The Road to Dubai hots up in China this week as the penultimate BWF World Superseries event of the season rolls into Fuzhou, China. Susan Egelstaff reports
As one of the biggest events in the badminton calendar, the THAIHOT China Open is also significant insofar as it is one of the few remaining tournaments for the world’s top players to amass ranking points in their attempts to qualify for the prestigious year-ending event in December, the BWF World Superseries Finals in Dubai.
One of the biggest names competing in Fuzhou will be reigning world, Olympic and European women’s singles champion Carolina Marin, who faces the unseeded Chinese player Ji Shuting in the first round. World no. 1 Marin has already qualified for the Dubai Finals by virtue of her gold medal in Brazil (Olympic champions are automatically granted wildcard entry to the Superseries Finals), yet the Spaniard will still want to put in a strong performance in the penultimate tournament of the regular season.
Marin’s China Open draw is certainly favourable, and the 23-year-old is likely to reach the semi-finals without too much trouble. However, a last-four clash with Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara is a possibility, and with the world no. 3 in a precarious position in the Destination Dubai rankings, a tense affair could very well be on the cards.
Intriguing subplots can also be found in the mixed doubles. Indonesian Olympic champions Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir are in ninth position in the rankings while Olympic silver medallists Peng Soon Chan and Liu Ying Goh of Malaysia are lying in the eighth and final qualifying position. The two pairs are in opposite halves of the draw in China this week, raising the prospect of a potentially crucial final.
Elsewhere, Mads Conrad-Petersen and Mads Pieler Kolding will be looking to hold onto their seventh spot as the only European men’s doubles pairing in a qualification spot.
As well as showcasing the world’s top stars, the THAIHOT China Open gives fans the opportunity to see some of the country’s up-and-coming players on the international stage for the first time, and this year’s event will be particularly special as it marks the competition’s 30th anniversary. Home players have dominated the top step of the winner’s podium ever since the inaugural tournament; China has taken 84 titles whereas every other nation combined has won only 41. The event became a Superseries tournament in 2007 and has given the host nation a chance to blood their young players in a major tournament as well as roll out their more established players.
The major names are likely to be the ones taking the titles home this week but the THAIHOT China Open almost always produces a breakout star.
The THAIHOT China Open runs from 5-20 November in Fuzhou, China.