Stars Who Shone; Those Who Didn’t

Tuesday, June 4, 2019
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO

The recently-concluded TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2019 was a roller-coaster ride for reputations. Several stars, expected to take their teams to glory, fizzled out during the week. There were also a few others who rose to the occasion when the situation demanded it. Here we look at the prominent names:

Those Who Sizzled

Shi Yuqi

Continued to build on his reputation as a big-match player. The manner in which he handed a pasting to Kento Momota in the final was stunning to watch – a near-replica of the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals in December. Won his three matches with ease – over Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia in Group 1D and Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangcharoen in the semi-finals.

Li Junhui (left) and Liu Yuchen – stable under pressure.

Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen

Were unshakeable despite being in trouble in their opening match against Malaysia’s Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik. Recovered from match point down to beat the Malaysians, and then destroyed their three following challengers – Denmark’s Kim Astrup/Anders Skaarup Rasmussen; Thailand’s Tinn Isriyanet/Kittinupong Kedren, and Japan’s Hiroyuki Endo/Yuta Watanabe. The Japanese were expected to stretch Li/Liu in the final, but after first game trouble, the world champions crushed their rivals to hand the advantage in the final to China.

An Se Young played outstanding badminton to beat Tai Tzu Ying.

An Se Young

The 17-year-old came into the Sudirman Cup as a potential star, having won the New Zealand Open, and returned with reputation enhanced. With her sensational upset of No.1 Tai Tzu Ying, which helped Korea top Group 1C, and close loss to Ratchanok Intanon, An did enough to suggest she could be the face of the future of women’s singles badminton.

Marcus Fernaldi Gideon (right) and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo didn’t disappoint for Indonesia.

Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo

The ‘Minions’ went into the Sudirman Cup in unconvincing form, but admirably led Indonesia into the semifinals. Won their three matches in straight games, including the semifinal over Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda, on which Indonesia were unable to capitalise.

Michelle Li powered Canada’s finish on top of Group 2.

Michelle Li

Despite struggling with injury, Canada’s singles spearhead guided her team to the top of Group 2. Prevailed in a contentious Group 2B match against Germany’s Yvonne Li that set Canada on to victory over difficult opponents, and in the Group 2 final against France, easily beat Yaelle Hoyaux to come away with three wins out of three.

Nhat Nguyen was a standout for Ireland.

Nhat Nguyen

The 18-year-old had a busy week for Ireland, playing two categories and winning all but one of his eight matches. Nguyen nearly led his team to Group 3 victory, but, having won his singles, surprisingly lost his men’s doubles (with Sam Magee) to Sachin Dias and Buwaneka Goonethilleka. Ireland had to be content with second place in Group 3 (overall 22nd), but Nguyen would have returned pleased with his contribution.

…and Those Who Fizzled

Tai Tzu Ying

Nothing went Tai Tzu Ying’s way against An Se Young.

The world No.1 hasn’t had the best of seasons, but was expected to lead Chinese Taipei to a possible semifinal, their first in history. However, Tai was woefully off-colour, struggling against Hong Kong’s Cheung Ngan Yi and losing to An Se Young, before making it past an equally disappointing Gregoria Mariska Tunjung. Despite her win, Chinese Taipei fell 2-3 to Indonesia.

Anthony Ginting was unable to turn on his ‘A’ game.

Anthony Ginting

Indonesia sported big names in singles, which was expected to buttress their doubles strength and give them a shot at the title. But it all went wrong in the singles, with Anthony Ginting losing two of his three matches, and neither Jonatan Christie or Gregoria Mariska Tunjung able to step up. Ginting was unable to inspire himself to his normal level in losses to Viktor Axelsen (Denmark beat Indonesia 3-2) and against Kento Momota in the semifinals.

Saina Nehwal (right) couldn’t offer any resistance to Chen Yufei.

Saina Nehwal

India were reckoned to have a strong team capable of going far in the tournament, but the Indians turned out to be underwhelming. Kidambi Srikanth didn’t take the court citing fitness concerns, and Sameer Verma took his place. Saina Nehwal, not fully fit, played one match – against China’s Chen Yufei – and she was routed in 33 minutes, which more or less summed up India’s campaign.