World Tour Finals 2020: Women’s Singles Preview

Matches played at electric pace with breathtaking skills – welcome to the World Tour Finals 2020! Plunge into the end of season event that showcases the best of badminton.

Women’s Singles is the most compelling sector in elite badminton. The variety of styles and intensity of competition adds up to a breathtaking spectacle.

The WTF begins with a round robin format. Once complete the top two athletes from each group embark on the knock-out phase: semi finals then final. The draw can have quite an influence as the woman who negotiates this phase whilst conserving energy is at an advantage later on. Tiredness is going to play a decisive role: these players have competed in two high level tournaments on the bounce, so those with speedy physical and mental recovery will progress.

Group A: Marin, AN, LI, and Kosetskaya

The irrepressible, extraordinary Carolina Marin is in a group she will want to rule!  Her loud hustly-bustly manner is only part of the story; this clever, committed player drives herself on to overcome challenge after challenge.  Carolina is an attacker who operates at pace; her vulnerability is revealed if her onslaught is faced and countered. Once she gets the opportunity to dominate the front court and use her spinning net shot her momentum is hard to resist so the key will be to see who can pin her back and be patient enough to frustrate her.

She was unstoppable in January: 2 tournaments played and 2 tournaments won.  So, who can halt her progress to this podium? Prediction: Silver

AN Se Young is the menace to the status quo who lurks just over the horizon.  She has been regarded as the player who could dominate the women’s game for years however, she hasn’t achieved that status yet.  Like Chochuwong she can earn great results but I think she still struggles to maintain consistent levels of excellence day after day at a tournament.  At the Toyota Thailand Open she couldn’t handle Marin’s pace and didn’t have a workable strategy to counter it.  She is still an incredibly talented competitor who may progress to the SF. Can she handle Marin this time?

Michelle Li is a nicely balanced player with great racket skills, the ability to play precision shots and read the game.  She has been the gold medallist at the Pan Am Games three times and yet I’ve heard it said that she performs better as the underdog.  I think sometimes her own inner voice sabotages her confidence and that can weaken her resilience.  She is very capable of getting to the semi finals so long as she takes advantage of every chance. That includes beating AN Se Young.

Evgeniya Kosetskaya is the first Russian singles to qualify for the WTF.  She’s not as well-known as some of the top seeds but she has honed her game in the Danish professional league so we can expect to watch a player who is hard to beat and tactically smart.  She could spring a surprise or two but it’s not likely that she will be able to build on an upset.

Group B: TAI, Intanon, Chochuwong and Sindhu

TAI Tzu Ying got to both finals in January but on each occasion she could not slow Marin down.  It feels wrong to complain about inconsistency but while her performances have been good enough to get on the podium she just has not been at her top level.  If she is going to disrupt the Carolina Marin show at the WTF she has to use everything at her disposal including the patience she used to win the All England. Prediction: Semi final at least but I’m concerned about her tiredness.

Ratchanok Intanon: as she got more court time in January, May’s play improved.  She was knocked out of the Yonex Thailand Open at the QF stages by An Se Young and at the Toyota Thailand Open she reached the SF.  Her campaign at the TTO showed off so many of her strengths and reminded us all what a dazzling player she is.  I think her quarter final against a resurgent SUNG Ji Hyun was superb: her gritty fightback after losing the first set was awesome.  Her semi-final battle with TAI Tzu Ying was dazzling with both players showing their creative power. Prediction: Too close to call, but I’d love to see her in the final.

Pornpawee Chochuwong is a young player who has taken some impressive scalps most noticeably her victory last year over Marin at the final of the Barcelona Spain Masters.  It’s unfortunate the disrupted 12 months has robbed her of the chance to build upon this; her assured net play and stout defence mean she could be capable of getting to the SF if she is ruthless in dispatching her rivals.

PV Sindhu – her game has been very up and down since she was crowned World Champion and it would seem that she is seeking to reset her approach.  I’m a big fan of the Rio silver medallist and I would love to see her cast her cares away and play without limits.  At core she is an exciting, intimidating player who can annihilate opponents without mercy.  Once she starts using her attacking clears and screwing down the pressure on rivals, she is so hard to resist.  Given her below par performances this month it’s difficult to predict glory in this tournament but I hope she can start to rebuild her game and use this as part of the process.

Any of these players can triumph in a one off match against the other but fatigue will blunt some challenges. Possessing the drive and resilience to go toe-to-toe with her peers day after day and dig out relentless wins is the crucial factor. January’s nonstop demands on our favourites are building to a crescendo. The athlete at the top of the podium on Sunday will be a worthy champion.


