2023 in Review: Big Breakthroughs

2023 in Review: Big Breakthroughs
Gregoria Mariska Tunjung

As the year winds to a close, we look back at some of the notable breakthrough performances of 2023:

Gregoria Mariska Tunjung – Kumamoto Masters Japan 2023

Gregoria Mariska Tunjung’s stunning takedown of Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei in the final of the Kumamoto Masters Japan 2023 made history as she became the first Indonesian women’s singles player to win a Super 500 or above title (equivalent of a Superseries) since the Superseries was launched in 2007.

While Tunjung has beaten Chen before – twice in nine meetings – the final saw the Olympic champion fall apart to Tunjung’s near-perfect play, particularly in the second game when the Indonesian won 11 of the last 12 points.

Kunlavut Vitidsarn – YONEX-SUNRISE India Open 2023

Having lost to Viktor Axelsen in all six of their previous matches, Vitidsarn finally found the solution in the final of the India Open. With masterly defensive play and precision attacks at opportune moments, Vitidsarn showed he’d arrived with a come-from-behind victory over the world No.1. That victory would propel him later in the year to the World Championships gold.

Lin Chun-Yi – PRINCESS SIRIVANNAVARI Thailand Masters 2023

With victories over players like Weng Hong Yang, Kenta Nishimoto, Shi Yu Qi and Ng Ka Long Angus on way to his first Super 300 title at the PRINCESS SIRIVANNAVARI Thailand Masters, Lin Chun-Yi showed he was one to watch. The tall left-hander picked up a second title – the VICTOR Kaohsiung Masters on home turf – to climb to his career-high ranking of No.21.

Li Shi Feng – YONEX All England 2023

Li Shi Feng has for sometime now been one of the strong men’s singles prospects from China. However, with modest results in 2022 he was ranked outside the top 20. Early 2023 saw him post some big results, but few could have anticipated the All England, where, after a brilliant semifinal win over Anders Antonsen, Li cut to pieces the challenge of his senior compatriot Shi Yu Qi – a devastating 21-5 score in the second game, which he celebrated with a cartwheel! Another big title was to follow a few months later, with Li winning the Asian Games gold.

Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik – VICTOR Denmark Open 2023

Despite winning the World Championships, questions were often asked about Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik’s lack of titles on the HSBC BWF World Tour. The Malaysian pair, after falling in three finals and three semifinals this year, finally buried those questions with their first World Tour title at the VICTOR Denmark Open 2023.

Kodai Naraoka – LI-NING China Masters 2023

Naraoka belonged to the same cohort as Kunlavut Vitidsarn, Lakshya Sen and Li Shi Feng, but unlike them, he took his time to transition to the elite level. It was in early 2022 that he started making an impact, and he went on to win the Eddy Choong Most Promising Player of the Year (2022) award after making three finals and five semifinals on the HSBC BWF World Tour. After his fifth straight loss in a final, Naraoka might have felt some frustration at not ascending the podium, but all doubts were finally put to rest at the LI-NING China Masters 2023 at the end of the year when he beat compatriot Kenta Nishimoto in straight games.

HS Prannoy – PERODUA Malaysia Masters 2023

For a player ranked outside the top 30 in late 2021, Prannoy’s climb into the top 10 has been an outstanding feat. While he was always a difficult opponent for the very best, Prannoy hadn’t been able to stitch up consistent runs and notch up title wins. The Malaysia Masters 2023 therefore was a memorable one for Prannoy, as he scored his first title in six years. That achievement rubbed off on his confidence, as he went on to achieve his first World Championships medal a couple of months later.

Liu Sheng Shu/Tan Ning – Madrid Spain Masters 2023

Liu Sheng Shu had just won the World Junior Championships last year when she partnered Tan Ning to the Malaysia International Series 2022 title. It has been a dizzying climb for the young duo in their first HSBC BWF World Tour season this year. Their first World Tour title was won in Madrid, just a day before Tan Ning’s 20th birthday. (Her partner Liu is still 19.) That breakthrough win was followed by three more titles, including the Super 750 in France, enabling the young Chinese to finish the year at No.8.