Rivals rein China in

Rivals rein China in
World's number one ranked badminton player Chen Long (L) of China and compatriot two-time women's singles champion Wang Yihan attend a press conference for the Singapore Open tournament in Singapore on April 7, 2015.

They swept 14 out of 15 titles at the World Championships between 2009 and 2011, and won all five gold medals at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Badminton powerhouses China also won the Thomas Cup between 2004 and 2012, and clinched eight of nine Uber Cup titles between 1998 and 2014.

But, as the OUE Singapore Open gets into full swing at the Singapore Indoor Stadium today, recent developments suggest the Chinese domination of world badminton could end, especially in the women's singles.

Spain's Carolina Marin won the world title last year, succeeding Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon in 2013, and India's Saina Nehwal is the first non-Chinese world No. 1 since Denmark's Tine Baun topped the rankings for a week in December 2010.

Marin, who beat former world No. 1 Li Xuerui to win the Malaysia Open last week, could top the upcoming rankings.

Singapore Open women's singles defending champion Wang Yihan of China is well aware of the situation.

In a press conference yesterday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the former world No. 1 said: "Players from other countries are coming up and most of them are still very young, and that has created a certain amount of pressure on us.

STRONG

"The women's singles competition is very strong now. You'd tend to get strong opponents even in the first two rounds these days, but you cannot stop people from improving."

"What we can do as players is to work on our own game and hope that our younger players (in the Chinese squad) come up quickly," added the world No. 8.

Her teammate Chen Long says China's men are also feeling the pressure.

The men's singles world No. 1 said: "There is a lot of competition from powerhouses such as Japan and India, and we don't really have a dominance in the men's singles any more.

"One small mistake or slip in focus and you might be out in the first or second round in competitions."

After winning five consecutive Thomas Cups, the Chinese men finished fourth in India last year, and were thrashed 3-0 by eventual winners Japan in the semi-finals.

As painful as these losses are, the defeats also served as timely reminders to the Chinese to buck up, said Chen.

"Already, the standards between us and some countries are very close, and that is a good thing," said the 26-year-old, who won the Malaysia Open last week.

"The overall standard in the men's singles is higher now than before, which means we have to raise our own expectations. "Otherwise we will be overtaken."

 


This article was first published on April 8, 2015.
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