Saturday, April 27, 2019
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
Balance is perhaps the key word for a mixed team event. China and Japan are, on current form, the two most balanced teams at the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2019 and therefore favourites to feature in the title clash.
Among the teams who might be expected to disrupt this eventuality are other fairly balanced squads like Chinese Taipei, Indonesia and India.
Chinese Taipei were seeded four, based on the world ranking of their top players/pairs on 5 March 2019.
On his day, Chou can beat any of his peers. Consistency has eluded him, though, and he has had a below-par season so far. Since winning the Korea Open last September, he has crashed out in the first round of no less than five top-tier events – including three this season.
Chou will take heart from his performance in Singapore, where he reached the semi-finals.
Women’s singles presents no worry for Chinese Taipei, as it is in the bankable hands of Tai Tzu Ying. In a career studded with brilliant individual wins, Tai has no significant team event titles to speak of, and might want to address that in Nanning.
Having made the final of the All England, and captured titles in Malaysia and Singapore, the little titan appears to be back at her best, after fitness concerns disrupted her campaigns in Hong Kong and Guangzhou late last year.
Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin have been consistent in both their doubles disciplines. Since they got together this year, Lee and Wang won the Barcelona Spain Masters, were runners-up in Switzerland, and won back to back titles in Orleans and India.
Wang has also established a promising partnership with Cheng Chi-Ya; the new partnership made the final of their first tournament, at the Barcelona Spain Masters. At their last event, the Malaysia Open, they ran world No.2 pair Wang Hilyu/Huang Dongping close, losing 21-19 in the third game.
Another mixed doubles option for Chinese Taipei is Lee Yang and Yang Ching Tun, who reached the semifinals of the India Open.
Both partnerships began this year; it will be interesting to see what combinations the team opt for in Nanning.
The only category that might bother Chinese Taipei is the women’s doubles. Hsu Ya Ching and Wu Ti Jung were split at the end of last year, and Hsu is now back with former partner Hu Ling Fang. They were quarterfinalists in Barcelona and finished runners-up at the Orleans Masters, but have otherwise had a disappointing year.
All in all, Chinese Taipei do have strong players and pairs on board, and a fairly experienced squad, which might prove to be a pivotal factor when the going gets tough.