The 2016 Rio Olympics served up a breathtaking display of badminton which saw the gold medal honours shared between China, Indonesia, Japan and Spain.
But for the Olympic medallists there has been little respite as the race to qualify for the lucrative season ending Dubai World Superseries Finals began in earnest at the Yonex Japan Open last week.
Only the top eight ranked players in the world in men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles at the conclusion of the 12 Metlife Superseries events held throughout the year will qualify to compete in Dubai.
For the past two years the Dubai World Superseries Finals have captivated audiences as they served up a masterclass in badminton, and now with Olympic reputations to uphold and scores to settle, this year’s event promises to be another exciting contest.
Tickets are now on sale and badminton fans should get in early to ensure they don’t miss a minute of the action from December 14-18 at the Hamdan Sports Complex.
At only Dh25 per day or Dh100 for five days, tickets represent excellent value for money and a fantastic opportunity to see the Olympic medallists in action.
The battles to qualify for the Dubai World Superseries Finals in every category have produced a number of surprises so far this year.
With only five events remaining on the Superseries Calendar, the retirements of some of China’s senior players and the emergence of new stars at the Japan Open, some of the categories have been blown wide open.
In the men’s singles in the Japan Open, Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei, who took his third Olympic silver in Rio, picked up his sixth Japan Open title and his third Superseries title for 2016.
The 33 year-old still has what it takes and should take over top spot when the rankings are updated this week, and the current world number one is on track to make his first appearance in Dubai.
Denmark’s Jan Jorgensen’s was runner-up in Japan, and consistent performances see him moving into second place, ahead of China’s Tian Houwei.
Hans- Kristian Vittinghus, who was runner-up in Dubai in 2014 will take fourth spot after his win in the Xiamenair Australian Open in June.
After his victory in Australia, Vittinghus said: “Since making the Men’s Singles final in Dubai in 2014, it has been a big goal of mine to qualify for Dubai again. The tournament is fantastic and I definitely want to experience that again. I think if I continue playing well and take my chances, I can do it. This victory (in Australia) is a big help and I hope to do well in the second half of the Superseries season also.”
Rio Olympic gold medallist, two-time world champion and 2014 World Superseries Finals champion Chen Long is yet to take a Superseries title in 2016, but his gold medal in Rio proves that he can find form when the pressure is on.
His absence from the Japan Open though, sees him currently languishing well outside the top eight in the rankings.
The rankings in the Women’s Singles category have been shaken up by the retirement of former world number ones, China’s Wang Shixian and Wang Yihan who were sitting in 4th and 5th place.
With two other former world number ones, Saina Nehwal and China’s Li Xuerui both dealing with knee injuries, the qualification door has opened for those who perform well in the next five events.
The retirements favour Rio Olympic gold medallist and two-time world champion Carolina Marin who hasn’t carried her sublime form of 2015 into the Superseries this year and is still without a title.
Marin also missed the Japan Open and is ranked outside the top eight, but is still in the hunt to qualify and take the one big title that has eluded her so far.
Leading the rankings is Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon, who took three of the first six Superseries titles this year, but went down in the quarter finals in Japan.
Intanon is followed by 2014 Superseries Finals winner, Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying, ahead of Saina Nehwal, who is still hoping to qualify for Dubai despite having a forced layoff.
Nehwal’s sights were set on Dubai, but as she is likely to be out of action until November, the injury may have put her out of contention.
“Of course I want to qualify again. I really like that place and the event. So many Indians come to support me so I hope I can go there and win it. I hope I can finally make my fans in Dubai happy,” she said.
In Japan it was the turn of the new guard of Chinese players to shine, with 19 year old He Bingjiao taking her first Superseries title, and pushing her ranking into the top eight.
Runner up Sun Yu will also now break into the top eight and be in the hunt for a berth in Dubai.
After taking all five golds on offer in London in 2012, China’s only gold in Rio went to the experienced Men’s Doubles pair of Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan.
But with only one title to their names so far this year they will drop to 8th place in the updated rankings. Despite crashing out in the first round in Japan, first place will be taken by fellow Chinese pair Chai Biao and Hong Wei.
Top ranked Women’s Doubles pair of Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi were favourites to take their fourth title of the year in their home event to add to the gold medal they collected in Rio.
But their dream run came to a halt as Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl avenged their loss in Rio to take the Japan Open and their first Superseries title of the year. Their win should push them into fourth on the rankings, and on track for Dubai.
Korea’s Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na lead the field in the Mixed Doubles, with Rio gold medallists, Indonesia’s Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir in fourth place.
The Dubai World Superseries Finals will be held under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council.
The competition is being staged in Dubai each December until 2017 as part of a four-year partnership, facilitated by Falcon and Associates in partnership with the Dubai Sports Council and the Badminton World Federation (BWF).
Tickets are on sale at www.ticketmaster.ae For all information about the event visit www.dubaisuperseriesfinals.ae