn’t taken long for the 19-year-old to banish such doubts, however. Alongside her playing partner Zheng Siwei, Chen stormed to the mixed doubles title at the Malaysia Open without dropping a single game.
Now that her swagger has returned and with the slow start to the Superseries season behind her, the highly gifted youngster will be confident of once again qualifying for the Dubai World Superseries Finals to defend her two crowns.
The OUE Singapore Open runs from 11-16 April