Friday, May 17, 2019
TEXY BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
Denmark might try to recollect their heroics of 2015 when they embark on their campaign at the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2019.
This year – like in 2015 – Denmark are without seasoned warriors Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl, who held the fort of the Danes’ women’s doubles for long. Additionally, Pedersen was among the best mixed doubles players in the world, with Joachim Fischer Nielsen, and later, with Mathias Christiansen.
In 2015, the Danish squad, despite missing several senior players (Pedersen, Juhl, Mathias Boe, Carsten Mogensen, Joachim Fischer Nielsen) due to sponsorship issues, very nearly pulled the rug from under a strong Japanese team in the quarterfinals. The Danes – with Sara Thygesen playing the mixed with Mads Pieler Kolding in a scratch combination, and with Maiken Fruergaard in the women’s doubles – took the tie to a dramatic fifth rubber. Thygesen and Fruergaard even led Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi at the death, before the much higher-ranked Japanese rescued their team with a last-ditch effort. Japan went on to finish runners-up.
The recent retirement of Pedersen and Juhl thus opens up opportunities for younger players in the two categories.
Denmark are in a tricky group with Indonesia and England. While Indonesia have a strong all-round squad, underdogs England will sense their chance against Denmark.
While the Danes have powerful men’s singles (Viktor Axelsen, Anders Antonsen) and men’s doubles (Kim Astrup, Anders Skaarup Rasmussen, Mathias Boe, Mads Conrad-Petersen), their opponents will sense their chance in the other three categories.
It will be particularly interesting to see Denmark’s choice of mixed doubles. Both Indonesia and England have strong mixed doubles, and Denmark will be keen to get their combination right. Their highest-ranked pair is Niclas Nohr/Sara Thygesen (No.43), but they haven’t had any notable results in the last few months. With players like Mathias Christiansen, Niclas Nohr, Rikke Soby, Alexandra Boje and Thygesen in the team, there are plenty of options for a scratch pairing.
England have established pairs (Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock and Marcus Ellis/Lauren Smith in the mixed; Ellis/Chris Langridge in the men’s; Chloe Birch/Lauren Smith in the women’s); their main areas of concern will be the singles.
With men’s singles spearhead Rajiv Ouseph missing in the squad, the responsibility will fall upon Toby Penty (No.65) or Alex Lane (No.98). They have their task cut out, for both Indonesia and Denmark boast strong men’s singles. Indonesia have Jonatan Christie and Anthony Ginting; Denmark have Axelsen and Antonsen.
Chloe Birch (No.47) will be handle England’s women’s singles responsibilities, but she will be up against Indonesia’s Gregoria Mariska Tunjung (No.15) and Denmark’s Line Højmark Kjaersfeldt (No.19) or Mia Blichfeldt (No.21).
Blichfeldt, having beaten Tunjung at their last meeting, might be called upon against Indonesia, and that could be an interesting contest that decides the fate of the tie.
In men’s doubles, Indonesia have the luxury of choice, having brought all three of their top ten pairs. Indonesia also have a powerful women’s doubles pair in Greysia Polii/Apriyani Rahayu and mixed doubles options in Hafiz Faizal/Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja, Praveen Jordan/Melati Daeva Oktavianti and Tontowi Ahmad/Winny Oktavina Kandow.
Should the proceedings follow form and rankings, Indonesia are favourites to top the group, with England and Denmark in a tussle for the second spot. Much will depend on how well England’s doubles pairs weather the Danish challenge.