5 days countdown - Sudirman Cup 2003 analysis, part 2 - author : Kwun Han, www.BadmintonCentral.com It has been nearly 4 months since I posted my previous analysis on the 2003 Sudirman Cup in BadmintonForum.com. The article was surprisingly well received and many reposted the article in other forums and even translated to different languages. It is now only a few days from the start of the Sudirman Cup, and I think it is an appropriate time to post an update on the analysis. First of all, there are some updates on the logistics. IBF has announced the participants list from all the countries. Also, breaking news is that Thailand withdrew from the Cup complaining that there is lack of transparency in the group assignment. We will have to watch the development of that in the next two days. Sweden is stated to be the replacement for group 1. Either way, I stay with my previous analysis and I believe that the only countries who have a chance at the cup are: China, Denmark, Korea and Indonesia. The entries from these countries are: CHINA CHEN Hong XIA Xuanze LIN Dan BAO Chunlai ZHANG Jun ZHANG Wei CHEN Qiqiu CHENG Rui FU Haifeng CAI Yun SANG Yang ZHENG Bo ZHOU Mi GONG Ruina ZHANG Ning XIE Xingfang GAO Ling HUANG Sui YANG Wei ZHANG Jiewen WEI Yili ZHAO Tingting CHEN Lin JIANG Xuelian DENMARK Peter GADE Jens ERIKSEN Martin LUNDGAARD HANSEN Kenneth JONASSEN Anders BOESEN Mathias BOE Jim LAUGESEN Michael SOGAARD Peter RASMUSSEN Niels Christian KALDAU Jonas RASMUSSEN Lars PAASKE Michael LAMP Camilla MARTIN Rikke OLSEN Ann-Lou JORGENSEN Mette SCHJOLDAGER Pernille HARDER Helle NIELSEN Tine RASMUSSEN INDONESIA Budi SANTOSO Sony Dwi KUNCORO Candra WIJAYA Sigit BUDIARTO Halim HARYANTO Tri KUSH ARYANTO Hadiyanto LULUK Yulianto ALVEN Nova WIDIANTO Taufik HIDAYAT Dewi Arisandi TIRA Maria KRISTIN Jo (E.Java) NOVITA Lita NURLITA Eny ERLANGGA Lilyana NATSIR Vita MARISSA Emma ERMAWATI KOREA LEE Dong Soo YOO Yong Sung KIM Dong Moon HA Tae Kwon PARK Sung Hwan PARK Tae Sang LEE Hyun II SHON Seung Mo RA Kyung Min YIM Kyung Jin LEE Kyung Won LEE Hyo Jung JUN Jae Youn KIM Kyeung Ran Similar to the tone of the previous analysis article, I will go through each country and analyze each accordingly. Indonesia In my humble opinion, Indonesia is still the weakest of the 4 countries. Traditionally, Indonesia has been strong in the men’s side and weak on the ladies side. The strength has not changed. Without the strong ladies team, Indonesia is facing a head wind in this race. To make their lives worse, the reigning (and outgoing) world champion Hendrawan has all but retired. Taufik is now the strongest contender in the Indonesia squad but Taufik recently in the AE revealed that he has a nagging injury and as a result losing in the 1st round. Taufik was said to have opt out of the Swiss Open and concentrate on the WC in May. It is only our guess whether he will be playing in the SC. The remaining players will not be competitive unless the youngster Sony suddenly finds inspiration in his game like Hafiz did in the Thomas Cup and the AE this year. Indonesia’s MD players remains strong, Candra/Sigit have finally re-emerged from their lows. However, the SC cannot be won with one event. As have been previous mentioned in BadmintonForum.com, the problem Indonesia is facing is the lack of promising youngsters to hold the pillars of the team. With the aging of players like Marleve, Hendrawan, Susi, and sooner or later Candra/Sigit/Halim, who will be there to win trophies? Korea Korea for some reason is always seen to be the dark horse. Traditionally strong in the doubles events, Korea is still very strong in all the doubles departments. In WD, they have matched the Chinese on various occasions, and continue to be a threat to the Chinese continued dominance of the Cup. Ex-Chinese coach Li Mao has warned that he is working hard on the women team. He has worked wonders in the MS and we will have to see what he has produced. So far in international tournaments, we have seen some progress but to overcome the Chinese ladies may take more effort than Li anticipated. For the men side, Kim Dong Moon who just received the best player of the year award has not been as active in the international scene recently. We have not seen him play any mixed events and has only been so so when it comes to MD. We also saw that the team is trying out different combinations and surprising Ha/Yoo went all the way to win the Thai Open! In the singles event, Lee Hyun Il who has been up and down during the year just won the Swiss Open. He will need to be in top form to capture a MS point from potential Chen Hong or Peter Gade. We have also seen the ladies singles player doing a little bit of upsetting, beating some top Chinese players in a few occasions, however, that’s more an exception than a rule. In mixed doubles, we have not seen much from the formidable pair of Kim and Ra in the past few months. We have seen other XD pairing experiments from Ha and Yoo and some other Korean ladies. However, they didn’t achieve much success. On the WD side, we also have not seen Ra in international competition at all. We do see Korea trying out many other pairing with little success. Ra’s regular partner Lee Kyun Won has flip flopped a few partners but hasn’t really found the edge yet. Ra alone is the main support on both the WD and XD and plays a crucial role in Korea’s quest for the Cup. We never know what’s up the sleeve of the Korean coaches. Ra can be frozen and training in secret to spring a surprise, or has age and fatigue finally gotten to her like it did in the previous World Championship? Despite that, I am sure the Korean coaches know that the XD will ultimately determines the outcome of the Cup itself. Denmark Denmark is strong this year and perhaps is the strongest contender for the Cup aside from China, and adding on that the prestige to bring the Sudirman Cup for the first time to Europe, the Danes will surely be paying extra effort. The Danish team is the most all around team with very good if not exceptional performance in each event. The lineup for Denmark is not unimpressive. While the 1997 WC Peter Rasmussen re-emerged from injury last year, he appeared to have