Indonesia and Denmark are the heavyweights in Group C, but a third team – ROC – are quite capable of ending the campaign of the powerhouses in the group stage of the TotalEnergies BWF Sudirman Cup Finals 2021.
Indonesia started their tryst with the Sudirman Cup in 1989 on a bright note, but haven’t had much luck since. Having hosted and won the inaugural Sudirman Cup, they reached six more finals but failed to win a second title.
Chance for a Golden Sunset
One of the biggest motivating factors for several seasoned members of the Indonesian team is that, despite having won world or Olympic titles, they don’t have a major world team title to their name. Players like Hendra Setiawan, Mohammad Ahsan and Greysia Polii are among the great players of their generation but have yet to take Indonesia to a major team title. They will know that this edition of the Sudirman Cup could well be their last chance, for they are in the evening of their careers.
Indonesia arrive in Vantaa packed to the brim with all available talent. Significantly, they have their three top men’s doubles pairs – Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo; Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan, and Fajar Alfian/Muhammad Rian Ardianto.
With Polii and Apriyani Rahayu having won the Olympic gold recently, the women’s doubles is in safe hands. The second pair will be Siti Fadia Silva Ramadhanti/Ribka Sugiarto. In mixed doubles, Indonesia can count on the experience of Praveen Jordan/Melati Daeva Oktavianti and Rinov Rivaldy/Pitha Haningtyas Mentari.
In men’s singles, apart from Olympic bronze medallist Anthony Sinisuka Ginting and Asian Games winner Jonatan Christie, Indonesia have 27-year-old Shesar Hiren Rhustavito, semifinalist at the Spain Masters in May.
Gregoria Mariska Tunjung leads their women’s singles, but fans will be curious to see if 19-year-old Putri Kusuma Wardani, who won the Spain Masters, gets an opportunity. Interestingly, Wardani had helped Indonesia win the Suhandinata Cup (BWF World Junior Mixed Team Championships) for the first time ever, in 2019.
Indonesia have also named another youngster, just 16 years old – Ester Nurumi Tri Wardoyo – who has yet to play an international senior match.
There is plenty of focus on Denmark’s chances of winning the Thomas Cup at home given the strength of their men’s team, but they are quite a well-balanced team at the Sudirman Cup too. Their men’s singles (Viktor Axelsen or Anders Antonsen) is nearly certain to assure them a point in every tie; while in men’s doubles, the Danes can count on Kim Astrup/Anders Skaarup Rasmussen, or a combination among Mads Pieler Kolding, Niclas Nohr, Frederik Sogaard and Mathias Thyrri.
Line Christophersen has come a long way in quick time, and the tall 21-year-old, who has made four consecutive finals this year, will hope to get a look-in. The Danes’ top choice in women’s singles, of course, will be Mia Blichfeldt.
The top pairs in women’s doubles (Maiken Fruergaard/Sara Thygesen) and mixed doubles (Mathias Christiansen/Alexandra Boje) select themselves, but the Danes have capable reserves in Amalie Magelund/Freja Ravn (women’s doubles) and Niclas Nohr/Amalie Magelund (mixed doubles).
At the last Sudirman Cup, ROC nearly upset favourites Japan in their opening tie, with Vladimir Malkov beating Kenta Nishimoto and Vladimir Ivanov/Ivan Sozonov clinching their doubles.
The three players will once feature in the ROC squad, but what will give the team added strength is the recent form of their top mixed doubles pair Rodion Alimov and Alina Davletova, who won the European Championships in May, making them the first Russians to win that category.
And with Evgeniya Kosetskaya performing creditably this season, ROC will sense their chances at making the quarterfinals.
Canada are the fourth team in the group, but arrive without many of their frontline players like Michelle Li, Jason Anthony Ho-Shue, Rachel Honderich, Kristen Tsai, Joshua Hurlburt-Yu and Josephine Wu.
It will be a tough task for Canada to make an impression in the absence of these players. Brian Yang and BR Sankeerth will handle men’s singles responsibilities, while 17-year-old Rachel Chan, runner-up at the Pan Am Individual Championships, is likely to get an opportunity at her first major team event.