A spate of retirements of the once-dominant Chinese badminton players following the Rio Olympics was expected to herald a quieter period for the badminton powerhouse, but young players have stepped up to the plate and will keep China’s hopes alive at the upcoming Dubai World Superseries Finals [December 14-18].
China’s women’s singles superstars and former world No.1s Wang Shixian and Wang Yihan were among the first to retire, followed by women’s doubles players and 2012 Olympic gold medallists Zhao Yunlei and Tian Qing.
Zhao is widely regarded as one of the finest doubles players of her generation having won a total of five World Championships, mixed doubles gold at the 2012 Olympic Games and bronze in Rio 2016 alongside Zhang Nan.
Former world No1s Yu Yang and Ma Jin also announced the end of their careers. With 2012 Olympic singles gold medallist Li Xuerui still battling injury, China suffered a significant dent in their post-Olympics playing roster.
But the final six BWF World Superseries events have shown that China’s youngsters are more than up to the task and the new generation of teens will be a serious threat in Dubai.
After being as low as 25 in the Destination Dubai women’s singles rankings early in the year, talented 19-year-old He Bingjiao powered home in the second half of the season, enjoying Superseries glory twice, at the Yonex Open Japan and the French Open.
He’s superb play saw her force her way into a qualifying spot for the blockbuster finale in the Emirates. But the Dubai debutante will have her work cut out for her, coming up against a stellar field in the season-closing showpiece.
The first-ever women’s singles badminton Olympic gold medallist from Europe, and the current world champion, Carolina Marin, will be in action along with Japan’s own teenage sensation Akane Yamaguchi, who collected two Superseries titles this year, and India’s rising star PV Sindhu who won India’s first badminton Olympic silver medal in Rio, as well as her first Superseries title in the Thaihot China Open in November.
Bingjiao’s explosion onto the singles world stage has been accompanied by the emergence of some dynamic doubles pairings. The 19-year-old Chen Qingchen is looking to take over the mantle from the legendary Zhao Yunlei.
A multiple world junior champion, Chen came of age at the senior level this year, anchoring China to the Uber Cup triumph at home and then winning her first Superseries in women’s doubles in Australia in June with Bao Yixin.
Chen is one of only two players to qualify for both women’s doubles and mixed doubles in her first trip to the Dubai World Superseries Finals, the other being the experienced 30-year-old Christinna Pedersen of Denmark, who won silver in Rio with Kamilla Rytter Juhl, and has won the World Superseries Finals Mixed Doubles title twice before.
The Dubai World Superseries Finals runs from December 14-18 at the Hamdan Sports Complex.
Tickets are on sale at www.ticketmaster.ae. Prices start from Dh25, with those under 18 years entering for free when accompanied by a ticketed adult.