India’s new golden girl of badminton, PV Sindhu has stormed home in the final two qualifying events to secure a berth in the prestigious and lucrative season-ending Dubai World Superseries Finals to be held at the Hamdan Sports Complex from December 14-18.
Only the top eight ranked players in the Destination Dubai rankings qualify for the event, and the 2016 Olympic silver medallist seemed out of the running when only ranked 16 with two events remaining in the 12 MetLife BWF World Superseries qualifying calendar.
But the 21-year-old Sindhu reproduced the form which took her to the Olympic podium, winning her first Superseries title in the Thaihot China Open last week, and finishing runner-up in the Yonex Sunrise Hong Kong Open which ended last Sunday.
“It’s an honour to play in Dubai. It’s an event that I have always wanted to qualify for. My form is good and hopefully it will continue in Dubai. I’m happy that I did well the last two weeks. I’m a bit upset I didn’t win Hong Kong, but Tai played better than me,” a delighted Sindhu said.
It was a bitter-sweet moment for India, though, as former world number one Saina Nehwal fell at the last hurdle in her attempt to come back from injury in time to qualify for Dubai.
Having undergone knee surgery for an injury sustained during the Olympics, Nehwal had hoped to have enough points in reserve from good performances earlier in the year to keep her in the top eight. But her loss in the quarter-finals in Hong Kong saw her surrender her place to Sindhu, finishing in ninth place.
Injury also halted the progress of defending World Superseries Finals champion and Olympic bronze medallist Nozomi Okuhara who missed the final event and slipped from seventh to eleventh spot.
Sindhu will face a star-studded field in the women’s singes, being joined by 2016 Olympic gold medallist Spain’s Carolina Marin; 2014 Superseries winner Tai Tzu Ying (Chinese Taipei), Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi; China’s Sun Yu and He Bingjiao; Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon who won three Superseries Titles this year, and Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun.
The men’s singles was also bitter-sweet for Denmark, with three players qualifying in the top eight, but with only two from each country eligible to qualify, 2014 World Superseries Finals runner-up Hans-Kristian Vittinghus missed a place.
Vittinghus seemed assured of qualification with two events to go, sitting in front of Olympic bronze medallist Viktor Axelsen, but appendicitis ruled him out of both of the final events, and Jan O Jorgensen and Axelsen, who finished first and fifth in the rankings will now represent Denmark.
They will be joined in Dubai by Rio gold medallist and world champion Chen Long, who is outside of the top eight but will qualify courtesy of an Olympic champion wild card. The other players in the running for a share of the $1 million (Dh3.67 million) prize pool are Chen’s team-mate Tian Houwei; Malaysian superstar and three-time Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei; Korea’s Son Wan Ho; Hong Kong’s Angus Ng Ka Long who just won his first Superseries Title in Hong Kong, and Germany’s first-ever representative in men’s singles at the World Superseries Finals, Marc Zwiebler.
Apart from the world-class action in the singles competitions, the competition is also set to feature a brilliant line-up of top pairs across all men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles disciplines, with some nail biting finishes in Hong Kong.
Denmark’s Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen produced a magnificent last ditch effort in Hong Kong making it to the final to squeeze themselves into a qualifying position, overtaking their teammates Anders Rasmussen/Kim Astrup. Japan’s Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda’s win in Hong Kong put them at the top of the rankings, while Rio gold medallists China’s Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan will rely on a wild card to compete.
In the women’s doubles, Olympic champions Japan’s Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi lead the field, with Olympic silver medallists Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl of Denmark finishing strongly, taking their second Superseries title of the year in Hong Kong. Japan had three pairs in the top eight so it was heartbreak for Shizuka Matsuo and Mami Naito as they missed qualifying, opening the door for China’s young pair of Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan to make their first appearance in Dubai.
The mixed doubles will see the defending champions, England’s husband and wife team of Chris and Gabby Adcock back to defend their title after qualifying in seventh, but they will face red-hot Rio gold medallists Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir, who are in blistering form, taking their third Superseries title for the year in Hong Kong.