Success in the World Superseries does not necessarily translate into titles at the Olympics, but for Women’s Doubles duo Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi, it did.
Unlike the other winners, whose pre-Olympic form in the Superseries was hardly exceptional, Matsutomo and Takahashi were the standout pair through the first half of the MetLife BWF World Superseries season. They started off by winning the Yonex All England and followed up with title victories in India and Indonesia. They also won the Asian Championships; there might well have been a fourth Superseries title too, as they made the final in Singapore, but they conceded that final to Indonesia’s Greysia Polii/Nitya Krishinda Maheswari due to injury.
The Japanese rode their brilliant form to the gold medal in Rio; they also set the pace for the race to Dubai, leading the Destination Dubai Rankings by nearly 9,000 points over the second-placed Tang Yuanting/Yu Yang (China), the highest lead in all five categories. The eight top pairs will be invited to Dubai for the season-ending Dubai World Superseries Finals (14 to 18 December 2016) at Hamdan Sports Complex.
Tang and Yu also enjoyed a good run – they were victorious in Malaysia, runners-up in England and Indonesia, and semi-finalists in Australia – but their disappointing run in Rio – they failed to win a medal – was possibly their last campaign together.
China’s traditional strength in Women’s Doubles is not reflected in the Destination Dubai Rankings. Apart from Yu/Tang, the only other Chinese pair in the top 8 is Huang Yaqiong/Tang Jinhua (No.6), whose best performances were quarter-final positions in Indonesia and Australia. Huang/Tang made a big jump after the last Superseries in Australia, moving up five places.
World champions Zhao Yunlei/Tian Qing (No.11) are unlikely to be seen in action again as a pair; however, the young duo of Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan are at No.12 and in sight of Dubai, should they be persisted with as a combination.
At No.3 in the Destination Dubai Rankings are Greysia Polii/Nitya Krishinda Maheswari. The indefatigable pair from Indonesia were consistent most of the season, capturing the title in Singapore, finishing runners-up in Australia, and earning semi-final finishes in India and Malaysia.
A spot below them, at No.4, are Japan’s Naoko Fukuman/Kurumi Yonao. The Japanese fell narrowly short of qualifying for Rio after a strong performance this season, starting with a quarter-final at the All England and a runner-up place in India. Another quarter-final (in Singapore) and a semi-final (in Australia) followed. Given their consistency, the second-ranked Japanese pair are strong favourites to join their compatriots Matsutomo/Takahashi in Dubai.
Japan have a third pair in the top 8 – No.7-ranked Shizuka Matsuo/Mami Naito, whose best showing was a semi-final at the Celcom Axiata Malaysia Open.
Korean pairs too have done well this season. Rio bronze medallists Jung Kyung Eun/Shin Seung Chan are at No.5, while Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee are at No.8. Jung/Shin were one of the pairs who consistently challenged the top Chinese; they finished runners-up in Malaysia to Yu/Tang and were semi-finalists in Singapore. Chang/Lee were not as successful; quarter-finals in England, Malaysia and Indonesia was the best they could do in Superseries this season.
Rio runners-up Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl (Denmark) were semi-finalists in England and India and are at No.9. Dutch pair Eefje Muskens/Selena Piek (No.10) had their career-best showing in Indonesia, where they made the semi-finals, and given their recent form, have a good shot at making it to Dubai.
Among other contenders are Indonesia’s Anggia Shitta Awanda/Mahadewi Istirani Ni Ketut (No.13); Malaysia’s Vivian Hoo/Woon Khe Wei (No.14) and Thailand’s Puttita Supajirakul/Sapsiree Taerattanachai (No.17).
Destination Dubai Rankings (Women’s Doubles Top 8)
1.Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi (Japan)
2.Yu Yang/Tang Yuanting (China)
3.Greysia Polii/Nitya Krishinda Maheswari (Indonesia)
4.Naoko Fukuman/Kurumi Yonao (Japan)
5.Jung Kyung Eun/Shin Seung Chan (Korea)
6.Huang Yaqiong/Tang Jinhua (China)
7.Shizuka Matsuo/Mami Naito (Japan)
8.Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee (Korea)