China’s Olympic champion Chen Long has powered through the final two qualifying events to secure a berth in the prestigious and lucrative season-ending Dubai World Superseries Finals which will be held at the Hamdan Sports Complex from 13-17 December.
Only the top eight ranked players in the Destination Dubai rankings qualify for the blockbuster event, and the 2016 Olympic champion and double world champion seemed out of the running when ranked a lowly 20th with two events remaining in the 12 MetLife BWF World Superseries qualifying calendar. But the 28 year old surprised all, forcing his way back into contention by winning the Tahoe China Open last week, and finishing runner-up to his great rival Lee Chong Wei in the Yonex Sunrise Hong Kong Open which finished on Sunday.
The final was their first clash since Chen upstaged Lee at the Rio Olympics, and in a fitting result, Lee, the most prolific winner in the history of the BWF World Superseries with 46 titles, closed the Badminton World Federation’s flagship tour by capturing the last Superseries title ever. The BWF has announced it will launch a new tour in January, featuring million-dollar prize money in its top four events.
Lee and Chen, who qualified for Dubai in fourth and seventh places respectively, will be joined by Indian superstar Kidambi Srikanth who finished the season with four titles from five finals, and World Champion and defending Dubai champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark. Korea’s Son Wan Ho, China’s Shi Yuqi and Hong Kong’s Ng Ka Long round out the star studded field.
Meanwhile, Tai Tzu Ying capped an outstanding MetLife BWF World Superseries season by wresting her fifth title in Hong Kong, defeating India’s golden girl Pusarla V Sindhu. Tai, the Dubai defending champion, and Olympic silver medallist Sindhu will face a formidable field in Dubai, which includes Olympic champion Carolina Marin of Spain, World Champion Nozomi Okuhara, Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi, Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun, Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon and China’s He Bingjiao.. Japan’s Okuhara finished outside of the top eight but will score a berth courtesy of a wild card offered to all current world champions.
Apart from the world class action in the singles competitions, the competition is also set to feature a brilliant line-up of top pairs across all men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles disciplines.
In the men’s doubles the season has belonged to Indonesia’s Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, who claimed six titles from eight finals. Their win in Hong Kong saw them finish the season in the same triumphant fashion that they started, when they captured the coveted All England crown in March.
“I cannot believe it. This has been an amazing year and we will try to finish by winning the Dubai Finals,” said 22-year-old Sukamuljo.
Denmark’s Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen were denied their third title from five finals by the powerhouse Indonesians in Hong Kong, but qualified in second place for Dubai, with their countrymen Mads Pieler Kolding and Mads Conrad Petersen also qualifying. 2016 runners-up in Dubai, Japan’s Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda qualified in third place, with world champions Liu Cheng and Zhang Nan in fourth.
In the women’s doubles there was predictable anguish for Japan who boasted four of the top seven pairs, but with a limit of two players or teams from each country in each category, two teams were destined to miss out. A heartbreaking first round loss in Hong Kong saw 2016 Olympic Champions and 2016 runners-up in Dubai Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahshi miss out on qualification, while quarter-finals finishes elevated Shiho Tanaka/Koharu Yonemoto and Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota into the top two positions. World Champions and defending Dubai champions Chen Qingchen/ Jia Yifan and Olympic silver medallists Kamilla Rytter Juhl/Christinna Pedersen of Denmark will also be back to fight for the title.
The mixed doubles will see the 2016 Dubai champions, China’s Zheng Siwei/Chen Qingchen back to defend their title, where they will be up against 2015 winners and 2016 runners-up, England’s husband and wife team of Chris and Gabby Adcock, and 2016 Olympic champions and 2017 World Champions Tontowi Ahmad/ Liliyana Natsir.
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