Monday, August 1, 2016
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan might be ruing their luck as they launch their Olympic campaign from the toughest group in Men’s Doubles.
The World champions (featured image) from Indonesia, placed in Group D, found themselves in the company of China’s Chai Biao/Hong Wei, Japan’s Hiroyuki Endo/Kenichi Hayakawa and India’s Sumeeth Reddy/Manu Attri. The World champions will thus have to be on top of their game from the very start, as any early slip-ups could prove fatal. While Chai/Hong and Endo/Hayakawa are strong enough to vie for possible medals, Reddy/Attri could be dangerous opponents too. The winners of the recent Yonex Canada Open have claimed some big scalps in their career; the outcome of Group D is thus expected to hinge on a few crucial points.
The two top ranked pairs from each group qualify for the quarter-finals. Following the group stage, the top ranked pairs from Group A and Group D will be placed on opposite ends of the quarter-final draw; the top pairs from groups B and C are then drawn by lots and placed at the heads of the other two quarters. All the second-ranked pairs are then drawn by lots and placed against their opponents (pairs from the same group will not meet).
Top seeds Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong (Korea) are in a relatively comfortable group with Russia’s Vladimir Ivanov/Ivan Sozonov, Chinese Taipei’s Lee Sheng Mu/Tsai Chia Hsin and Australia’s Matthew Chau/Sawan Serasinghe. The Koreans will be aware that they were upset by Ivanov/Sozonov at the Yonex All England earlier this year; the Chinese Taipei pair too can be a handful on their day.
China’s Fu Haifeng/Zhang Nan and Malaysia’s Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong, and Korea’s Kim Gi Jung/Kim Sa Rang and Denmark’s Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen are expected to qualify from groups B and C respectively.
In Women’s Doubles, Group B appears the hardest to predict. Korea’s Jung Kyung Eun/Shin Seung Chan, China’s Luo Ying/Luo Yu and Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl are evenly matched, and therefore will have to at their best from the opening point.
Japan’s Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi are expected to top Group A, but the second place could be a close call between Dutch duo Selena Piek/Eefje Muskens, India’s Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa and Thailand’s Puttita Supajirakul/Sapsiree Taerattanachai.
Indonesia’s Greysia Polii/Nitya Krishinda Maheswari and Malaysia’s Vivian Hoo/Woon Khe Wei (Group C) and China’s Tang Yuanting/Yu Yang and Korea’s Lee So Hee/Chang Ye Na (Group D) are the pairs expected to qualify for the knock-out stage.
“We are ready to face whoever is in our group; our first target is to reach the quarter-final,” said Polii. “We just want to do the best we can. This is the Olympics. If we aim to become champions we have to face whichever opponents are before us. We are ready for this. Our training now is more about tactics and building up mental strength.”
In Mixed Doubles too the tightest group appears to be Group B. Featuring two medallists from London 2012, the group includes Denmark’s Joachim Fischer Nielsen/Christinna Pedersen, China’s Xu Chen/Ma Jin, Poland’s Robert Mateusiak/Nadiezda Zieba and Great Britain’s Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock. While the attention might be on the Danes and Chinese, Mateusiak/Zieba have had a strong season and can hardly be written off. The Adcock couple are also capable of producing top-notch badminton, as they demonstrated so effectively at the Dubai World Superseries Finals last December.
Top seeds Zhang Nan/Zhao Yunlei and Yonex All England champions Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto (Indonesia) are the two star pairs in Group A, but they will be wary of Hong Kong’s Lee Chun Hei/Chau Hoi Wah – winners of the Australian Open last year – and Germany’s Michael Fuchs/Birgit Michels.
Among the pairs expected to qualify for the quarter-finals are Indonesia’s Tontowi Ahmad/Liliyana Natsir and Malaysia’s Chan Peng Soon/Goh Liu Ying (from Group C) and Korea’s Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na and Japan’s Kenta Kazuno/Ayane Kurihara (from Group D). Thailand’s Bodin Issara/Savitree Amitrapai and Netherlands duo Jacco Arends/Selena Piek are also favoured to perform strongly.