The best badminton players in the world gathered at a gala reception in Dubai on Monday night to recognize the BWF Players of the Year, ahead of this week’s season-ending BWF Dubai World Superseries Finals in the UAE.
Action in the Superseries Finals kicks off tomorrow at the Hamdan Sports Complex as the world’s best players battle it out until Sunday December 13 for the big prizes on offer.
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And at the awards, it was a special night for both the men’s and women’s World Champions, with Chen Long of China and Carolina Marin of Spain taking home the Male and Female Player of the Year gongs.
China’s rising star and World Junior Champion in Mixed Doubles and Men’s Doubles Zheng Si Wei won the Eddy Choong Award for Most Promising Player of the Year, and for the first time, BWF honoured para-badminton players with the year-end awards.
Korea’s Lee Sam Seop was named Male Para-Badminton Player of the Year, while Helle Sofie Sagoy was honoured with Female Para-Badminton Player of the Year.
Lee, who took up badminton after he suffered an accident, said: “I’m honoured to receive this award. I was emotional when I won it because this was the first such award for para-badminton.”
Over the last two years, Long has emerged as the most consistent men’s singles player in the world. After a successful 2014, he continued to blaze a trail this year, winning five World Superseries titles and defending his BWF World Championships crown, as well helping China lift the Sudirman Cup.
SLEEK N’ STYLISH They are pretty good on the badminton courts but last night Chou Tien Chen and Ratchanok… https://t.co/z0WdcTxLsv
— BWF (@bwfmedia) December 8, 2015
Marin was in contention for the award along with Chinese duo Zhao Yunlei and Bao Yixin and India’s Saina Nehwal. The Spaniard started and ended the year on a perfect note – winning the All England in March and the Hong Kong Open in November. In between, she picked up three other World Superseries titles and retained her World Championships gold medal.
A delighted Marin admitted she had not expected to win the award, she said: “I thought Zhao would win it because she’s had a great year as well.”
“I’m very happy, because it’s affirming that you did something great during the year.”
Only the eight top-ranked players from the BWF Destination Dubai Rankings in men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles have earned a place in this week’s prestigious tournament, which sees them compete for a share of a $1million prize pool.
To qualify for Dubai the players had to amass points from twelve MetLife BWF World Superseries Tournaments held around the world throughout the year.
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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Indian sensation Saina Nehwal is keeping her expectations low heading into the badminton World Super Series Finals in Dubai this week as she attempts to fully recover from a lingering Achilles problem.
Nehwal, who became the first Indian woman to rank No1 in the sport earlier this season but has now dropped to No2, has been dealt a daunting draw in Dubai where she shares a group with top-ranked Spaniard and reigning world champion Carolina Marin, defending Finals champion Tai Tzu-ying and Japan’s former world junior champion Nozomi Okuhara.
Group B includes Chinese duo Wang Shixian and Wang Yihan along with Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon and South Korea’s Sung Ji-hyun.
“I’ve been okay for the last four or five days and I just hope to give my best,” Nehwal told reporters on Monday ahead of the Finals which take place at the Hamdan Sports Complex from December 9-13.
“Of course I’m not expecting big results because of the injury which I had in China. I just want to give my best and I’m sure if I do that I can do really well.”
Marin, the current world No1, has emerged as a tough rival for Nehwal, who leads their head-to-head 3-2 but has lost to the Spaniard in their last two encounters this season – in the finals of the All England Open and the World Championships.
The pair share numerous similarities as they both have become icons in their respective countries – Marin pioneering the badminton scene in Spain and Nehwal driving more and more females to take up the sport.
Both have chosen tennis legends as idols, Nehwal says she has been inspired by Roger Federer while Marin looks up to her compatriot Rafael Nadal.
But while Nehwal will be making her fifth consecutive appearance at the World Super Series Finals – which includes the top eight players in the Destination Dubai rankings (points from Super Series events only), Marin will be making her debut, having missed the cut last year despite being 2014 world champion.