re-injured himself again and probably won’t be playing a big role in the SC. However, the revival of Peter Gade is certainly something that the other countries should be aware of. Peter Gade while didn’t do too well in the recent tournaments, he has appeared to have fully recovered after his knee surgery. Camilla has been banging against the Great Wall of China (erm… the WS Chinese team) for the past few years and remains to be the biggest threat to China’s dominance in the area. However, Camilla seems to be losing steam a little bit recently. A surprising 1/16 round lost in the Singapore and AE; losing to Zhang Ning in her home turf in the Copenhagen Masters; she only managed to capture the Danish Open title recently. Camilla will have no problems against any other nation but China. In the doubles department, the ever emerging MD players will be of great threat to all but the Koreans and Indonesians. Yes, that means China should be wary about trying to get that MD point from Denmark. BadmintonForum.com friend Jonas Rasmussen and Paaske captured the German Open title and reached as far as the quarterfinals of the China and Swiss Opens. However, the Danes MD players always seems to lack a certain edge over their opponents and often ended up as 2nd-tiers, perhaps with the extra time that the Danes has been spending on tournaments they will find that missing edge. We haven’t heard much from the Danish WD except that Rikke and Ann-Lou won the Dutch Open. While some achievement to be said especially when both the Koreans and Indonesians were present, the formidable Chinese chose to stay at home. In XD, Jonas and Rikke’s new partnership captured the German Open while bowing to two Chinese pairs in the semi of the Chinese Open and AE. They are certain a pair to be watched and may spring a surprise to gain that crucial point in the XD event. China China is still a very formidable holder of the Sudirman Cup, up till today, there has been no match to the Chinese squad of ladies players. They bagged all the ladies titles in the recent All England, Swiss Open, Thailand Open, China Open, etc. shy of any surprised challenges from the Korea camp, China can easily be guarantee 2 points on every match up against any other countries. That’s only leave one more point to gain and China will be on the next victory stage. IMHO, the most boring way for the organizer to arrange the matches will be to arrange the WS, and WD first, if that’s the case, then China will bag the first two points with little fanfare and any other points gained will end the match up. I honestly suggest that the WS and WD matches be at the very end of the day. Just a little suggestion. Ok, with 2 points pretty safe in the bag, China only needs to worry about gaining the 3rd point. While China has not gain much of a success in recent open tournaments, we must be aware that they have conceded victories to the recently re-emerged Malaysian players. Chen Hong lost to Hafiz in the AE, lost to Wong CH in China Open. He also lost to Taufik in the Indonesian Open. In summary, he has played 6 tourneys and captured 2 titles, 3 runner-up and one semi place. Not bad and certainly justifies a solid holding on the number 1 world ranking position. Add to that Chen’s vast experience in large events including a key positions in the last SC and also TC, Chen will be a favorite. Xia on the other hand hasn’t faired as well, best results in semi finals and often does not do too well in large events, I don’t see Li YB using him in the SC at all. In MX event, the reigning Olympic and WC Zhang Jun and Gao Ling has re-grouped after Zhang Jun focusing in the TC. Many have wondered if Zhang/Gao will find the spark they had two years back when they destroyed the very best XD pairings in the world including Kim/Ra, Soggaard/Olsen, Trikus/Minarti to capture the Olympics and WC titles. They have answered these doubts by winning the Asian Champ, China Open and AE one after the other. Rumors has it that “fat boy” Zhang Jun determined to lost some weight in preparation to the SC/WC and also given up on MD with Zhang Wei to focus on the XD. As mentioned, the XD point is the pivotal event in the SC and the Cup may be won or lost here. The “ill leg” of the Chinese badminton team has always been the MD team. Ironic considering the head coach was a top MD player at his prime. However, admitting that the MD is their weakness and will take a lot of effort to mend, they have reassigned legendary coach Tang to revive the team earlier last year. The results have been so-so with a few semi-finals shows and especially promising results from a couple of younger pairs, Cai Yun, Fu Haifung. However, they will be of a disadvantage in both skills and experience when facing the big guns from Korea and Indonesia. With Zhang Jun focusing on the XD, China has the choice of fielding the more experienced and successful Chen Qiqiu and Chen Rui or the two young pairing. Either way, they will only be hoping for a surprised point from this event. Conclusion In my previous analysis, I left it just as an analysis and chose to avoid any predictions on the final outcome. I believe that it was an appropriate thing to do as it was 4 months away and in the badminton world, many things can happen. With a few days left, the Chinese are still the favorite with their women’s team and all other teams will be face with having to capture all 3 other events to win the Cup. I had higher hopes for other countries 4 months back especially for Denmark. For Denmark to win however, they need to figure out how to gain 3 point from MS, WS, MD or XD. Camilla seems to be off form. Not a small feat IMHO. For Korea, they are almost guaranteed a point in MD but definitely losing a point in WS, with China having the advantage in WD, Korea will need to bag the MS & XD. Will Lee manage to pull that off? There is a lot of uncertainty in the Korean camp with the lack of show from Ra and apparent lack of form from Kim, two key players in the team. I hope this time the Korean team manager will be more modest on what they can achieve else they will be finding a hole to hide like they did in the TC. It will be an interesting tournament indeed.