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Tuesday December 18, 2012

Nothing super about the Super Series Finals in Shenzhen

SHENZHEN: The Badminton Super Series Finals was supposed to be the flagship event of the 12-leg circuit, but this year’s tournament turned out to be anything but that.

Players declining to compete – despite having qualified – made the tournament look like a second rate event.

The Koreans and Japanese were conspiciously absent from the field, with the exception of Kenichi Tago and men’s doubles Hiroyuki Endo-Kenichi Hayakawa, who finished runners-up.

The organisers must have also felt frustrated that defending men’s singles champion Lin Dan did not qualify for the eight-man field.

Lin Dan (pic) married his long-time girlfriend Xie Xingfang after the London Olympics in August and has not competed in any tournament since.

Making it worse was the abrupt withdrawal of Lee Chong Wei due to a thigh muscle strain after he lost in three games to China’s Du Pengyu in his opening group match on Wednesday.

Pengyu reached the final on Sunday but was beaten by last year’s runner-up Chen Long.

Chong Wei attributed his current condition to the long and hard season and for competing in tournaments despite getting married last month. But he needs to remember that it was his desire to wrest the No. 1 ranking from Lin Dan that forced him to compete in most of the Super Series events after the Olympics.

Player can decline not to compete in the Finals and request to be exempted on medical grounds and there’s nothing the Badminton World Federation (BWF) can do at the moment. Perhaps the BWF should consider raising the prize money to make it more attractive for the top players.

BWF events director Darren Parks did not discount the possibility of raising the prize money, which has stood at US$500,000 since its inception in 2008.

“It was a shame that Chong Wei pulled out as the local fans know him and wanted him to play. The season is longer but badminton players are now earning twice what they used to over the last two years,” said Parks.

“The prize money has increased and we are going to have more Premier Super Series events in the future.

“The potential for the sport to grow bigger is there and we can learn from tennis, where the players compete in 20 tournaments a year.”

Another thing BWF should look into is making sure teams do not take advantage of the scheduling to ensure maximum representation in the semi-finals.

For example, China “made sure” their two men’s doubles pairs – Fu Haifeng-Cai Yun and Hong Wei-Shen Ye – got into the semi-finals from different groups. Hong Wei-Shen Ye lost to Endo-Hayakawa and finished as Group B runners-up behind the Japanese pair.

Later, Olympic champions Haifeng-Cai Yun took on Danes Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen in a Group A match. A win for Haifeng-Cai Yun would see them facing their compatriots in the semi-finals.

Not surprisingly, Haifeng-Cai Yun lost to the Danes and finished as Group A runners-up. However, their efforts were in vain as both Chinese pairs did not make the final.

Haifeng-Cai Yun conceded a walkover after the latter sprained his back against the Japanese while the younger Chinese pair were beaten by the more superior Danes, who went on to claim their third successive title.

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