Spanish icon Carolina Marin will contemplate an interesting draw as she returns from injury straight into the TotalEnergies BWF World Championships 2021, at which she will be accorded the rare honour of playing in an arena named after her.
Not many players will have such an opportunity, and that too in one’s home town. With all of Spain rooting for her, Marin will fancy her chances of going far, provided she has fully recovered from her injury troubles. The fourth seed, in the hunt for her fourth world title, has a bye in the first round, and will expect to make the quarterfinals against He Bing Jiao or fellow-European Mia Blichfeldt.
At the top of the draw is Tai Tzu Ying, who, like Marin, will be sufficiently rested, for the Chinese Taipei star hasn’t played since winning silver at Tokyo 2020. Tai will anticipate possible showdowns against the in-form Yeo Jia Min, reigning world champion Pusarla V Sindhu or Pornpawee Chochuwong in her quarter.
The bottom quarter of women’s singles has two players – Akane Yamaguchi and An Seyoung – who have swept the prominent World Tour titles since the Olympics, and early fireworks are expected.
*Quite significantly, Tai’s biggest rival, Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei, has declined her invitation like many of the other top Chinese. Prominent names missing are Chen Long and Shi Yu Qi (men’s singles), 2018 world champions Li Jun Hui (retired) and Liu Yu Chen; Du Yue/Li Yin Hui (women’s doubles) and Olympic champions Wang Yi Lyu/Huang Dong Ping (mixed doubles).
In men’s singles, a final clash between Kento Momota and Viktor Axelsen looms ahead. Two-time world champion Momota might have to deal with the likes of Kenta Nishimoto, Lakshya Sen and Jonatan Christie in his quarter before a possible semifinal against Anthony Sinisuka Ginting, Chou Tien Chen, Kunlavut Vitidsarn or Kidambi Srikanth.
Olympic champion Axelsen will have to be on his toes from the start as his first round opponent is Loh Kean Yew, who stretched him to three games in the final of the Indonesia Open last week.
In men’s doubles, world No.1 pair Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo will sense a golden chance for their first world title, particularly in the absence of some of their biggest rivals such as Li Jun Hui/Liu Yu Chen and Hiroyuki Endo/Yuta Watanabe. However, Takuro Hoki/Yugo Kobayashi, winners of the YONEX Denmark Open and DAIHATSU Indonesia Masters, lurk in their quarter; up ahead in the semifinals could be Olympic champions Lee Yang/Wang Chi-Lin or Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty.
Japan will be enthused by the return of Wakana Nagahara, the two-time world champion with Mayu Matsumoto. Nagahara’s last event was Tokyo 2020, after which Matsumoto paired up with several partners. Japan will miss the services of three-time World Championships runners-up Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota as they await Hirota’s recovery from a knee injury. However, they can look to rising stars Nami Matsuyama/Chiharu Shida, winners of back-to-back events in Bali, who are among the strong contenders in the top quarter along with Olympic silver medallists Chen Qing Chen/Jia Yi Fan.
While China will miss many of their strongest contenders, they can look to Zheng Si Wei/Huang Ya Qiong in mixed doubles. The two-time world champions’ first big test is likely to be European champions Rodion Alimov/Alina Davletova in the third round.