Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Text by Dev Sukumar | BADMINTONPHOTO
Yu Yang, one of the most accomplished Women’s Doubles players of all time, has been excluded from China’s team for the Li-Ning BWF Thomas & Uber Cup Finals.
The three-time World champion and 2008 Olympic champion (featured image) is not part of China’s team list in a powerful Uber Cup squad that includes Li Xuerui, Wang Shixian, Wang Yihan and Yu Sun in singles and Bao Yixin (below; right), Tang Jinhua (below; left), Zhao Yunlei, Tian Qing, Ma Jin and Wang Xiaoli in doubles.
In the Thomas Cup squad, China have decided to field a player whose presence is expected to enthuse fans around the world: Lin Dan. The World and Olympic champion made a recent comeback from his self-imposed exile since August last year. Lin won both tournaments – China Masters GPG and Badminton Asia Championships – on his return in April and has been included as a fourth Men’s Singles player alongside Chen Long (2), Du Pengyu (6) and Tian Houwei (16).
Compared to Men’s Singles, the defending champions have had some trouble in the Men’s Doubles and have had to experiment with different combinations over the last few months. Qiu Zihan and Liu Xiaolong, whose last Superseries victory was at the India Open last year, have been persisted with. Others in the team list are Fu Haifeng, Hong Wei, Chai Biao and Zhang Nan. Fu’s former partner Cai Yun, with whom he won four World titles and an Olympics gold medal, has not made the list. Fu has played with both Hong Wei and Zhang Nan in recent times, but it is likely that he will be fielded with Zhang Nan and Hong Wei with Chai Biao. Incidentally, Hong Wei/Chai Biao beat Fu Haifeng/Zhang Nan in the final of the Swiss Open earlier this year.
Fans can also look forward to the return of two players who missed the last few months due to unfortunate circumstances: Korea’s Lee Yong Dae (left) and Kim Ki Jung. The two are part of a strong Korean doubles line-up, which appears relatively weaker in singles. Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong, Kim Ki Jung/Kim Sa Rang and Ko Sung Hyun/Shin Baek Choel are the flag-bearers for Korea in doubles, while their singles line-up consists of Son Wan Ho (9), Lee Dong Keun (32), Hwang Jong Soo (104) and Park Sung Min (178).
Japan have probably the most balanced side. Boasting Kenichi Tago (4), Kento Momota (15), the resurgent Sho Sasaki (17) and Takuma Ueda (25) in singles and an equally formidable doubles line-up of Hiroyuki Endo/Kenichi Hayakawa (3), Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda (13) and Hirokatsu Hashimoto/Noriyasu Hirata (16) in their ranks, Japan could beat all the odds.
Thirteen-times champions Indonesia will attempt to regain the trophy they last won in 2002s. While they have the services of Tommy Sugiarto (5), Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka (19), Simon Santoso (34) and Ihsan Maulana Mustofa (203) in singles, they have a formidable doubles line-up consisting of reigning World champions Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan, Angga Pratama/Ryan Agung Saputra and Ricky Karanda Suwardi/Berry Angriawan. The notable absentees are world No. 8 pair Markis Kido/Gideon Markus Fernaldi.
The European challenge will be led by Denmark. Jan O Jorgensen (3; right), Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (12), Viktor Axelsen (14) and Emil Holst (55) in singles will be complemented by the doubles squad of Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen (2), Mads Pieler Kolding/Mads Conrad-Petersen (17) and Kim Astrup Sorensen/Joachim Fischer Nielsen.
In the Uber Cup, the runaway favourites are 12-time winners China, but among those expected to challenge them in the latter part of the tournament are Japan, Thailand and Korea. Japan, five-time winners of the Uber Cup, have a balanced team with strong singles and doubles. Minatsu Mitani (12) leads their singles line-up, with Sayaka Takahashi (13), Eriko Hirose (16) and Akane Yamaguchi (83) accompanying her while Ayaka Takahashi/Misaki Matsutomo (left), Miyuki Maeda/Reika Kakiiwa and Mami Naito/Shizuka Matsuo play doubles. The Japanese should go far in the tournament.
Korea too can boast of a good squad. Recent winner of the Badminton Asia Championships, Sung Ji Hyun, leads the attack, which includes Bae Yeon Ju (6), Kim Hyo Min (77) and Lee Min Ji (210) in singles and Jang Ye Na, Kim So Young, Jung Kyung Eun, Kim Ha Na, Ko A Ra and Yoo Hae Won in doubles.
World champion Ratchanok Intanon will hope to inspire her Thailand team to unprecedented glory. Intanon can look to Porntip Buranaprasertsuk (9), Nichaon Jindapon (15), Busanan Ongbumrungpan (17) in singles and Duanganong Aroonkesorn, Kunchala Voravichitchaikul, Saralee Thoungthongkam, Savitree Amitrapai and Puttita Supajirakul in doubles for support.
Among the teams that could cause surprises are India in the Uber Cup and Malaysia and Chinese Taipei in the Thomas Cup.
See full lists of team squads for the Li-Ning BWF Thomas & Uber Cup Finals here.