It couldn’t have been a better year for badminton in the UAE.
February saw Dubai hosting the Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships; a couple of months later was the Badminton Asia Championships – both high-profile events giving audiences the opportunity to watch top Asian talent.
Now, with Abu Dhabi having hosting its first international event – the Abu Dhabi Masters 2023 – the popularity of badminton is expected to soar further.
The Abu Dhabi Masters followed up the groundwork laid by the Dubai World Superseries Finals (2014-2017), which first brought elite badminton to the region. Recent months have seen the opening of several halls, with an estimated 850 courts in Dubai alone. Coupled with the grassroots-level work carried out by BWF and local partners over a decade, the flowering of talent was but a matter of time.
Throughout this season, UAE’s players have made ripples on the junior international circuit. At the BWF World Junior Championships 2023 in Spokane, the signs of this flowering have been evident with UAE players giving a great account of their abilities. Men’s singles players Dev Vishnu and Bharath Latheesh posed a problem or two for Denmark in the Round of 32; among the others who impressed were women’s doubles pair and sister duo Taabia Khan/Mysha Omer Khan – winners of four junior international tournaments this year. All four are homegrown, having been raised in the Emirates.
The Abu Dhabi Masters 2023 (17 to 22 October) was a BWF Tour Super 100 event with a prize purse of US$120,000. The new Marina Hall, located in the scenic ADNEC Marina, offered a fantastic location for the competition, which hosted 194 players from 41 countries. The event left the badminton community in high spirits as it was the first international badminton event in the capital.
The 33 UAE players in the competition had the invaluable opportunity of testing their talent against world talent. Among those who made the quarterfinals were Aleena Qathun/Nayonika Rajesh and Farah Alhaji/Gahdeer Ali Altahri (women’s doubles), while Dhiren and Dev Ayyappan reached the last 16 and were ranked No.1 in the BWF World Junior rankings. In singles, players such as Nurani Ratu Azzahra (women’s singles) and Somi Romdhani (men’s singles), are hoping to make Paris 2024.
Local enthusiasts, particularly at the Abu Dhabi Racket Club, showed immense interest, and thronged the venue every day.
Another great takeaway was the involvement of the Technical Officials team, with 45 TOs helping in delivering a top-class event.
The Abu Dhabi Masters was made possible by the collaborative efforts of 316 Sport Services, the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and the UAE Badminton Federation.