World class field qualify for Dubai World Superseries final

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Star power: BWF Dubai World Superseries Finals.

A star-studded who’s who of world badminton have qualified for December’s BWF Dubai World Superseries Finals to be held at the Hamdan Sports Complex from 9-13 December.

Following the last of the 12 MetLife BWF World Superseries tournaments – the Yonex-Sunrise Hong Kong Open – the season-ender has begun to take shape with the likes of Men’s Singles titans Chen Long and Lin Dan of China, Denmark’s Jan Jorgensen and Viktor Axelsen, and India’s Kidambi Srikanth, as well as Women’s Singles world No.1 Carolina Marin of Spain, India’s golden girl Saina Nehwal and China’s dynamic duo of Wang Shixian and Wang Yihan, all securing their berths in the showdown.

The event will showcase the top-eight finishers on the BWF Destination Dubai Rankings in men’s and women’s singles and doubles and mixed doubles.

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Apart from the world class action in the singles competitions, it is also set to feature a brilliant line-up of top pairs across all three doubles disciplines.

On the Men’s Singles landscape, Chen Long looms large as the one to beat after a year which has seen him defend his World championships crown and take five Superseries titles.

But with badminton legend, two time Olympic champion and five time world champion Lin Dan back on form Chen will have to produce his best to retain his title.

Jorgensen and Axelsen are also in the hunt, having both claimed a Lin Dan scalp this year. Dubai favourite K. Srikanth managed to hang on to take the final qualifying place, but will have to turn around his recent slump to make an impression this year.

Women’s Singles World Champion Carolina Marin is on a roll, taking five titles in 2015, and finishing top of the qualifying table. Wang Shixian and Wang Yihan took the next two spots, despite neither taking a title this year.

Their countrywoman Li Xuerui finished fourth but missed the cut as no country can field more than two singles players or pairs per category. Dubai crowd favourite Saina Nehwal also earned a berth, along with last year’s winner, Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying

Marin will be making her first appearance in Dubai after missing qualification last year. She said “Dubai will be a tough tournament, but of course I’m happy I could qualify, so looking forward to playing there.

Every opponent is tough, but the toughest opponent is going to be myself. So if I control myself, I know I can win all the games. Last year I didn’t qualify, so it was good motivation for me to qualify this year.”

The doubles events are also poised to be intriguing battles, with Men’s Doubles offering the mouth-watering prospect of clashes between the top-ranked, red-hot pair of Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong of Korea; who claimed six titles this year, and the current World Champions Mohammed Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia.

Lee Yong Dae said “We have had a great year; we’ve won six Superseries. So obviously we are in a good frame of mind now and we expect to do well in Dubai. It would be great if we could defend the title.

"Last year we were able to finish on top. The entire experience was very positive and I believe it will be the same this year.”

The women’s doubles competition is wide open with eleven different teams winning the twelve titles on offer this year.

China’s twins Luo Ying and Luo Yu qualified first, and thanks to a BWF regulation which allows a wildcard to be offered to the current World Champions regardless of their Destination Dubai Superseries ranking, the Luo twins will be joined by compatriots Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei.

Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen will partner with Kamilla Rytter Juhl to contest this category as well as mixed doubles, and last year’s Superseries winners Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi will look to replicate their winning form.

In Mixed Doubles, China’s World Champions and World Superseries Finals defending champions Zhang Nan/Zhao Yunlei again head the list of contenders. Zhang and Zhao have dominated the competition this year, contesting nine events, winning six Metlife supersereis titles and finishing runners-up in two.

The only European pair to upset Zhao and Zhang when they won the Japan Open, Denmark’s Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christinna Pedersen will pose the greatest threat, along with Korea’s Ko Sung Hyun and Kim Ha Na who won the Denmark and French Opens. England’s Commonwealth Games gold medallists, Chris and Gabrielle Adcock also made the cut.

Tickets for the BWF Dubai World Superseries Finals are on sale at www.ticketmaster.ae. Prices start from AED 25, with those under 18 years entering for free when accompanied by a ticketed adult. 

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Brit Conor Hancock wins the 'Survival of the Fittest' urban obstacle race in London, England on Saturday

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Breaking new ground: DIHC.

Dubai International Handball Club captain Dario Menichetti believes the club’s strong debut in the UAE Premier League shows that they do belong among the elite.

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The club broke new ground in the summer by becoming the first expatriate team allowed to play in the previously all-Emirati UAE Premier League and Union Cup competitions.

In their debut Union Cup game last Friday, DIHC pushed current champions Al Ahli close on their home turf, taking an early 4-2 lead before eventually succumbing to a 29-15 defeat.

DIHC’s inclusion into the 2015-16 domestic schedule opened a new chapter on handball in the Emir- ates and Italian Menichetti believes the club are on their way to proving they belong.

Menichetti said: “We are honored to become the first top-division team established by non-UAE nationals. Our objective was to show our potential and enjoy the match. The match was fair and the result is real. We did our best, but it was not enough for the victory. We need to move on, look towards our next game and improve our performance.”

Friday was also a special day for Algerian DIHC player, Jalil Machou. Despite living in the UAE all his life and his father previously coaching Al Nasr, Machou was not allowed to play competitively because he was an expat.

“This is a great moment for us. Competing on the top level is a huge experience. I wish luck to all handball players and teams in the Premier League this season,” said Machou, who scored 11 goals on his league debut. 

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