Nehwal admits the round robin format of the Finals poses a different challenge compared to other tournaments which follow a regular knockout schedule but she hopes her previous experience in the competition, and her large fan base in Dubai will help her cause.
This week at the Hamdan Sports Complex, Nehwal will be backed by her “Saina Squad”, a group of 20 passionate Indian fans selected by broadcaster Star Sports to support the world No2 court-side at her matches.
“I’m very very happy to see that there are so many Indians coming and watching my matches” said the 25-year-old. “It’s a positive sign because if people travel like this with me for more time then the interest will become more and we can see more badminton players from India coming up.”
— Star Sports (@StarSportsIndia) December 7, 2015
On being drawn with Marin in Group A, Nehwal added: “I think she had a great year this year, she’s been playing really well.
“She’s a tough competitor for everyone. She’s in good shape right now and I’m struggling with the injury so you never know. In this group she and Tai Tzu Ying are the main people whom I’ve lost to this year and I just hope I give them a good fight.”
On her part, Marin, 22, is looking forward to experiencing round robin play for the first time. The Andalucian won five Super Series titles this season and comes to Dubai in great form.
“I know it’s going to be difficult but of course I’m looking forward to playing tough matches because if I want to win this tournament I need to do that,” said the top-seeded Marin.
In the men’s singles, world No1 Chen Long, is looking to defend his Finals crown from last year.
The 26-year-old is having his best season to date, having won seven big titles including the World and the All England championships.
“I have learned to deal with the pressure and relax. I don’t think about being a champion – I just put my heart into the game I love,” said the Chinese, who is the first man to win more than 100,000 ranking points.
Tanjay Knights showcased their gravity-defying flips and acrobatic moves to thump Desert Fox 25-23; 12-21; 15-9 and lift the inaugural JK Sports Sepak Takraw Cup at the Jumeira Baccalaureate School on Saturday night.
Both teams started the game with mental toughness with no side gaining the upper hand as powerful flips were exchanged and both sides embroiled in a point-for-point chase until 20-20 deuce before Tanjay Knights pulled away with rolling kicks to take the first set 25-23.
Desert Fox retaliated in the second set as Alvin dela Cruz, who was awarded Best Spiker, sent Tanjay Knights reeling down the line with his acute smashes.
Desert Fox demolished Tanjay Knights 21-12 in the second frame but their momentum faded in the third set as they committed numerous unforced errors coupled with smashes into the net and several out of bounds service.
After resting in the second frame, Tanjay Knights team captain and MVP Mark Anthony Abrasaldo returned to the court in the final stretch and took the scoring cudgels for his team with powerful attacks while his team mates Charlie Gador and Jun Elmer Tantoy proved effective in erecting a solid defence.
Tanjay Knights stunned Desert Fox in the third and deciding set 15-9 to bag the Cup.
“We are definitely overjoyed with our victory,” Abrasaldo told Sport3600. “It was a great match from both side but we proved to be the better team by being very aggressive in the final set.”
For his part Desert Fox team captain Ken Petinglay said: “We experienced fatigue in the third set but we’re happy with ourselves for putting up a big fight despite playing with no substitution.”
Meanwhile, Azkals trounced Fighters in two straight sets (15-7; 15-10) to claim third place.
Ten teams from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Al Ain, Sharjah, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah participated in the one-day Sepak Takraw tournament organised by JK Sports in cooperation with Fiesta-UAE (Filipino Expatriates Sepak Takraw Association) and Gajah Emas-Malaysia.
Both JK Sports chairman Roland Crisostomo and Fiesta-UAE president Hector Santillas said they are hoping Sepak Takraw, a sport native to Southeast Asia which is a cross between volleyball and football, will see considerable growth in the UAE.
The game means to kick ball and is combination of two words: sepak, the Malay word for kick; and takraw, the Thai word for woven ball. Players do somersaults and can only use their feet, knee, chest and head to touch the ball which is made of synthetic fibre or rattan.
MVP – Mark Anthony Abrasaldo
Best setter – Ronald Nanat
Best spiker – Alvin dela Cruz
Best tekong (server) – Daryl Masica