Asia's Solid Doubles and Fragile Singles
Three Super 1000 tournaments in 2021 have already been completed in one city, Bangkok, Thailand. They are the Yonex Thailand Open (January 12-17), Toyota Thailand Open (19-24), and the BWF World Tour Finals (January 27-31).
We all have seen the thrilling matches. Asia’s powers were dominant in the men's, women's, and mixed doubles. No title escaped the hands of Asian players. In fact, during the final rounds of the three championships, there were always meetings between Asian doubles representatives.
However, the case is different when it comes to the men's singles and women’s singles category.
In both the men’s doubles and mixed doubles, the same pair managed to win titles in all three tournaments: Chinese Taipei’s Lee Yang/Wang Chi-Lin in men’s doubles and Thailand’s Puavaranukroh/Sapsiree Taerattanachai in the mixed doubles.
Dechapol Puavaranukroh/Sapsiree Taerattanachai got their titles after defeating Indonesia’s Praveen Jordan/Melati Daeva Oktavianti at the Yonex Thailand Open and Korea’s Seo Seung Jae/Chae Yu Jung in both Toyota Thailand Open and The 2020 BWF World Tour Finals.
Meanwhile, in women's doubles, the champion also fell to Asian representatives. But unlike in men’s doubles and mixed doubles who had the same pair winning all of the golds, in women’s doubles the gold medals fell to more than one pair.
At the Yonex Thailand Open, the Indonesian pair Greysia Polii/Apriyani Rahayu won. Meanwhile, the next two tournament series were won by South Korean representatives: Kim So Yeong/Kong Hee Yong at the Toyota Thailand Open and Lee So Hee/Shin Seung Chan at the 2020 BWF World Tour Finals.
Unfortunately, we had to see that Asia's strength in the singles category is not like their doubles.
In the men's singles, Denmark’s power consistently threw Asian players off, as all titles in the three championships belonged to them. Viktor Axelsen won the Yonex Thailand Open and Toyota Thailand Open after defeating Ng Ka Long from Hong Kong and his compatriot Hans-Kristian Vittinghus in the final. At the 2020 BWF World Tour Finals, Axelsen was defeated by Anders Antonsen. But still, Denmark’s representative made sure Europe led the men’s singles.
It’s not that Asia didn’t put their best players in the men’s singles category. There were at least Indonesia’s Anthony Ginting and Jonatan “Jojo” Christie and Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen. But all of them fell on the hands of Axelsen and his colleagues, even as early as in the quarter finals. It is as if, in men’s singles, Asia is highly dependent on Kento Momota from Japan and Chen Long from China, both of whom were unable to compete due to health precautions surrounding COVID-19.
In the women's singles category, it is almost the same. Carolina Marin from Spain won gold at the Yonex Thailand Open and Toyota Thailand Open after defeating Tai Tzu Ying from Chinese Taipei. Fortunately, at the 2020 BWF World Tour Finals, Tai Tzu Ying turned the tables and won the title.
Challenges due to Covid-19 is one thing we all face together. This is the first time in recent history where players met in the court after about a year without playing in any tournament. Asian badminton powerhouses need to reflect on these tournaments and have a look at what their country’s players can do better, in both technical and psychological aspects.
Asia is the home of badminton so having the single’s categories be not as solid has left us with a big question mark. What could have been done better? What did countries like Chinese Taipei do, that they were able to make it to the final rounds despite coming into the competition with very few players?
What kind of badminton future can we expect from Asia?