Barring a few anxious moments, there was not much doubt about the Chinese World Badminton Champion Chen Long emerging winner in the men’s singles of the first BWF Destination Dubai World Super-series Finals. But it was a creditable achievement for Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei in winning the final against her more fancied Korean opponent, Sung Ji Hyun. China also won the mixed doubles title but lost in the finals of men’s doubles and women’s doubles. For BWF and organizers at UAE, the first ever mega-badminton event held at the Hamdan Sports Centre in Dubai met with commendable success. Though badminton cannot match the universal popularity of football and tennis, it is still the fifth most popular sport in the world with millions of active players and a fan base of 437 million people around the world. In its current form, badminton is played in pockets of Europe but generally it is confined to the countries of Asia. The Chinese are considered as the badminton factory of the world but the sport is no less popular in Japan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan. Dubai was promoted as the destination for World Super-series finals because there is a large Asian population living in UAE and they were expected to flock to Dubai to watch their national heroes in action. In the four matches that Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth played, the Indians had the crowd rooting for them. For the week that matches were played in Dubai, the 15000-capacity stadium came alive with the crescendo of noise almost every day and the middle-east crowd got the taste of top quality badminton in their midst. Sunday night brought the curtains down on the prestigious year-end badminton tournament that had the highest pay check of US $ 1 million for the winners.
In the men’s singles final, reigning world champion Chen Long of China made a slow start that allowed Hans-Kristian Vittinghus to come to level terms at 7-7 in the first game. But once the Chinese found his foothold, he began producing some blistering smashes that found their mark. As the Chinese came in his elements, Vittinghus found it difficult to keep his fight in the first game. After Chen Long closed the game at 21-16, the Dane came back with more determination in the second game. For a while, Chen Long had a problem as Vittinghus kept the rallies going as he retrieved the shuttle from nearly unreachable position and led 10-9. Suddenly the contest looked close but Chen Long shifted tactics at this point and turned the game around with power and craft. 10 points was all that the Dane could get as Chen Long reeled off the next 12 points to leave the hapless Dane dumbstruck. Despite the dogged fight, Vittinghus just couldn’t stop the steamrolling Chinese, who won the second game 21-10 and finished the match in just 47 minutes. This was Chen Long’s second victory in the BWF World Superseries Finals after he won the tournament also in 2012. It was the seventh edition of the BWF World Superseries Finals and Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei has won the tournament 4 times with Lin Dan of China winning it once in 2011.
In the women’s singles final, Chinese Taipei star, Tai Tzu Ying did what she had failed to do last year. In 2013, Tai had lost to China’s world’s no.1 badminton player Li Xuerui, but on Sunday, she was determined to reverse her one-year old loss in the final as she found the talented Korean Sung Ji Hyun across the net. The two players had a 4-4 head-to-head record against each other before they took to the court and critics thought the Korean was perhaps a better prospect. But Tai had the courage of her convictions as she raced away to an 11-3 lead in the first game. Though the Korean tried to counterattack, she fell short in her attempts and lost the first game to Tai 17-21. In the next game, the nearest that Sung could come to Tai was 3-3 in the early minutes. But after that, Tai completely flummoxed the Korean with her power, accurate placements and a wide array of strokes that she could send where she wished. Sung was deprived of all attacking options as Tai finished a runaway winner at 21-17, 21-12.
In other final matches, Chinese mixed doubles pair Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei scored an easy 21-15, 21-12 victory over compatriots Liu Cheng and Bao Yixin. In men’s doubles, however, the Chinese pair of Chai Biao/Hong Wei lost 21-19, 19-21, 16-21 to the formidable Koreans Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong in a tough three-game battle that lasted for 84 minutes. The women’s doubles final was claimed by the Japanese duo of Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi, who beat China’s world champions Tian Qing/Zhao Yunlei 21-17, 21-14.