Sudirman Cup 2021: Tackling Asia
The Sudirman Cup is one of the most prestigious trophies in the world of badminton where countries compete as a team. There are two other tournaments in a team championship format, the Thomas Cup and the Uber Cup. Unlike the two tournaments which only involve players of one gender, the Sudirman Cup includes mixed doubles. That makes Sudirman Cup the only international championship where all five categories -- men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles -- compete.
This event was first held in 1989 where Indonesia, the host country, won the trophy. Since then, the Sudirman Cup has always been won by Asian countries with China claiming the titles 11 times, followed by Korea winning 4 times, and Indonesia one time. The Sudirman Cup trophy has never left Asia but this year, it might slip away.
Denmark, the country that came close to claiming the Sudirman Cup twice, in 1999 and 2011, has a slight chance to win the trophy. First of all, they have the advantage of having the event held in their home continent Europe, in Vantaa, Finland to be exact. Secondly, they have Tokyo 2020 Olympics gold medalist Viktor Axelsen who’s currently the world’s number 2 and Anders Antonsen who’s the third in the world in the men’s singles category. However, Denmark isn’t as tough in the other 4 categories.
Asian countries, on the other hand, have a more solid team composition. China is a strong candidate even though in the men's singles, they did not bring Olympic finalists Chen Long in the men's singles and Li Junhui/Liu Yu Chen from the men's doubles. However, they have 3 other strong categories, namely women's singles with Olympic gold medal winner Chen Yu Fei, mixed doubles Wang Yilyu / Huang Dongping, and women's doubles Olympic finalists Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan. In the men's singles, the Chinese will rely on Shi Yuqi.
Japan’s squad is somewhat hollow with the absence of Hiroyuki Endo who recently retired, Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda withdrawing from the competition and Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota not being part of the squad. However, on the other categories, Japan has Kento Momota in men’s singles, Akane Yamaguchi in the women’s singles, Mayu Matsumoto/Wakana Nagahara who is currently number one in women’s doubles, and 2021 All England champion Yuta Watanabe/Arisa Higashino.
There is one more country that cannot be underestimated: Indonesia. This country has strength in three categories, namely the men's singles with Anthony Sinisuka Gintang, the men's doubles with Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya, and the women’s doubles gold medalists of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Greysia Polii / Apriyani Rahayu.
It’s not like Indonesia doesn’t have weak points. Their women's singles Gregoria Mariska and mixed doubles pair Praveen Jordan/Melati Daeva Oktavianti were not very consistent in their latest performance. However, it’s still a solid squad. Indonesia has a chance to reclaim the trophy whose name was actually taken from an Indonesian badminton player, Dick Sudirman.
This year’s Sudirman Cup is going to be interesting. Will it end with China making its 12th claim, Indonesia bringing home the Sudirman Cup trophy, or a surprising triumph from other Asian countries?
Sudirman Cup 2021 Groups: