The Season Finale by Dominic Bliss

Held in China in mid-December, the BWF World Superseries Finals will see the planet’s top eight singles, Doubles and Mixed Doubles players battling it out for a prize fund of US$500,000. Britain’s top male singles player Rajiv Ouseph analyses who is likely to come out on top.

For the second year running, the Chinese have a home advantage. And you can guarantee they’re going to make the most of it. When the teams fly to the city of Shenzhen, in the Guangdong province, for the season-ending tournament of the 2012 BWF Superseries circuit, they will be facing a very patriotic home crowd right from the start. Could the Chinese achieve a clean sweep, as they very nearly did in last year’s event where only the Men’s Doubles was won by foreigners?

Britain’s top singles player Rajiv Ouseph certainly thinks it’s a possibility. “For the Chinese players the home advantage will be very valuable,” he told International Badminton Magazine. “A very high percentage of the crowd will be on the home players’ side. The players will be looking to put on a good show for them. I know that in these big events the Chinese like to come away with a clean sweep of all the titles. Although it will be tough, this could happen as it did in the last two BWF World Championships, in London in 2011 and in Paris the year before.”

The venue for this year’s Superseries Finals is certainly impressive enough to inspire the Chinese players to perform at their best. The Shenzhen Bay Sports Center is a huge, tubular structure covering 300,000 square metres with a distinctive mesh metal exterior. It cost US$2.3 billion to build and, with its seating capacity of 20,000, it will certainly be echoing loudly with applause when the badminton comes to town.

So who can we expect to be on the receiving end of all that applause? With the top eight Singles, Doubles and Mixed Doubles players in the BWF World Superseries standings all invited, the field is naturally very strong.

In the men’s singles, Ouseph rightly expects the Malaysian World No.1 Lee Chong Wei to fare well, especially since he has won this event three times before – in 2008, 2009 and 2010. With last year’s Chinese winner Lin Dan unlikely to compete since he hasn’t chalked up enough Superseries points this year, Ouseph pinpoints two other Chinese players to watch: Chen Long and Du Pengyu. The rest of the field, he believes, will be taken up with Indonesian players Simon Santoso and Taufik Hidayat, Hong Kong’s Hu Yun, Japan’s Kenichi Tago, Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana, Vietnam’s Tien Minh Nguyen and Denmark’s Jan Jorgensen.

“The mens singles field is very even right now below the top few guys, and the last few spots in the tournament will be tightly contested,” Ouseph says. “As for who's going to win, I don’t think you can look past Lee Chong Wei. But I would expect Chen Long to also do well. I think the winner will come from one of these two. Chong Wei is such a complete player. His speed is unreal and he has the ultimate confidence in his own ability. All the other players will be hoping to avoid playing him until the final.”

In the women’s singles, Ouseph believes the top two Chinese girls Li Xuerui and Wang Yihan are likely to meet in the final. “Li, especially, has had an amazing year highlighted by her Olympic win. But on their day any of the other women could upset them and progress through.”

Of these other women, Ouseph highlights the Indian Saina Nehwal (“she is very dangerous, full of confidence right now”), Denmark’s Tine Baun, Germany’s Juliane Schenk, South Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun “and maybe the young Taipei player Tai Tzu Ying”.

Ouseph says the doubles events are much harder to predict. “After the Olympics, with a lot of partnership changes and retirements, it may well be the pairs who are still playing together that end up qualifying,” he says.

The Olympic champions Cai Yun & Fu Haifeng for example, don’t have enough Superseries points to qualify for the Finals and, by December, may have parted company.

“So the Men’s Doubles will be very open,” he says. “Olympic silver medallists Mathias Boe & Carsten Mogensen may be the favourites along with Kien Keat Koo & Boon Heong Tan. Both look to be playing well and are taking their Olympic form into the Superseries tournaments.”

Ouseph also admires the form of the two Japanese pairs Hiroyuki Endo & Kenichi Hayakawa and Hirokatsu Hashimoto & Noriyasu Hirata. The Koreans and the Indonesians, meanwhile, have had a pairing reshuffle and it’s not definite they’ll make it to Shenzhen. “My outside bets are Thailand’s Bodin Issara and Maneepong Jongjit and the South Koreans Kim Ki Jung and Kim Sa Rang,” he adds. “If they continue their strong form both pairs could be dangerous.” 

The Women’s Doubles looks likely to see two pairs apiece from China, Japan and South Korea. But, according to Ouseph, Europe has a chance of a representative team in the form of Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl. “They could on their day cause a few problems to the top pairs as they showed by beating the Olympic champions at the Olympics. But I think the winners will be one of the new breed of Chinese pairs who seem to be coming through with such regularity at the moment. Bao Yixin & Zhong Qianxin are looking so strong right now.”

It’s in the Mixed Doubles that Ouseph believes European teams have their strongest chance of making their mark. And that’s primarily thanks to the Olympic bronze medallists Joachim Fischer Nielsen & Christinna Pedersen. Yet the Oriental teams still dominate the event. Ouseph points to the Chinese pairing Xu Chen & Ma Jin, the Malaysians Peng Soon Chan & Liu Ying Goh, the Thais Sudket Prapakamol and Saralee Thoungthongkam and the Indonesians Tontowi Ahmad & Liliyana Natsir. He says the latter “have a very good chance of doing well. They have consistently been around the semis of most tournaments and will look to push on come the end of the season.”

Ouseph himself knows he won’t be making the trip to Shenzhen. As we went to press his World Superseries standing was too low at 29th in the world. In fact it’s pretty much guaranteed there will be no home nation players in any of the Superseries Finals events.

“It’s definitely very tough for any of our players to get into the finals,” he says. “Our players have shown on a one-off basis that they can win against top players and pairs but they need to do this consistently to qualify for the Superseries Finals. That may take a little more time for us to achieve.

However, Ouseph is optimistic for the future. “It’s an aim for the British players to be able to qualify for this event as it shows they have been consistent over the full calendar year. With some of the other Europeans potentially qualifying, it shows us that it can be done.”

Secure Card Payments

Secure Payments with Sagepay