If you enjoyed this then take a look at my recent post about TAI Tzu Ying https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2020/10/03/we-miss-tai-tzu-ying/ or this one about Kento Momota https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2020/12/27/momota-the-return-of-the-king/


©2020 Amanda Bloss All Rights Reserved

Mohammad Ahsan: Player of the Day & Total Legend!

Today two brave warriors fought through the pain barrier together and probably seized a place at the World Tour Finals.

The iconic Dads are renowned worldwide for their match genius. The rock-ribbed duo will force a win when all hope seems lost. Remember the celebrated victory on three legs at the All England in 2019? This R1 win against Ellis & Langridge was on a par with that. Perhaps it was an even ‘better’ victory because we would all crawl to the arena to participate in a final but this was a game in the first round.

Shockingly the English pair raced to the first mid-game interval with an 11-2 lead. Morten spotted that Ahsan was in trouble with a leg injury. All was lost.

All was not lost. Slowly, slowly they dragged themselves back into the set. At 15-16 down there was a draining 79 shot rally and I feared for Ahsan as it progressed; but he was brave and scored the winning shot to level the score at 16-16. The set progressed to 21-21 and then somehow the Indonesian pair got two points and they were over the line. But could they continue?

As the second set progressd it became clear that the English players had lost focus. They didn’t exploit Ahsan’s lack of mobility enough. On the other side of the net the Dads drew on all their experience and tactical nous. Setiawan covered for his partner: they changed their tactics, kept the scoreboard ticking over and the rallies short. Into the interval leading 11-7. Two fighters refusing to concede. Incredibly they kept going. Calmly dealing with everything the English pair could throw at them they sealed the second set and so the match 21-15.

I named Ahsan as my player of the day but I could easily have said “Setiawan” because together these two become more than mere athletes. They are lionhearts who proved once again why they are legends. Bravo! This was an absolute priviledge to watch!


If you enjoyed this then take a look at my article about Apriyani Rahayu https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2021/01/16/apriyani-rahayu-semi-finals-player-of-the-day/


©2020 Amanda Bloss All Rights Reserved

Apriyani Rahayu: Semi Finals Player of the Day

Apriyani Rahayu propelled GreyAp into the final of the Yonex Thailand Open with a sparky display backed up by her stalwart partner Greysia Polii.

This match had all the makings of a doubles war of attrition but a complicating factor was the effect of drift in the Impact Arena and ultimately this was exploited more intelligently by the Indonesian pair. Set 1 was taken by LEE/SHIN 21-15; they started smartly and executed some brilliant net interceptions. Polii pulled back (a little) into uber defence.

The second set started better. Apri was quick and powerful: her aggression plus the slight advantage of the drift began to tell in the scoreline. The commentator Podcast Tepak Bulu likened her performance to that of Keigo Sonoda and I think that’s a very clever observation. Her energy and bravery were exceptional throughout. It was a must-win set and they nailed it 21-15. Game On!

Apri’s combatitiveness and Greysia’s composure really paid off. They went into the interval just ahead at 11-9: there had been one sequence in the early exchanges when the commentary team spotted that Polii had played 12 drops in a row, all beautifully accomplished, all diffusing the pressure that the Korean team were trying to exert. The grit and determination of the Indonesian duo broke the Korean’s resolve. The score continued to tick up in favour of GreyAp; both LEE and SHIN had shoelace fiddling episodes in an attempt to disrupt the momentum of their rivals. They tried to prolong the rallies as well but mistakes began to creep into their play.

Match point was brought up by sharp work at the net by Greysia. In an ironic twist – given Polii’s iffy serve all through the game – Apri planted a low accurate serve over the net. It was left by the Koreans but proved in by Hawkeye. Victory. Well done both, ice packs on and lots of luck for a good game in the final.


If you enjoyed this then take a look at my indepth article about GreyAp https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2020/01/19/greysap-redux-polii-rahayu-are-back/


©2020 Amanda Bloss All Rights Reserved

Player of the Day R1: Saina Nehwal

First, a confession – I didn’t watch the match today between Saina and Selvaduray Kisona. However, I want to award my ‘Player of the Day’ accolade to the Indian player because the last 24 hours must really have tested her resolve to get out on court and compete, let alone win.

The shocking news yesterday that two Indian players had tested positive for Covid made headlines worldwide. Her millions of fans were dismayed at the news that one of them was Saina and that her opponent had been awarded a walkover.

What a difference 24 hours has made. Gossip started leaking out that she had been retested and was now confirmed ‘negative’. Would she be allowed to reenter the competition? Was she OK?

