Photo credit: Tang Shi
The 24th edition of the World Championships last week in Nanjing, China, spoiled us with 244 matches and more than 170 hours of badminton. Three countries shared the gold medals, eight shared all the medals. Only in women’s single we saw medalists from four different countries.
And if we look back to the beginning of the World Championships, women’s single was probably also the category where it was most difficult to predict the winner, even with many people mentioning Tai Tzu Ying as overall favorite. While people talk about the golden four in men’s single – Viktor Axelsen, Kento Momota, Lin Dan and Chen Long – we can talk about the golden eight on the women’s side; Tai Tzu Ying, Akane Yamaguchi, Pusarla V. Sindhu, Ratchanok Intanon, He Bingjiao, Nozomi Okuhara, Saina Nehwal – and Carolina Marín were all good names if one should predict a World Champion 2018. Maybe you will claim that all wouldn’t have the chance, but then again, why not? We often see surprises in sport.
As we know now, it was Carolina Marín from Spain who ran away with the title securing her an even bigger chapter in the badminton history than what she already had; she is now the most successful women’s single player at the World Championships with three titles in total. In between she also won the Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro 2016.
Exactly Marín showed extreme power already in her first match where she allowed Busanan Ongbamrungphan only 17 points in total. Her road to success was initiated. In the top of the draw Tai Tzu Ying seemed ready for something big as well and the thoughts of a clash between her and Marín were already there after second round. But the long time world no. 1 player from Chinese Taipei ran into problems in the quarterfinal where she faced He Bingjiao from China. The Chinese eliminated the favorite and China was in ecstasy. He Bingjiao had secured a medal.
Marín’s opponent in the quarterfinal would be the winner of the 15th encounter between two long time top players, Saina Nehwal and Ratchanok Intanon. The Indian proved to be stronger this time and she has now won twice as many matches against Intanon, as the Thai has won against her (10-5 head-to-head statistics). In the quarterfinal Marín once again showed her power and at the same time Nehwal didn’t have a good day in the office and she couldn’t keep up with the Spaniard’s pace. Once again she left her opponent with only 17 points.
Rematch of last year’s final
China’s hope for the first World Champion in women’s single since Wang Yihan’s title in 2011 was stopped in the semifinal. However, He Bingjiao can praise herself with being the only player to shake Carolina Marín this time as she won the first game against the Spaniard.
Marín’s opponent in the final was to be found in the lower half of the draw. Here we had players like Akane Yamaguchi, Nozomi Okuhara and Pusarla V. Sindhu. The two latter have become somehow famous for playing some insanely long matches with the final of last year’s World Championship as the wildest one; 1 hour and 50 minutes it took Okuhara to claim the title in Glasgow last year.
This year the now former Japanese World Champion couldn’t do much when she was once again up against Sindhu in the quarterfinal. The tall Indian outplayed the short Japanese in two games and it was now up to Akane Yamaguchi to secure a medal for Japan.
Badminton history to be made
Yamaguchi entered the semifinal against Sindhu with just one bump on the way, which was in the quarterfinal against Chen Yufei. The Japanese needed three games before she could call herself a medalist in Nanjing. Against Sindhu however, it was the end of the line. The Indian secured her second consecutive spot in the World Championship final with a win in two games and she was now the only one who could prevent Marín from taking her third gold.
No matter who would win the final, badminton history would be written. Either Carolina Marín would become the record holder of most World Championship titles in women’s single, or Pusarla V. Sindhu would become the first Indian to claim the gold. And we all know how that chapter of badminton history went…
Carolina Marín, Spain
World ranking before Nanjing: 8
World ranking after Nanjing: 6