The world’s best badminton players are back in action in Bangkok, Thailand, from 8–15 May, this time with the world team championships – the Thomas and Uber Cups – on the line.
Barely seven months after Indonesia and China, respectively, triumphed at the delayed 2020 competition in Denmark, the world’s top 16 men’s and women’s teams are back to contest for the prestigious trophies.
It marks the 32nd running of the Thomas and 29th edition of the Uber Cup, which have histories dating back to 1949 and 1957 respectively.
Indonesia’s men, led by Jonatan Christie in red-hot form, and China’s women with Olympic champion Chen Yufei, will be looking to defend their titles in the face of tough opponents.
Newly-crowned Asian champions Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia and Wang Zhi Yi of China will also look to make their marks.
Read on to find out who else to watch for and the tournament schedule and draw.
Defending champions Indonesia claimed their first Thomas Cup title in 19 years in Aarhus in October, and will be relying on Jonatan Christie to carry the team.
Christie, ranked eighth in the world, has reached three consecutive finals – winning the Swiss Open before falling at the final hurdle at the Korea Open and Badminton Asia Championships – and is the form player of the moment.
With the other singles players Anthony Sinisuka Ginting and Shesar Hiren Rhustavito out of form, the Indonesians will also need their doubles pairs of Mohammad Ahsan / Hendra Setiawan and All England champions Muhammad Shohibul Fikri / Bagas Maulana to step up. The ‘Minions’, Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, miss out as Gideon is recovering from surgery.
Also in their group are hosts Thailand – missing their doubles stalwarts –, Korea, and Singapore, who feature men’s singles world champion Loh Kean Yew in their ranks.
Group B features the last two teams to win the trophy before Indonesia, China (2018) and Denmark (2016).
China’s Shi Yu Qi is not in the team, leaving Lu Guang Zu and Li Shi Feng as the top singles players hoping to boost the Chinese team seeking a return to the top with what would be their 11th title after they lost out in the final in Aarhus.
Denmark are no pushovers, with Olympic champion and world number one Viktor Axelsen leading the charge alongside Anders Antonsen and Rasmus Gemke. The Danes also have strong doubles teams, and will be favoured to make it through.
An outside shot from this group is France, with the Popov brothers – Toma Junior and Christo are both down to play singles as well as pair up in doubles. Algeria complete Group B.
Group C looks to be a straightforward tussle at the top between Chinese Taipei, who have world number four Chou Tien-chen and the doubles world number three pair of Lee Yang / Wang Chi-lin in their ranks, and India, who can count on Lakshya Sen, the world number nine who has hit a patch of good form, and the doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy / Chirag Shetty.
Germany and Canada complete the group.
There’s also a blockbuster Group D, with Japan and Malaysia all in the mix.
The Japanese strength no doubt lies in their doubles pairings, as they have the fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-ranked men’s doubles teams including world champions Hoki Takuro / Kobayashi Yugo. With only two pairs allowed to be selected, it’ll be a tough pill for the pair that does miss out.
Whoever is selected will have to back up Momota Kento, the world singles number two who has been in a wretched run of form.
Malaysia will be led by Lee Zii Jia, the Asian champion who beat Christie in Manila last week. That victory will surely have the independent player – he is not officially part of his badminton federation’s set-up – on a high, and coupled with Asian silver medallists Aaron Chia / Soh Wooi Yik in doubles, there should be no surprises in store.
England and USA, who have replaced New Zealand at a late hour, make up Group D.
Uber Cup: Group B set up as ‘Group of Death’
Group B appears to be the toughest group of the four in the Uber Cup, with defending champions China at the top of the heap.
The unheralded Wang Zhi Yi, fresh off the back of a major upset win at the Badminton Asia Championships where she beat Japan’s Yamaguchi Akane in the final, is riding a high into the Uber Cup where she will be able to count Olympic champion Chen Yufei among her teammates.
Also in this group are Chinese Taipei and Spain. That means a likely face-off between Tai Tzu-ying, the world number two, and the freshly-crowned European champion Carolina Marin – now back and healthy after yet more injury nightmares.
Australia are the final team in the group.
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Top seeds Japan are the headline team in Group A, with the world’s top-ranked player Yamaguchi. While there are doubts over the fitness of Okuhara Nozomi, there appears little to cause Japan – winners of the Uber Cup in 2018 in Bangkok – any worries in the group.
Indonesia are also in this group, but are missing many of their top women’s players and will be nervously looking over their shoulders at France and Qi Xuefei, and Germany with Yvonne Li.
The hosts Thailand find themselves in Group C, where they will be heavy favourites in a group that includes Denmark, Malaysia, and Egypt.
With two women in the singles top 10 – Ratchanok Intanon and Pornpawee Chochuwong – as well as the pair of Jongkolphan Kititharakul / Rawinda Prajongjai ranked eighth in doubles, there seems to be little threat to the hosts in this group.
Denmark and Malaysia will likely duke it out for the second quarter-final spot, with Egypt just aiming to get experience.
An Seyoung will lead Korea in Group D alongside the doubles teams of Lee Sohee / Shin Seungchan and Kim Soyeong / Kong Heeyong, with India also likely to make it through with their world number seven P.V. Sindhu.
That group is completed by Canada and USA.
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