Wednesday 16 March 2016
With 17 months to go to the TOTAL BWF World Championships 2017, the first major tournament of 2016 has thrown up some new contenders for honours when badminton’s biggest event comes to Glasgow’s Emirates Arena next year.
Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov scored the biggest surprise by winning Russia their first ever title at the Yonex All England Open Championships in Birmingham.
Yet some things never change. China’s Lin Dan, the most charismatic player the sport has ever seen, proved he still has what it takes by winning his sixth men’s singles title to add to his five World titles and two Olympic golds. Can he possibly make it three in Rio, where many of today’s star players will call time on their careers?
But with the surprise early exits of former All England champions Chen Long and Lee Chong Wei, there were some new faces establishing themselves at this first of five Premier events on the MetLife BWF World SuperSeries circuit.
Two of China’s new kids on the block in runner-up Tian Houwei and semi-finalist Xue Song made a big impact at the Barclaycard Arena, as did Denmark’s 2015 Scottish Open Grand Prix winner Hans-Kristian Vittinghus, who also reached the last four before losing to Tian in three games.
It was Vittinghus’s best performance at the All England and he can now be confident of being one to watch in Glasgow alongside Denmark’s top two men’s singles players, Jan O Jorgensen and Viktor Axelsen.
It was a similar story in women’s singles. Spain’s Carolina Marin, who like Chen Long will be bidding to make it a hat-trick of World singles titles in Glasgow next year, went out in the semi-finals. But World Superseries Finals winner Nozomi Okuhara of Japan showed that was no fluke by becoming Japan’s first women’s singles winner at the All England since three-time champion Hiroe Yuki in 1977
Okuhara celebrated her 21st birthday on finals day by beating the two-time champion Wang Shixian in a 99-minute contest, winning 21-19 in the third game to avenge Eriko Hirose’s defeat by the Chinese star in the 2011 final.
She said: “There were a lot of expectations placed on me after winning the SuperSeries Finals in Dubai and I felt I had to try and answer them here. Judging by the support throughout the match and the crowd’s reaction at the end I think I have done that!”
The resurgence in Japanese badminton is sure to continue through to Glasgow with them taking two of the All England titles, adding the women’s doubles to the singles, and just missing out on a third title in the men’s doubles.
That’s where the biggest surprise occurred as reigning European champions Ivanov and Sozonov gave Russia their first All England title at the oldest international tournament in world badminton.
The overjoyed pair, who will defend their European title in France next month, performed their own version of the Haka to celebrate their unexpected triumph but the pair, who won the men’s doubles title at the 2011 Scottish Open in at the Kelvin Hall, were stunned by their own success.
Ivanov and Sozonov, ranked No. 13 in the world, defeated world No. 7s Hiroyuki Endo and Kenichi Hayakawa 21-23 21-18 21-16 and Sozonov said: “This is the biggest tournament in the world and we just won it by beating one of the best men’s doubles pairs in the world. It’s absolutely amazing.”
Ivanov said: ““We have lost five times in the first round here. There is a joke in Russia that if we win one match we will win the tournament. This is a miracle.”
Sozonov added: “This is our first Superseries final and to win at the best tournament in the world makes us very proud and so excited. This is a new page for Russia and a wonderful new experience for us which we hope will come again.”
“When we won, we did the dance which we thought up from the Haka because it is an impressive dance to us.”
Perhaps they will be dancing in the streets of Glasgow come 2017!