She is a player who has a steely core; we’ve seen this throughout her career. Late yesterday when we got the news that she’d been reinstated it was also revealed that she had been stuck at the hospital for 10 hours. Today, in the last game of the session, having been shifted onto Ct 3 at short notice she won in two sets 21-15, 21-15.

I can’t report that her fitness is back to its best, or that niggling injuries are healed. But I’m thrilled to tell you that there can be no questions about the mental resilience and grit of this athlete. Congratulations Saina!

Honourable mentions today go to Daren LIEW who shocked Anders Antonsen by dumping him out of the tournament in two sets and Ratchanok Intanon who looked sharp and fit in her victory over YEO.


if you enjoyed this then take a look at my indepth article about Saina here https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2019/10/08/indias-saina-nehwal-trailblazer-legend/ or my preview of this competition here https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2021/01/07/badminton-reloaded-yonex-thailand-open-singles-preview/


©2020 Amanda Bloss All Rights Reserved

Player of the Day R1: Fajar Alfian

FajRi were asked some tough questions by the Thai pair Phuangphuapet & Viriyangkura this morning and were on the brink of crashing out of the competition in Round 1.

It was Alfian who clawed them out of a hole when it was starting to look like they might suffer a shock exit. Typically they are a dazzling attacking duo but the slow hall conditions blunted their pacey style and the Thais were resolute in their challenge. Ardianto had a so-so game: his range was a bit off which meant some of his shots did not land. Fajar stepped up and dragged his partner to the finish line with brilliant attacking variations and a positive attitude. At the crunch, match point down Ardianto held his nerve to execute a superb cross-court shot that set up Fajar‘s net kill. He followed this up with 3 flick serves in a row to settle the final game 22-20.

“It was a tough match because our opponents played well. We haven’t faced them before, this is a new combination. We have played Nipitphon but we’ve not played Tanupat, and he played very well today, so we took time to get used to the style”

Muhammad Rian Ardianto quote courtesy BWF Press Office

An honourable mention also goes to Dane Mia Blichfeldt who – in the shock of the day – dispatched P V Sindhu over 3 sets and also Ashwini Ponnappa whose leadership in her XD pairing with Rankireddy took the duo to a deserved victory over the sixth seeds Faizal/Widjaja.


If you enjoyed this then take a look at my previews for the Yonex Thailand Open https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2021/01/07/badminton-reloaded-pt-2-yonex-thailand-open-doubles-preview/ and https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2021/01/07/badminton-reloaded-yonex-thailand-open-singles-preview/


©2020 Amanda Bloss All Rights Reserved

Badminton Reloaded Pt 2: Yonex Thailand Open – Doubles Preview.

Doubles highlights everything that’s brilliant about badminton. The tempo, teamwork and tactics all combine to create an electrifying show.

The Yonex Thailand Open will be our first opportunity to watch most of these pairs since March. The impact of local Covid protocols will have caused training disruption and periods when it was impossible for partners to practice together. Some athletes will have spent the last 10 months enriching their skills whilst others will have stagnated. Now there is a fresh start for everyone and I’m impatient to see who has used this time wisely.

Women’s Doubles

We have been used to the domination of the Japanese & Chinese pairs in this discipline recently so their absence is an opportunity for the other seeds – predominantly Korean and Indonesian competitors – to make a mark. Three Korean pairs are seeded: Kim/Kong (4), Lee/Shin (3) plus Chang/Kim (6) . Kim/Kong will bring a bit more to the party in terms of aggression and imaginative badminton. I wonder if the success of the Korean competitors will be determined by the performance of Apriyani Rahayu. If she can dominate the play and build off the rock-solid foundation that Greysia Polii always provides then Greyap could get to the final. The other twosome to catch the eye are the Danes: Sara Thygesen and Maiken Fruergaard. They could go far if they clear the early rounds and get into their competitive rhythm; they were outstanding at this years Indonesia Masters.

This is a link to my piece about Rahayu being the best player in the SF https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2021/01/16/apriyani-rahayu-semi-finals-player-of-the-day/

Mixed Doubles

This promises to be an exhilarating event. The #1 seeds and home favourites Puavaranukroh and Taerattanachai (that is, Bass/Popor) have a fabulous opportunity for a podium finish. Blistering speed, great technique, accuracy and aggressive style mean that they are a handful for any rival, but they are still ‘work in progress’. They were beaten in this years final of the All England over three sets by #2 seeds, Praveen Jordan and Melati Daeva Oktavianti and the prospect of a return match is a tantalising thought. When Jordan is focused and fit his ferocious smashes and cunning play form the bedrock of a formidable team; Melati’s pace and anticipation make them hard to dominate. So who could get in the way of these two pairs? Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith are England’s best chance of a podium spot in the whole tournament. Ellis knows how to win tough games; his mental and physical resilience are superb and Smith is just getting better and better. They lost to PraMel in the All England semi final this year and would relish the chance of revenge.

