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World Championships Preview, Part 2: The title contenders
Date: 8/22/2022 2:51 PM
Published by : Yash Sharma
While it is an honour to participate in the World Championships for many, the world’s best will settle for nothing less than a gold.  

Many prominent names in world badminton already have enviable achievements. However, they have an insatiable hunger for further glory. As some of the current top-ranked athletes seek to cement their legacy, others have a point to prove. Despite being among the all-time greats, a World Championships gold is still missing in their otherwise overflowing cabinets. 

Here are the non-Japanese title favourites who shall challenge the hosts.

The roar of the dragon
China was the most successful nation at the World Championships 13 consecutive times from 2001-2018. Moreover, the nation clinched two golds and six silvers in Tokyo. However, the last two editions have seen China win a solitary gold. The powerhouse will seek to make amends.

While it will be interesting to witness the return of National Games winner Shi Yuqi, China makes a strong case in three categories. In women’s singles, the Olympic champion Chen Yufei will bear the burden of ending an 11-year-long barren spell. In contrast, Chen Qingchen/ Jia Yifan and Zheng Siwei/ Huang Yaqiong look well placed to win an unprecedented third title. Indeed, China is missing a men’s doubles pair as successful as the all-conquering Cai Yun/ Fu Haifeng at the moment.

The European gladiators
Only twice since the inception of the World Championships has Europe won multiple golds - in 1977 and 1983. A third instance can materialise if there is something otherworldly on display next week. In fact, Viktor Axelsen is the hot favourite in men’s singles. Currently on a 32-match unbeaten streak, the world number one has been handed a tricky draw. The Olympic champion will seek to put right his shocking first-round exit last year. His compatriot Anders Antonsen must get better off his frustration to reproduce a tactical game that saw him win silver in 2019. 

In women’s singles, the resurgent Carolina Marin will have a momentous task if she hopes to extend her World Championships record to four titles. The Spaniard will have to be at her best from the go, as she is expected to run into He Bingjiao in the pre-quarterfinals. Likewise, the in-form Line Hojmark Kjaersfeldt will have to rely on some good luck to go deep in the tournament.

The eighth-seeded Kim Astrup/ Anders Skaarup Rasmussen and Gabriela Stoeva/ Stefani Stoeva have a clear path to the quarterfinals. The Commonwealth Games silver medallists Ben Lane/ Sean Vendy can upset the a-bit-shaky Minions. However, Europe has great depth in mixed doubles. Thom Gicquel/ Delphine Delrue and Mathias Christiansen/ Alexandra Boje are the most promising pairs. 

The Indonesian spectacle 
The men’s singles ace Anthony Sinisuka Ginting will be expected to ride on the momentum of a flawless form. The Indonesian has come close to besting Axelsen and is likely to face him in the quarterfinals. A disarrayed Akane Yamaguchi might end up losing early on to an impressive Gregoria Mariska Tunjung for a third consecutive time. 

While Indonesia surprisingly lacks strong women’s and mixed doubles pairs, the nation has too much firepower in men’s doubles. It will be absurd if Indonesia doesn’t end up with a podium finish with so many excellent pairs - Fajar Alfian/ Muhammad Rian Ardianto, Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/ Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, Mohammad Ahsan/ Hendra Setiawan, and Muhammad Shohibul Fikri/ Bagas Maulana.

Around the world
Over the last decade, badminton has gotten much more interesting with players from non-traditional badminton powerhouses bringing a lot of world-class action. While the men’s singles young guns Lakshya Sen and Kunlavut Vitidsarn can cause a few upsets, Loh Kean Yew will hope to peak for his title defence. 

Chinese Taipei and Malaysia are surprisingly missing from the list of successful nations at the tournament. While the Olympic silver medallist Tai Tzu Ying and the gold medallists Lee Yang/ Wang Chi Lin will spearhead the Chinese Taipei campaign, Malaysia will rely on Lee Zii Jia and Aaron Chia/ Soh Wooi Yik. 

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