The Badminton World Championships are here and once again we can expect some high-octane action to enthrall us. Last year, PV Sindhu and Nozomi Okuhara produced one of the greatest ever matches in the women’s final while Viktor Axelsen sealed the title in men’s division.
So, what can we expect this year? Who are the players to watch out for? With the fluid nature of the both men’s and the women’s badminton at the moment, it’s hard to predict anything. However, there are some players that are likely to make a big impression.
Let’s take a look at five players who are most likely to make a mark in this tournament.
#1 Tai Tzu Ying
The Taiwanese player is simply the best in the women’s division at the moment, but somehow hasn’t been able to produce exquisite performances in big tournaments. This is her golden opportunity.
The 24-year-old has been in great form lately and registered victories at the Malaysian Open and the Indonesian Open. She defeated ace Chinese player He Bingjiao 22-20, 21-11 in the final to clinch the trophy of the Super 750 tournament, and came back from a game down to beat Chen Yufei in Indonesia.
What distinguishes Tai Tzu Ying is her majestic style of playing. She is possibly the most skilled player, producing the most dazzling shots that can take the women’s game to another level, and has proven her class in various major events.
The stage is set for her. Will the lady from Chinese Taipei set it on fire?
#2 PV Sindhu
The Hyderabad-born shuttler has the uncanny ability to come up with her best performances in big tournaments. The 23-year-old has won bronze twice in this event and came tantalizingly close to winning the title in that epic final against Okuhara last year.
She recently lost to Tai Tzu Ying in the semi-finals of the Malaysian Open and to Okuhara in the final of the Thailand Open respectively. Therefore, Sindhu is not coming into the event with a great deal of momentum.
However, as stated above, it is the major tournaments that bring out the best in her and the big stage seems to egg her on. After having lost in the finals of the Olympics, the World Championships, and the Super Series Finals, she would like to break the jinx this time around.
#3 Nozomi Okuhara
The defending champion enters this tournament as one of the favourites and with a victory at the Thailand Open behind her, she is carrying good form as well. Okuhara is undoubtedly one of the most tenacious players in the circuit, along with her compatriot Akane Yamaguchi. The 23-year-old showed her fighting skills in last year’s memorable final against PV Sindhu where she, at one stage, played out a rally containing more than 70 shots.
Watching her supple movements and smooth netplay is a treat to the eyes of any badminton enthusiast.
Unfortunately, she has been marred by injuries lately and hasn’t been able to sustain a great run of form, but with the Thailand Open victory behind her, she may be peaking just at the right time.
#4 Kento Momota
The Asian champion this year, Momota has taken the men’s division by storm. Coming back into the sport after missing for a while due to a ban by his country’s badminton association, the ace Japanese shuttler has shown the ability to take on the best players in the men’s division and come out victorious.
What greatly works in Momota’s favour is the fact that he seems to have the upper hand on the defending champion, Viktor Axelsen. In the final of the Indonesia Open, the 23-year-old completely outclassed the 2017 champion and extended his winning streak.
In fact, it’s been years since Axelsen defeated him and their head-to-head record is greatly in favour of the Japanese.
A fit player with a deadly cross-court smash, Momota has the momentum behind him. Only time will tell if this would be his year and he would clinch the World Championships title as well.
#5 Lin Dan
Lin Dan is certainly in the last stage of his career and the lack of consistency has been hurting him. But, as they say, form is temporary but class is permanent. Maybe this championship is the time for the great Chinese shuttler to produce one last great performance in front of his home crowd and regain the title he has won five times before.
At the moment, his run of form suggests that is unlikely, but with champions, it’s wise to never write them off. The big stage can certainly get the best out of them. Also, what would spur Lin Dan on is the fact that he came second in last year’s world championship, losing to Viktor Axelsen in the final. This is an opportunity to set that record straight.
There are two other Chinese participants in the men’s division who could make a mark – the Olympic champion Chen Long and the All England Open champion Shi Yuqi. But with lack of consistency on their part, Lin Dan is China’s biggest hope. Will he become the world champion for a sixth time?