One measure of the closeness of competition in any category is the difference in ranking points between the elite.
In Women’s Singles, the difference between No.1 (Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi) and No.6 (Spain’s Carolina Marin) on the Destination Dubai Rankings is just 5440 points – the lowest difference in all five categories. Contrast this to Men’s Singles (7850); Men’s Doubles (25030); Women’s Doubles (17020) and Mixed Doubles (18750) and the point is starkly illustrated.
Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying dominated the early season with victories in England, Malaysia and Singapore, but hasn’t maintained that level partly due to fitness issues. The last four Superseries have seen four different winners; the race to Dubai – where only the top eight in each category will be invited – is therefore likely to be closest in Women’s Singles, given the narrow points difference between the top players.
The one match that was most anticipated in the post-TOTAL BWF World Championships season was the Victor Korea Open final between Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara and India’s Pusarla V Sindhu. Okuhara had prevailed in a classic in Glasgow, and with both the combatants making the final in Seoul, all eyes were on the proceedings.
While it didn’t quite match up to the Glasgow epic, the Korea Open final was a worthy sequel, showcasing the incredible stubbornness of both players in refusing to let the shuttle hit the court on their side. This time it was Pusarla who emerged victorious – her second Superseries win after the Yonex-Sunrise India Open.
They were to run into each other a week later in Japan, but the match didn’t live up to its billing, with Okuhara winning easily in straight games and then withdrawing from the tournament after beating USA’s Beiwen Zhang in the third round. The beneficiary of that walkover was former World champion Carolina Marin, who capitalised on the opportunity and grabbed her first Superseries win in 22 months.
Marin, at No.6, is just 30 points behind No.5 Pusarla, who in turn is just 250 points behind No.4 Okuhara.
The top spot is occupied by Akane Yamaguchi, who has been extremely consistent but has had her wings clipped by longtime rival Okuhara, who beat her thrice this season.
In third spot, just behind Tai, is Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun, quarter-finalist at her home Superseries.
Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon, Japan’s Sayaka Sato and China’s He Bingjiao and Sun Yu occupy spots 7 to 10, while the fast-improving young Chinese Chen Yufei is at No.12, behind USA’s Zhang.
Following her semi-final showing at the World Championships, Chen Yufei (featured image) once again underlined her credentials as the player to watch, surging to the semi-finals in Japan by beating Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour, Intanon and Japan’s Aya Ohori, before running into He Bingjiao in the last-four.
He Bingjiao enjoyed a rise of eight spots in the last two weeks, on the back of a semi-final in Korea and final in Japan.
Among others to perform strongly were Japan’s Ohori and Sayaka Takahashi (quarter-finalists in Japan) and Minatsu Mitani (quarter-finalist in Korea).
Canada’s Michelle Li, finding her way back from knee and hip surgeries last year, rose 12 spots to No.28.