(Photo: Badmintonphoto)
A look back at 2021
Date: 12/31/2021 8:13 PM
Published by : Alan Raftery
What a year it has been. Finishing with the crescendo of the World Championships in Spain it is hard to remember how far badminton came. Let’s look back at the terrific journey. 

The only badminton played at the beginning of the year was the covid-safe bubble triple-header in Bangkok – two Thailand Opens and the BWF World Tour Finals. Both Viktor Axelsen and Carolina Marin took the opportunity in both hands, winning the first two titles with relative ease.
Both then lost the finals of the third tournament on the bounce, Marin to Tai Tzu Ying and Axelsen to his compatriot Anders Antonsen. 

In February, we saw the first championships played during COVID-19 in the form of the 2021 European Mixed Team Championships in Finland. This moment was captured in a behind-the-scenes documentary that can be found here.

Reigning champions Denmark was pushed hard all the way but took their eighteenth title against a youthful French team who achieved silver for the first time in their history. Germany and Russia completed the podium with bronze.
After a baron patch, Europe saw the first world tour tournaments return. The Swiss Open saw dominant victories by the reigning European Champions, Viktor Axelsen, Carolina Marin and Kim Astrup/ Anders Skaarup Rasmussen, the latter defeating Germany’s Mark Lamsfuss/ Marvin Seidel – a European rivalry that developed throughout 2021. 

France’s Thom Gicquel/ Delphine Delrue, heroes from Finland, extended their good form by taking the title with a win over Denmark’s Mathias Christiansen/ Alexandra Bøje. 

The prestigious All England Open stood strong and saw Japan almost score a clean sweep, a promising omen for them in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympic Games. Viktor Axelsen, who delivered that historic title in 2020, had to hand the title over to Malaysia’s Lee Jii Zia in an incredible final, witnessing a rare 30-29 game. 

Towards the end of the month, we saw big title wins at the Orleans Masters for Toma Junior Popov, Ben Lane/ Sean Vendy and Mathias Christiansen/ Alexandra Bøje. Estonia’s Kristin Kuuba and Turkey’s Bengisu Ercetin/ Nazlican Inci took home titles from the Polish Open. 

Looking east, Kyiv Ukraine hosted the 2021 European Championships. Spain’s Carolina Marin made history by winning a sensational fifth title, defeating Line Christophersen in the final, who was later nominated for BWF’s most promising player of the year. 

Gabriela and Stefani Stoeva became double European Champions and like other gold medallists, received their medals in a covid-safe way – by drones!

Russia’s Rodion Alimov/ Alina Davletova won the first-ever mixed doubles gold for their country by defeating Marcus Ellis/ Lauren in three well-fought games. 

Sadly, the men’s singles and doubles finals were walkovers due to positive covid test results. By default, Anders Antonsen and Vladimir Ivanov/ Ivan Sozonov were crowned champions. 

Tournaments continued to be played across Europe which provided opportunities for Toma Junior Popov, Arnaud Merkle and Clara Azurmendi to pick up title wins in Spain, Slovenia and Austria respectively. 

At the Lithuania International, Alex Lanier broke Viktor Axelsen’s age record of winning a senior tournament at just 16 years and 138 days, 141 days earlier than the current world number one. 

Pablo Abian, 36, won his 28th title on home soil at the Spanish International.
Olympic Games and historic Paralympics
After the postponement and anxious wait, the games took place and saw 172 players compete for the biggest prize in the sport. 

Viktor Axelsen became only the second European men’s singles player to win the Olympic title following in the footsteps of Poul-Erik Høyer, who won the title back in 1996. The Dane turned bronze into gold when defeating the reigning gold medallist Chen Long in the final, who was also the man who defeated him in Rio. 

The Paralympic Games showcased Para badminton for the first time ever. To learn more about this historic moment, read our Para badminton wrap-up 2021.

Sudirman Cup
Returning to the location of the EMTC21, Vantaa, Finland stood up and hosted the world mixed team championships. A vibrant competition that saw Tahiti, a tiny island with a population less than the host city, make its debut, and Finland score its first match win. 

In a repeat of the 2019 final against Japan, China scored their 12th victory. 

Thomas & Uber Cup
The postponed 2020 Thomas & Uber Cup was played in Aarhus, Denmark this year, the first time in Europe in the modern era. Memories of Denmark’s famous win in 2016 were in the air. 

After a 19-year wait, Indonesia finally got hold of the Thomas Cup through an emotional 3-0 win over reigning champions China. 

In the Uber Cup, China regained their title from Japan, which was their 15th win. 

The busy run to Christmas
Once badminton returned, pleasing fans around the world, it did not stop. Mid-October saw Viktor Axelsen continue his unforgettable year with a Denmark Open title, defeating Kento Momota in the final, mounting a momentous comeback. 

Kim Astrup/ Anders Skaarup Rasmussen came up just short in the men’s doubles final against the in-form Takuro Hoki/ Yugo Kobayashi. 

The French Open threw up a blast from the past when Koreans Ko Sung-hyun/ Shin Baek-cheol, 2014 men’s doubles World Champions took the title as an unseeded pair. 

Danes Mathias Christiansen/ Alexandra Bøje settled for a runners-up spot to Yuta Watanabe/ Arisa Higashino, the bronze medallists from Tokyo. 

Beautiful Bali
Bali in Indonesia, famed as an idyllic holiday destination, was the location for another covid-safe bubble triple-header, just as we began the year. 

In contrast to Thailand, Anders Antonsen got off to a stronger start, getting to the final of the Indonesia Masters, but was up against a Kento Momota returning to form. 

In the Indonesia Open, Viktor Axelsen was determined to finish the year strongly and took the title against Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew. The newly crowned Olympic champion followed this up with the World Tour Finals title that alluded him back in January. All eyes were on the World Championships now. 

Huelva in southern Spain, Carolina Marin’s hometown and host of the 2018 European Championships, welcomed the world’s best for the World Championships 2021. It was the grand finale of the year at the Palacio de los Deportes Carolina Marín. 

Gold medals went to Loh Kean Yew in the men’s singles, a historic achievement for Singapore who knocked out Axelsen at the beginning of his campaign. Anders Antonsen was once again on the world podium but had to settle for bronze this time. 

Akane Yamaguchi and Takuro Hoki/ Yugo Kobayashi turned their top form into gold for Japan in women’s singles and men’s doubles. Kim Astrup/ Anders Skaarup Rasmussen took the bronze, emulating the medal-winning success of countrymen Mathias Boe/ Carsten Mogensen. 

China’s Chen Qing Chen/ Jia Yi Fan won back their world crown and Thailand’s Dechapol Puavaranukroh/ Sapsiree Taerattanachai turned their 2019 silver into gold. 

More to come
It was a rollercoaster of a year in the badminton world. We learned that together we can overcome tough times, appreciate the important things in life and embrace the joy that the sport can bring. 

The 2022 calendar is packed full of excitement to come. Read our 2022 preview

Badminton Europe wishes you all the very best and a Happy New Year!

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