Friday, August 7, 2015
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
For a player widely regarded among the greats of Men’s Doubles, the lack of a world title must feel like a festering sore.
Korea’s Lee Yong Dae (featured image; right), an early superachiever – he won the Mixed Doubles Olympic gold in 2008 when he was 19 – has fallen desperately short of a world title in three finals. The most recent disappointment was last year, when he and Yoo Yeon Seong – a losing finalist in 2011 with Ko Sung Hyun – fell unexpectedly to compatriots Ko and Shin Baek Choel. Will Lee finally bury his demons with a gold medal at the Total BWF World Championships 2015?
After a brilliant season last year, Lee and Yoo’s form fluctuated this year. They were able to capture The Star Australian Open crown and the Badminton Asia Confederation title, but straight games defeats in the BCA Indonesia Open and Yonex Open Chinese Taipei means they will have to be circumspect at the Total BWF World Championships. The top seeds are expected to run into compatriots Kim Gi Jung/Kim Sa Rang in the third round, following which could be a tough battle against the in-form Zhang Nan/Fu Haifeng (China, 5). The Chinese themselves have a stiff test lined up in the third round, against Denmark’s Kim Astrup/Anders Skaarup Rasmussen or Indonesia’s Andrei Adistia/Hendra Aprida Gunawan.
“Though we have been successful, we haven’t won a major event like the World Championships yet, so it’s something we want to achieve,” said Fu Haifeng.
No.2 seeds Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen will aim to become the first Danish pair in over a decade to win the world title. Only two Danish pairs have won the title, and Boe/Mogensen – who have a silver and a bronze from past events – will want to complete their collection of medals with a gold.
The Danes have a likely third round against China’s Lu Kai/Cai Yun. If they cross that barrier they could run into Ko/Shin. The defending champions have enjoyed a resurgence in recent times, with a title win in Indonesia. However, Ko/Shin have a difficult draw, with a second round against Malaysia’s Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong.
Of all the categories, Indonesia’s strongest contenders are in Men’s Doubles. 2013 World champions Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan have been in good touch this year, with a title win in Malaysia. With the advantage of a good draw, the No.3 seeds are favoured to make the business end of the event. Japan’s Kenta Kazuno/Kazushi Yamada (third round) and Lee Sheng Mu/Tsai Chia Hsin (Chinese Taipei) or Mads Conrad-Petersen/Mads Pieler Kolding (Denmark) are expected to stand in their way to the quarter-finals.
Indonesia have another world class pair in Angga Pratama/Ricky Karanda Suwardi, who caused a major surprise at the OUE Singapore Open by beating Lee/Yoo, Japan’s Hiroyuki Endo/Kenichi Hayakawa and China’s Fu/Zhang on consecutive days. The No.13 seeds are likely to meet No.4 seeds Chai Biao/Hong Wei (China) in the third round.
Chai/Hong won their first World Superseries title as a pair in India this year but haven’t quite consolidated their position from that point.
A number of pairs are thus in contention for the top prize. Among those capable of upsetting the applecart of the in-form names are Chinese Taipei’s Lee/Tsai, Japan’s Hiroyuki Endo/Kenichi Hayakawa and Denmark’s Mads Conrad-Petersen/Mads Pieler Kolding. Whether they can go on to etch their names in the history books remains to be seen.