Badminton is one sport, which continues to have an Asian dominance and try as they may; Europeans and Americans have failed to match the shuttling skills of the Chinese, Koreans, Indonesians, Malaysians, Japanese and Indians. But among Asians too, it is difficult to match the over-zealous Chinese, who have an incredibly vast reserves of male and female talent in badminton. There are so many capable Chinese men and women players of nearly equal talent that Chinese superiority in on open display in every tournament and an odd loss here and these does not dent their claim. In Basel, for example, the All-England women’s champion Shixian Wang was laid low by India’s PV Sindhu in the quarterfinal but the ultimate winner was another Chinese and not the woman who defeated Sindhu in the semifinal.
The 2014 Swiss Grand Prix Gold at Basel was the third tournament of the year in the series of Grand Prix Golds, preceded by German and India Open played earlier this year, in February and January, respectively. Though the Swiss Open is not equivalent to the All-England Tournament in prestige, its timing is perfect since every year it is scheduled just after the Birmingham event. Therefore, it offers a proximity advantage to most participants of All-England Tournament. This year, Chinese men and women won everything except the men’s singles and mixed doubles.
In the men’s singles, Viktor Axelsen of Denmark emerged as the first European winner of the Swiss Grand Prix Gold. Axelsen is ranked 26 in the world, far behind compatriots; Jan O Jorgensen, No. 4 and Hans-Kristian Vittinghus, No. 21. While Vittinghus pulled out of the tournament, Jorgensen lost to Alexsen in a 3-set semifinal 21-13, 13-21, 14-21. But Axelsen had an even tougher quarterfinal game against England’s Rajiv Ouseph, before prevailing 19-21, 21-16, 21-16. In the final, Viktor Axelsen’s opponent was a fast rising Chinese world no. 27 Tian Houwei, who had beaten third-seeded Indian Parupalli Kashyap in the semifinal 21-17, 21-11. Kashyap had, otherwise, had a good tournament and he had advanced to the last 4 after scoring a hard-fought quarterfinal victory over 6th seeded Tien Chen Chou of Chinese Taipei, whom he beat 21-15, 21-23, 21-18. The final between Viktor Alexsen and Tian Houwei was a nerve-wrecking thriller. After Alexsen took the first set 21-7, Houwei bounced back strongly in the second set to win 21-16. The decider was a see-saw battle, which brought the spectators to the edges of their seats. No one could have predicted the result as the two fighters matched each other, producing badminton of topmost quality. Both players had match points in the decider but Alexsen’s tenacity proved too much for Houwei in the end. Alexsen won the final 21-7, 16-21, 25-23.
In an all-Chinese women’s singles final, tournament top seed and world no.3, Yihan Wang met compatriot world no. 27 Sun Yu, who played great badminton and battled fiercely to take the first set 23-12. But Wang found her game in the second and applied pressure against her less fancied opponent. Yu couldn’t repeat her first set performance and lost 9-21. Having found her foothold, Wang didn’t allow Yu to come back in the match as she won the final 21-23, 21-9, 21-11.
Sun Yu had entered the final by beating giant killer Indian, PV Sindhu in the semifinal. Sindhu had created a sensation earlier in registering a stunning 21-17, 21-15 quarterfinal victory against the newly crowned all-England champion Shixian Wang. But she failed to capitalize on her form in the semifinal against Sun Yu, though the Indian teenager took the first set from Yu 21-18. Yu leveled the score by winning the second 21-12. In the third set Sindhu and Yu both played a great game and the match actually went to the wire, before the Chinese girl closed it 21-19 and entered the final after a 79-minute battle.
Yihan Wang’s progress to the final was rather easy. She didn’t lose a single set until the final. In the quarterfinal, Yihan Wang defeated India’s top shuttler Saina Nehwal 21-17, 21-12 in just 38 minutes. Her semifinal was like a walk in the park as Wang’s Korean counterpart was dumbfounded in a 12-21, 9-21 defeat.
In another all-Chinese final, Biao Chai and Wei Hong took the men’s doubles crown, when they defeated the fellow Chinese pair of Haifeng Fu and Nan Zhang in straight sets 22-20, 21-14. But in women’s doubles, the Indonesian pair of Nitya Krishinda Maheswari and Greysa Polii, prevented one more all-Chinese final. The Indonesian women easily defeated the Chinese Lou Ying and Luo Yu 21-16, 21-9 in the semifinal and put up a tough final match against another Chinese pair of Bao Yixin and Tang Jinhua. Maheshwari and Polii took the match into three sets before the Chinese prevailed 19-21, 21-16, 21-13.
Third seeded mixed doubles pair of Chris and Gabby Adcock of England won the final defeating the Chinese pair of Chai Biao and Tang Jinhua 21-17, 21-13. The enterprising husband and wife team had a great outing with a few glitches in the tournament. But for them and Viktor Alexsen, the Chinese would have completely swept the Swiss Grand Prix Gold Tournament.