Men’s Doubles

Kevin’s positive test and subsequent quarantine at home in Indonesia was a disappointment, likewise the no-show Japanese and Chinese pairs. Nevertheless, because standards are so high in this sector it is not a catastrophe for the quality of the tournament.

The brilliance and depth of talent in Indonesian badminton means that there are still 2 seeded pairs with every chance of making the final on Saturday an all-Indonesia affair. The legendary Daddies – Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan – are superb competitors with impecable standards. Setiawan’s technical ability combined with his proactive, intelligent play means that they have the resources to claw their way to victory even when they are under the most severe pressure. Their apparently nonchalent attitude on court disguises an unshakeable winning mentality. I’m a little nervous of the Indian duo Rankireddy/Shetty who they will probably play in R2. They are young, energetic and improving all the time so this is potentially a game where the Dads need to be ready to douse any fireworks that are thrown their way. Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto who are the second Indonesian seeded pair (#5) must be eyeing the podium. The English pair Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge are unseeded but could be battling them for a place in the Semi-final.

The top half of the draw opened up with the withdrawal of the Minions. The Malaysian 8th seeds Aaron Chia and Wooi Yik Soh have emphasized in recent interviews how hard they have been training during the long lay off and that they have focused on strengthening their defensive game. This could be their chance to step up and win a major tournament. The dangermen in their way will be the Russians Ivanov/Sozonov.

After such a long break these competitions will be won by the duos with the most ambition – the trophies are there for the taking. The athletes who have been able to adapt to the covid protocols in Bangkok fast without letting it disrupt focus will enjoy a huge advantage. Thailand is the heart of badminton for January with three tournaments in a row within a safety bubble: finally, after some very hard months we can say ‘Badminton is BACK!’


Part 1 of my preview is here https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2021/01/07/badminton-reloaded-yonex-thailand-open-singles-preview/ and here is a link to an article I wrote about two of my favourite doubles players https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2020/01/19/greysap-redux-polii-rahayu-are-back/


©2020 Amanda Bloss All Rights Reserved

Badminton Reloaded: Yonex Thailand Open – Singles Preview

In a crazy year we fans have sustained ourselves on archive footage, home tournaments and hope. We enjoyed the one-off Denmark Open in October but badminton reactivates in Thailand on the 12th January.  Everything was looking peachy until the news broke on January 3rd that Momota had tested positive at the airport as he was departing for Bangkok.  As a precautionary measure the whole of the Japanese team have stayed home.  China had already withdrawn so the competition continues without them.

Let’s see who has kept their training discipline over this enforced break.  Who has learnt new strategies and skills, overcome niggling injuries and rediscovered their hunger to win?  We had a glimpse of some players at the Denmark Open and again at the SaarLorLux but Bangkok is going to offer a bigger selection of athletes and some tough competition to anyone who thinks they can mix it with the best!

Men’s Singles

Which athlete has the stamina mental and physical to advance to the red zone of a third set and ask their rival some serious questions?  Anders Antonsen probably thinks he can – he gave a great performance at the DO but he couldn’t walk unaided from the court at the end.  What do we read into that?  Well, here is a player who will plunge beyond the RED…he’s still growing as a competitor but at the death his muscle memory saw him through to seize the Denmark Open trophy.  Seeded 3, he is in the bottom half of the draw and may well meet CHOU Tien Chen on the Saturday in a repeat of the All-England semi-final.

CHOU Tien Chen is seeded 2 and competed in Denmark even though Taiwan didn’t officially send players.  He is slated to meet LEE Zii Jia at the quarter final stage and this could be a very tough test.  LZJ is such an exciting player to watch and he was unlucky to miss out on the final at the Yonex All England back in March.  His speed and power are exhilarating for spectators and hard to contain for rivals so CTC has got to be on guard right from set one or the match will run away from him. Antonsen awaits.

