Women’s singles Group A became even more intriguing after Gregoria Mariska Tunjung’s impressive victory over top qualifier Chen Yu Fei, as the last player into the field landed the first major blow on Day 1 of the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals 2022 in Bangkok.
“All three in my group are strong opponents. I lost my most recent matches to Akane Yamaguchi and An Se Young. Also, I can’t afford to underestimate Tunjung, although this is her first Finals,” Chen said at Monday night’s gala dinner.
For Tunjung it was about using that underdog status and lessons learned from her last outing against Chen to form a game plan that would challenge the world No.4.
“Being drawn against them [Chen, Yamaguchi, An], didn’t bother me. The pressure is on them and not me. I knew I had a big opportunity this week as I have played all three recently,” a delighted Tunjung said after the match.
“I definitely have the motivation to perform better than them.”
The world No.18, who snuck into the Top 8 for Bangkok with a runner-up effort at the SATHIO GROUP Australian Open 2022 last month, came out firing in the first game taking it 21-9.
Chen levelled the contest 21-14 in the second before Tunjung’s consistent pressure, speed and movement of the shuttle helped her get the best of Chen in the closing stages.
“Chen was clearly not at her best in the first game. Her strategy wasn’t there. So, I tried to pressure her and keep focused and not think about the result.
“I can’t [celebrate yet] and see this as a big win. I have two more matches after this. They are also tough and I need to focus on them.”
A frustrated Chen said of her performance: “I couldn’t control the shuttle and therefore couldn’t control the game. But Gregoria played very well and kept pushing the shuttle to the sides making it very tough for me.”
World champion Yamaguchi went to the top of Group A with an emphatic victory over An 21-18 21-16 displaying sublime shots such as this.
A moment of magic from Akane Yamaguchi 🇯🇵!
— BWF (@bwfmedia) December 7, 2022
Axelsen won BWF Male Player of the Year for sweeping nearly everything in his path. During the eligibility period from 1 November 2021 to 31 October 2022, Axelsen won nine titles, including his second TotalEnergies BWF World Championships crown, which was achieved on the back of three consecutive HSBC BWF World Tour titles.
“Winning this award at the end of the year means a great deal. It’s a recap of the whole year, and when you win this award with so many great nominees and amazing opponents, I’m really, really happy. Thank you so much to all the guys who thought that I deserved this,” Axelsen said.
Denmark’s Axelsen was named for the honour ahead of 2021 world champion Loh Kean Yew and Asian champion Lee Zee Jia.
Like Axelsen, China’s Zheng/Huang were nearly unbeatable in mixed doubles, with nine titles, and received the BWF Pair of the Year ahead of Dechapol Puavaranukroh/Sapsiree Taerattanachai, Chen Qing Chen/Jia Yi Fan and Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik.
The Chinese enjoyed a glorious winning streak of seven titles in succession, culminating with their third World Championships gold.
The BWF Female Player of the Year was won by Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi, who achieved the rare honour of winning back-to-back World Championships titles within a nine-month period. She also won two other titles – the YONEX All England Open 2022 and the DAIHATSU YONEX Japan Open 2022. The other contenders were An Se Young and Tai Tzu Ying.
“It’s the first time receiving this award and I feel really honoured and happy,” said Yamaguchi.
Fajar Alfian/Muhammad Rian Ardianto’s superb consistency through 2022, when they made eight finals and won four, saw them named the BWF Most Improved Players of the Year. The Indonesians won the honour ahead of HS Prannoy and Jeong Na Eun/Kim Hye Jeong.
Japanese 21-year-old Kodai Naraoka, who had a meteoric rise in 2022, won the Eddy Choong Most Promising Player of the Year. Naraoka made four finals and won the Vietnam Open.
“Winning this award motivates me to reach a new level and win the next competition and become an international star in the coming years. I’ve been working on a lot of things this year and working hard, so this award makes me very happy,” said Naraoka.
In Para badminton, the BWF Awards Commission gave special allowance for the HULIC DAIHATSU BWF Para Badminton World Championships 2022, which concluded on 6 November, to be included in the list of eligible tournaments.
WH2 world champion and reigning Paralympic champion Daiki Kajiwara, winner of 10 gold and four bronze medals overall, was named BWF Male Para Badminton Player of the Year. The Japanese earned the nod of the BWF Awards Commission ahead of Cheah Liek Hou, Lucas Mazur, Chu Man Kai, Pramod Bhagat, and Choi Jungman.
India’s SU5 world champion Manisha Ramadass, with 11 gold and five bronze medals overall, was named BWF Female Para Badminton Player of the Year. Other contenders were Nithya Sre Sumathy, Sarina Satomi, Giuliana Poveda Flores, Manasi Girishchandra Joshi, and Pilar Jauregui.
Germany’s Thomas Wandschneider and Rick Cornell Hellmann, world champions in WH1-WH2 and winners of three gold, two silver and a bronze, were named BWF Para Badminton Pair of the Year, capping a fine year for Wandschneider, who became the oldest Para badminton world champion at 58.
“It’s very important to keep consistent in sport, so I hope to keep competing for the next four to six years. I’m the oldest player in the world to win the BWF Para Badminton World Championships and I hope it’s possible I win the same title at the Paris 2024 Paralympics,” said Wandschneider.
Fredy Setiawan/Khalimatus Sadiyah, Lucas Mazur/Faustine Noel, Muhammad Ikhwan Ramli/Noor Azwan Noorlan, Sarina Satomi/Yuma Yamazaki and Subhan Subhan/Rina Marlina were the other contenders.