India is grouped alongside badminton heavyweights China and Indonesia in group A of the Sudirman Cup 2013, according to the draws released on badminton website BadmintonCentral.com. India could hardly have asked for a stiffer draw in the world mixed team championship, which will be held in Kuala Lumpur from May 19 to 26.
China is of course favourite to retain the Sudirman Cup for the fifth time in succession. No other team is within striking range. Perhaps the only team that can provide a semblance of resistance is Korea, which is in Group B with Thailand and Hong Kong. Group C has Malaysia, Germany and Chinese Taipei, which are the dark horses of the tournament. Group D has Denmark, Japan and Singapore.
The Sudirman Cup started in 1989, with Indonesia emerging champions. However, in the years since, China has been nearly invincible, winning the title eight times in the last nine editions. The only other country to win the Sudirman Cup is Korea, with three titles.
In what surely marks the distance by which China is ahead of the rest of the competition, the margin in the last four Sudirman Cup finals has been 3-0. In fact, China has lost just three matches in 29 matches overall during the eight finals that it has won.
The only time the Chinese were beaten in the final was in 2003 at Eindhoven, where it was outplayed 3-1 by Korea. Since then the Chinese have asserted themselves, winning the next four editions without conceding a match in the finals.
With the other badminton powers suffering a decline, the Chinese are likely to take the title fifth time in a row, which is unprecedented. Indonesia has seen weakness in its men’s singles and women’s singles, while Malaysia is excessively dependent on Lee Chong Wei. Denmark too has seen its icons Peter Gade and Tine Baun retire in recent months, and the pressure will be entirely on its doubles teams.
Korea and Chinese Taipei are the teams to watch out for. Korea has strong women’s singles players and good doubles teams in all three categories, while Chinese Taipei will bank on its prodigal talent Tai Tzu Ying to head the challenge. Its doubles teams too are respected.
India stand a good chance of beating Indonesia, but much will depend on Jwala Gutta and the other doubles players such as Ashwini Ponnappa and V Diju. On paper, the Indonesians have stronger doubles combinations, and the tie could go down the wire.