And so, the very last event of the 2020 season has arrived – the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals 2020.
This edition of the season finale represents more than just the staging of the most lucrative event of the calendar with the world’s best players in attendance.
For most of last year when the sporting world felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was uncertainty over how the season would pan out. The staging of the Asian Leg was therefore hugely significant for badminton, to achieve a degree of normalcy and return to competition. The HSBC BWF World Tour Finals 2020 is testament to the efforts of all the stakeholders in overcoming the disruption caused by the pandemic, and to provide the best possible conditions in which competitors could excel.
Given the circumstances preceding the Asian Leg, it is astonishing that two singles players – Viktor Axelsen and Carolina Marin, and two doubles pairs – Lee Yang/Wang Chi-Lin and Dechapol Puavaranukroh/Sapsiree Taerattanachai – have swept their way to back-to-back titles. How momentous it would be if one or more of these players go on to complete a hat-trick of titles! That would mark an indelible moment in the history of badminton.
The only recent precedent for this is Ratchanok Intanon winning three Superseries titles – in India, Malaysia and Singapore – in three weeks in 2016.
“I’m happy to have qualified – I have played this (season finale) many times,” Intanon said. “I hope I can make it to the semifinals at least. This is tougher than other tournaments because the top eight qualify. I’m a bit tired, but I want to keep going.”
While the circumstances are different, if Axelsen, Marin or one of the two pairs could achieve their third title, it will be a tribute to their physical and mental endurance.
“We’re excited and we want to be on court soon,” said Wang Chi-Lin. “We aren’t thinking too much, we just want to focus on each game at a time. We’d want to see if what we’d worked on last year is working, or does it need improvement. Every pair is strong, so we will just enjoy our game.”
“Ahsan and Setiawan will be the hardest to beat,” Wang said. “They are experienced and they are our idols. We want to learn from them, we expect to play more often with them. We hope to meet them in the final.”
Apart from the frontline contenders, the World Tour Finals is also a stage for debutants at the season finale. It will be an opportunity for them to upset the applecart of the more favoured names.
England’s Ben Lane and Sean Vendy, who are in Group A with Lee/Yang, Malaysia’s Ong Yew Sin/Teo Ee Yi and compatriots Marcus Ellis/Chris Langridge, hoped to build on their quarterfinal finish at the TOYOTA Thailand Open last week.
“It’s our first time playing the World Tour Finals. We have to take every match as it comes, and there are eight strong pairs,” said Lane.
“We played well in the last tournament, we backed up a good win in the first round with a good win in the second round. So it’s about doing the same this week, playing good every single match, not just having one good performance. We definitely managed to do that last week and we want to take it forward.”