2023 in Review: China’s Year to Celebrate

2023 in Review: China’s Year to Celebrate

What a year it was for badminton, and what a year for China!

After three years, Chinese audiences had the opportunity to watch top-level players in the flesh – and they responded with overwhelming enthusiasm. The Ruichang China Masters (Super 100) in March saw the return of international badminton in China once again after the pandemic-induced break since early 2020. The first Major Championships followed in May with the TotalEnergies BWF Sudirman Cup Finals 2023, and there couldn’t have been a better showcase of badminton.

Sensation in Suzhou

Liu Yu Chen celebrates

Fans thronged the event, and they were treated to one of the greatest comebacks by a Chinese team.

With Japan leading China 2-1 in the semifinals, and men’s doubles pair Takuro Hoki/Yugo Kobayashi leading Liu Yu Chen/Ou Xuan Yi 19-13 and 20-16 in the decider, it looked like curtains for the home team, and fans started exiting the venue.

However, almost impossibly, the stubborn Liu and Ou kept knocking off the deficit, and with a sensational last surge, stole the match 22-20 and levelled the score for China. There were tumultuous scenes with the players in tears and the crowd going wild.

There was still a match left to decide the tie, but the momentum had shifted China’s way. There was no stopping them from then on. Chen Qing Chen/Jia Yi Fan rode the wave to demolish Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota 21-11 21-6 to take the home team into the final against Korea.

Unstoppable Home Team

Having scrambled out from the jaws of death, China were simply in a different league in the final. Zheng Si Wei/Huang Ya Qiong fought off match point against Seo Seung Jae/Chae Yu Jung to put the home team ahead, and from then on China were unstoppable, with Shi Yu Qi making it 2-0.

Then it was Chen Yu Fei against the in-form An Se Young, who had beaten her the previous three times. Yet, the pressure proved too great for An Se Young, and she went down in straight games, allowing China a fairytale finish to the event.

China would host more events through the year – the Asian Games in Hangzhou, the VICTOR China Open in Changzhou, the LI-NING China Masters in Shenzhen and the season-ending HSBC BWF World Tour Finals 2023 in Hangzhou, which returned to China after 2019.

Memorable as it was, the Sudirman Cup was not the only major team championships victory for China. Earlier in the year, fielding a young squad, the Chinese easily captured the Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships in Dubai beating Korea in the final.

Then, at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, the Chinese men’s team made a great comeback from 0-2 down against India, who were looking to make history, with Li Shi Feng, Liu Yu Chen/Ou Xuan Yi and Weng Hong Yang leading the team to victory.

Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong.

There was no let-up in China’s performances on the circuit, with established greats like Zheng Si Wei/Huang Ya Qiong and Chen Qing Chen/Jia Yi Fan leading the way. Zheng/Huang won seven titles, including the Asian Games gold, and three of the four Super 1000 events, while Chen/Jia were like a runaway train, capturing World Championships, Asian Games and World Tour Finals titles and two of the four Super 1000s.

While Chen Yu Fei did concede the top position in women’s singles to An Se Young, she made five straight finals at the end of the year, winning the Denmark and French Opens.

Next Gen Rising

Li Shi Feng’s unique celebration after winning the All England

China’s biggest gain during the year was in doubles. With Olympic champion Wang Yi Lyu dropping out, his replacement Feng Yan Zhe showed he was up to the task as he partnered Huang Dong Ping to seven titles and a year-end ranking of No.4.

Another pair, Jiang Zhen Bang/Wei Ya Xin, who were playing lower-tier events last year, won the Badminton Asia Championships and the French Open, to climb to No.5.

In women’s doubles Liu Sheng Shu/Tan Ning, who are just out of their teens, broke into the top 10 with four titles on the World Tour.  In men’s doubles, Liang Wei Keng/Wang Chang, who had become a partnership in 2022, evolved rapidly into a top pair, finishing the year at No.1 after winning four titles, including the Super 1000 in China.

In singles, Li Shi Feng, with wins at the YONEX All England and the Asian Games, has established himself in the top 10.

Growing Powerhouse

China therefore had the best year among all the powerhouses. Their best players are on top of their game, while their emerging stars are already contending for the top titles. As China showed at the Sudirman Cup, not even the direst of situations will derail their quest.