Anthony Ginting – seeded 5 – is always a player who excites me.  I hope that during lockdown he has had the opportunity to refresh his strategies.  He has to stop thinking he can beat Momota or other top players in 2 sets.  As Susie Susanti observed, he needs a plan B or C when plan A fails.  If he has added more strategies to his repertoire then the sky’s the limit: it could open a new chapter in his career. In R2 he should probably meet the rising star in Thai men’s singles, Kunlavut Vitidsarn.  The three times World Junior Championcould block his advance; it’s a potential banana skin that Ginting must approach intelligently in order to win without expending his energy reserves. The Danish challenge is formidable in this sector.  Rasmus Gemke is one of those players who has been a bit under the radar but hard work, grit, and good tactics mean that a possible match with Ginting in the quarter finals is going to reveal how far both men have really progressed over the past nine months.  Gemke was a valiant loser in the final of the Denmark Open and remember he blocked Anthony’s progress at the 2020 All England.  The current All England champion – Viktor Axelsen – didn’t compete in October because he was addressing an injury niggle so it may be quite tough for him to be at full throttle straightaway.  He is seeded to meet Indonesian favourite Jonatan Christie in his quarter final: a great match in prospect for neutrals but too tough to call for this preview.  Christie can sometimes be infuriatingly inconsistent but this could be a fabulous opportunity for him to set up a semi-final against his compatriot Ginting. HK Vittinghus will also be part of the competition following the withdrawal of Laksyha Sen who has injured his back.  Vittinghus scored some great victories in his home tournament back in October and his confidence must have been boosted by this.  Sometimes I feel he overthinks, sometimes he runs out of gas but always a hard player to beat.

Women’s Singles

TAI Tzu Ying is top seed but as Women’s Singles overflows with talent – even without the Chinese and Japanese competitors – she will definitely not have a smooth ride to the final.  Her recent Instagram posts seem to reveal a player with mixed feelings about travel away from Taiwan.  Of course, social media is hardly the portal to authentic insight so I think we just need to wait for things to unfold in Thailand before making any judgement.  I’m intrigued how she will approach the challenges thrown at her in the Impact Arena. The world #1 last competed internationally when she won the YAE and that campaign illustrated a new capacity for patience.  We know she has continued to train diligently all through the pandemic so the onus is on her rivals to upset her rhythm and conquer her.

The top half of the draw means that it’s expected TTY will clash with Michelle LI in her quarter final.  If LI is 100% fit that could be a very hard match.  The winner of which plausibly faces Sindhu in a semi-final.

I wonder how winter training in England has suited P V Sindhu?  She has looked so happy and I would speculate that a reasonably quiet life consisting of practice and a small social circle has given her an opportunity to reset. The current World Champion is known as a ‘big match’ player and has all the tools to go a long way in this tournament.  Can she win this title?  Emphatically ‘yes’ so long as the self-assured, rampaging intense player we saw in the World Championship final is the one who turns up.  Her technique and aggression will take her to the podium so long as she keeps her focus. 

Can Saina Nehwal face down Sindhu if it becomesan all-India quarter final?  Saina is such an intelligent player: mental resilience and the will to win come as standard but I think her stamina may be suspect if it goes to 3 sets.  Before that she will have to overcome the Thai player Busanan Ongbamrungphan.  She is unseeded but skillful and has what it takes to progress further.

Thai women’s badminton has plenty of brilliant players and at the forefront of course is wonderful Ratchanok Intanon.  Seeded 4 she has got a brutal draw to negotiate beginning with YEO Jia Min in R1, Yvonne LI in R2 then moving onto a big QF clash with AN Se Young.  The Korean is a frightening talent so I’m curious to see how she has matured over the past months.  If she has increased her stamina as we’d expect, then Ratchanok has a fight to get to a SF that in all likelihood will be versus Marin. Carolina Marin has endured a tough year.  The Prime documentary about her revealed what a truly extraordinary player and person she is.  In my view, her participation at the SaarLorLux – not a tournament that we would necessarily expect someone of her high ranking to attend – illustrates her commitment to the sport she loves and the fact that she needs to play both for emotional and physical reasons.  I’ve heard that she has had a slight hamstring worry but I don’t think it’s any cause for concern. There was something missing from her game in October though.  Her usual dominance and competitive momentum were off the boil and it reminded me of the sequence in the Vietnam Open that’s shown in the Prime documentary.  Her strategy and trust in the process set out by Rivas were slightly off.  The clip where she sits on the floor, utterly devastated that the game hasn’t gone her way, is very illuminating.

It’s a new beginning and the year is going to be choc-a-bloc with quality tournaments alongside the Tokyo Olympics. Some old friends are haven’t made it this month and we’re going to miss them. I would have loved to see the new look HE Bing Jiao, Nozomi has been on a great streak of form and Akane lights up any match. We’ll have to be patient for Momota’s return to court and postpone our desire for MomoGi. Even despite this I know for sure we’ll enjoy the games ahead – finally, finally Badminton is BACK!


If you enjoyed this then take a look at my preview of the doubles sector https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2021/01/07/badminton-reloaded-pt-2-yonex-thailand-open-doubles-preview/


©2020 Amanda Bloss All Rights Reserved