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Badminton | 2020, the year so far in review

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Preparations were in full swing for the quadrennial sports extravaganza of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. During a time in which the world would have seen the top badminton players fighting it out on court point-to-point for titles and Olympic qualification points, BWF has had to cancel several tournaments for the safety of athletes in the wake of the pandemic. The Coronavirus brought the world on its knees.

2020 had kicked off on a great note with the Perodua Malaysia Masters Super 500. Kento Momota and Chen Yufei continued with their fiery form and won the tournament. Veteran Lee Yong Dae with partner Kim Ji Jung added yet another title to his title studded tally.

Kento Momota
Picture Credits: Twitter

At Indonesia in the third week of January, home favourite Anthony Ginting prevailed over upcoming Danish star Anders Antonsen. Ratchanok Intanon won a title after a long drawn draught. Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamoljo retained their title in a repeat of the 2019 final against their seniors Mohammed Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan.  

Picture Credits: Twitter

Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu won in the women’s doubles category giving the home crowds an opportunity to cheer so loud as to blow away the roofs of Istora Gelora Bung Karno after three of the five titles went to Indonesia.  In the mixed doubles category, the Chinese number 1- Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong defended their title.

Ng Ka Long from Hong Kong won the Princess Sirivannavari Thailand Masters. Akane Yamaguchi clinched the title, surviving incredible blows from the Korean Teen sensation An Se Young. The first seeded women’s pair of Chen Qing Chen and Jia Yifan of China beat the Koreans Baek Ha Na and Jung Kyun Eun. Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith of England put up a really good show for the gold medal.

The Japanese Champion Akane Yamaguchi| Picture Source: Twitter

At the Barcelona Spain masters held in February, Viktor Axelsen successfully defended his title beating the Thai junior champion Kunlavut Vitidsaran. Home favourite Carolina Marin went down to the Pornpawee Chochuwang of Thailand.

The Corona virus outbreak was rapidly spreading in Europe. While many sporting events were being cancelled and calls were made to restrict international travel, The All England Open was not called off. Players were sceptical about participation and raised concerns. However, despite the pandemic, the fans at Birmingham were in high spirits to cheer for their favourite players. The athletes too, despite concerns, put their best foot forward and delivered spectacular performance at the most prestigious and oldest tournament in badminton.

Viktor Axelsen upgraded his podium finish from runner up last year to champion this year. He scripted history by being the first Danish in 21 years to lift the all England trophy after Peter Gade had last won it for Denmark in 1999.  

Viktor Axelsen and Tai Tzu Ying with their All England Championship spoils. Picture Credits: Twitter

It was a repeat of 2019 finals in the Women’s singles category, Chen Yufei being up against Tai Tzu Ying. Chen Yufei had won the finals then. This year, the Taiwanese Tai beat rival Chen and took her sweet revenge from the loss in finals of Malaysia Open earlier in January. With this win in her fourth consecutive final at Birmingham, she clinched her third All England title becoming only the third woman to win the title thrice after Tine Baun (Denmark) and Xie Xingfang (China).

Hiroyuki Endo, Yuta Watanabe got the better of number ones and 2-time All England champions Marcus and Kevin in a nail biting 3-setter. For the Japanese pair Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota it was their first title here. Praveen Jordan, with Melati Oktavianti scripted history by becoming a male player having won the title twice with different partners in 25 years.

Picture Credits: Twitter

The 110th All England Championship was the last tournament held by the BWF before events were suspended in the wake of the pandemic. Live badminton is to resume tentatively in September with the Taipei Open.  The world governing body has had to cancel several tournaments and it wouldn’t be surprising if more events are cancelled in future. Badminton tournaments require players to be travelling from various countries and frequently to the various host cities which poses a considerable amount of risk despite badminton being a non contact sport is less risky in terms of transmission of the virus.

While we all dearly miss live badminton action, the BWF has taken efforts to keep the fans connected with the sport with various campaigns like Genius of the week, Recalls, Stats and Fact nuggets, quizzes and much more.

Many countries like Denmark, China, and Taipei have resumed training. Some players in India have gotten back on court, in states where lock down rules have been relaxed. It would be difficult for Indians to compete at international level until training at the National Camps in Hyderabad takes place with the complete team and full rigour. Fingers crossed, praying for the world, it’s a hope that the Coronavirus takes a break, the world resumes and also Badminton.

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