World champion Carolina Marin has been in red-hot form this season, but she will have to be on her toes when the Dubai World Superseries Finals begins on Wednesday.
Marin, winner of five World Superseries titles, found herself alongside formidable challengers in Women’s Singles Group A when the draws were made today. The top seed will have to fend off World Championships runner-up Saina Nehwal (India), Yonex Open Japan champion Nozomi Okuhara (Japan) and defending champion Tai Tzu Ying (Chinese Taipei) to make the semi-finals.
Eight of the best players and pairs in each category in the Destination Dubai Rankings have made the shortlist for the season-ending finale in Dubai. The format consists of a league stage followed by knockout (the top two players/pairs in each group will make the semi-finals). The draw ceremony was held today in the presence of BWF President Poul-Erik Høyer; HE Saeed Hareb, Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council, other dignitaries, sponsors and media. Participants of BWF’s Shuttle Time Dubai programme helped picked the draws by lots.
“I know it’s going to be difficult,” said Marin.
“It’s probably harder than a Superseries because each opponent is very tough. But my biggest opponent is myself and I will aim to enjoy each game.”
Group B in Women’s Singles has the two Chinese – Wang Shixian and Wang Yihan – apart from BCA Indonesia Open champion Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand) and Victor Korea Open champion Sung Ji Hyun (Korea).
Korea’s defending champions Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong, like Marin, might rue their luck in Group A of Men’s Doubles. Lee and Yoo are drawn alongside World champions Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan (Indonesia), China’s Zhang Nan/Fu Haifeng and Japan’s Hiroyuki Endo/Kenichi Hayakawa.
Group B has Yonex All England champions Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen (Denmark), last year’s runners-up Chai Biao/Hong Wei (China), Denmark’s Mads Conrad-Petersen/Mads Pieler Kolding and Korea’s Kim Gi Jung/Kim Sa Rang.
World and Olympic champions in Women’s Doubles, Tian Qing/Zhao Yunlei, received a wild card and find themselves in Group B, with World Championships runners-up Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl (Denmark), Korea Open champions Greysia Polii/Nitya Krishinda Maheswari (Indonesia) and Eefje Muskens/Selena Piek (Netherlands).
Group A has the defending champions Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi, besides China’s Luo Ying/Luo Yu, Korea’s Chae Yoo Jung/Kim So Yeong and Japan’s Naoko Fukuman/Kurumi Yonao.
In Men’s Singles, the odds will be on Chen Long (China) to defend his title, considering the absence of senior compatriot Lin Dan (due to injury) and Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei, who was unable to qualify. Given his form this season, Chen appears to have the edge over group-mates Jan O Jorgensen (Denmark), Tian Houwei (China) and Hu Yun (Hong Kong), while in Group B, it looks like a closer contest between Kento Momota (Japan), Viktor Axelsen (Denmark), Chou Tien Chen (Chinese Taipei) and Kidambi Srikanth (India).
Indonesia’s Tontowi Ahmad/Liliyana Natsir might still be smarting from their narrow World Championships loss at home to eventual champions Zhang Nan/Zhao Yunlei; they have a chance to make some amends as they are grouped together in Mixed Doubles Group A, along with Lee Chun Hei/Chau Hoi Wah (Hong Kong) and Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock (England). Group B looks set for some close contests between Liu Cheng/Bao Yixin (China), Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na (Korea), Joachim Fischer Nielsen/Christinna Pedersen (Denmark) and Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto (Indonesia).