China begin their quest for a record-extending 13th title at the TotalEnergies BWF Sudirman Cup Finals 2023 with an assignment against Egypt in the evening session of the opening day, Sunday 14 May.
At the same time, Denmark and Singapore – fellow-contenders from the same group – will face off in a tie that is likely to decide the second qualifier from Group A.
The tie could be a thriller, with a lot riding on the men’s singles, in an expected clash between Viktor Axelsen and Loh Kean Yew. While Denmark will look to Kim Astrup/Anders Skaarup Rasmussen in men’s doubles and Mathias Christiansen/Alexandra BØje in the mixed, Singapore will fancy their chances with Hee Yong Kai Terry/Loh Kean Hean in men’s doubles and Hee/Tan Wei Han Jessica in the mixed. The women’s singles could be hard to call between Yeo Jia Min and Mia Blichfeldt (or Line Christophersen), while Denmark have the edge in women’s doubles through Sara Thygesen/Maiken Fruergaard. All in all, a fascinating face-off could be on the cards.
China are obvious favourites in the group, and will want to make no mistake in their biggest tournament at home in over three years. While they have a wealth of resources at their command, with their top players in their prime, it will be interesting to see if they do tweak their line-up, for in recent months the Chinese have been pressing forward young players with an eye on the future. At the Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships in February, for instance, the Chinese had a new-look squad, with several players who are fresh on the circuit. In men’s singles they fielded Lei Lan Xi, a world No.121, and at the time China’s fifth-highest ranked player. It was Lei’s first tournament of the year; in 2022 he’d played at the International Series/International Challenge level, on BWF Tour Super 100, and the Badminton Asia Championships, with his best result being runner-up at the International Series in Vietnam and Malaysia.
Yet, the track record mattered little as Lei won four of his five matches, beating HS Prannoy in the semifinals and Lee Yun Gyu in the final to help China take the title.
Other players of recent vintage, such as Liu Sheng Shu/Tan Ning (women’s doubles) and Jiang Zhen Bang/Wei Ya Xin (mixed doubles) also pulled their weight as China enjoyed an unbeaten run through the tournament, beating Uzbekistan, Singapore and Korea in their group, and Malaysia, India and Korea in the knockout stage. Interestingly, one name that carried their campaign in women’s singles was Gao Fang Jie – last seen at an HSBC BWF World Tour event in January 2019, where she suffered a serious ACL injury.
Gao returned to the circuit last year, playing four lower-rung tournaments, but made a statement in Dubai by winning all her five matches, including over Kim Ga Eun (twice), Pusarla V Sindhu and Goh Jin Wei.
The Chinese are expected to field their tried-and-trusted names – Shi Yu Qi, Chen Yu Fei, Zheng Si Wei, Huang Ya Qiong, Chen Qing Chen, Jia Yi Fan, and others – but will there be a surprise or two with the young guns?
African champions Egypt will be the acknowledged lightweights in the group, but with Olympic ranking points at stake, Adham Hatem Elgamal, Nour Youssri, Ahmed Salah and Doha Hany will seek to make a mark against the powerhouses.
Follow our coverage of the TotalEnergies BWF Sudirman Cup Finals 2023 here.