The Li-Ning BWF World Championships 2014 threw up some unexpected results. The heat of the championships having cooled off, we pick those who created some buzz.
Men’s Singles: Eric Pang
The 32-year-old Dutchman had done little of note this year, having faltered in the first round of four events. However, he transformed dramatically at the World Championships. After a comfortable first-round win over Sweden’s Mathias Borg, Pang (below) shocked 11th seed Tian Houwei in straight games and then recovered from a deficit to topple Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk. In the quarter-final he matched Tommy Sugiarto (Indonesia) shot for shot and was unlucky to fall in straight games, having blown game point in the first and leads of 17-11 and 18-15 in the second. Will this be a late turning point in the elegant Dutchman’s career?
Other impressive performers in Men’s Singles were Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen, who made the semi-finals, and Korea’s Son Wan Ho, who proved a feisty challenger to eventual champion Chen Long (China) in their quarter-final.
Women’s Singles: Minatsu Mitani
While Carolina Marin was undoubtedly the star Women’s Singles performer of the World Championships, a diminutive Japanese stormed into the semi-finals. Minatsu Mitani (BWF home page) ended the campaign of Thailand’s defending champion Ratchanok Intanon after overcoming a three-point deficit in the decider in an hour-long, third-round match, before pulling off another marathon quarter-final win over Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun. Mitani looked down and out at 14-18 in the third game against Sung, but found the tenacity to turn it around from there. Mitani had previously never beaten Intanon or Sung. The Japanese however ran out of gas in the semi-final against China’s Li Xuerui.
Men’s Doubles: Shin Baek Choel/Ko Sung Hyun
That a Korean pair would emerge champions was perhaps expected, but few imagined it would be Shin Baek Choel and Ko Sung Hyun (above). The favoured pair was Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong, who have been in sensational form this season.
Having won three Superseries in three weeks before the World Championships, Lee/Yoo were overwhelming favourites. The title seemed a foregone conclusion as they made the final without dropping a game. Shin and Ko, however, caught the second seeds by surprise with an inspired performance. Perhaps seeking to prove a point against the country’s No.1 pair, Ko and Shin played at a searing pace throughout. Despite missing an opportunity to close out the match in the second game, they never lost their composure and had the favourites on the defensive for most of the 80-minute classic, finally clinching the honours: 22-20 21-23 21-18.
Women’s Doubles: Lee So Hee & Shin Seung Chan
The Korean pair Lee So Hee and Shin Seung Chan outperformed their higher-ranked compatriots like Jung Kyun Eun/Kim Ha Na and Jang Ye Na/Kim So Young. In the third round they toppled third seeds Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi (Japan) who were expected to go far in the tournament. They then outplayed compatriots Jang/Kim, but were no match for eventual champions Tian Qing/Zhao Yunlei in the semi-finals. Another pair that caused a few flutters was the Indonesian combination of Anggia Shitta Awanda/Della Destiara Haris. The No.19 ranked pair stunned No.1 Bao Yixin/Tang Jinhua (China) in the second round 21-14 21-18 before dispatching local hopes Line Damkjaer Kruse/Marie Roepke in similar fashion in the quarter-finals.
Mixed Doubles: Liu Cheng/Bao Yixin
The strong performance of China’s Liu Cheng/Bao Yixin (above) this season perhaps indicates they are ready to follow in the steps of their illustrious seniors like Zhang Nan/Zhao Yunlei and Xu Chen/Ma Jin. They beat English pair Chris and Gabrielle Adcock for the first time in four matches in the third round and followed that by beating compatriots Lu Kai/Huang Yaqiong in the quarter-finals. However, top seeds Zhang/Zhao proved too strong for them in the semi-finals.