Badminton

Badminton World Tour Finals: Top things to know

Carolina Marin, Viktor Axelsen and doubles pairs look to continue their winning streak at the season-concluding tournament in Bangkok.

After badminton endured a disrupted 2020 season due to the global pandemic, the World Tour Finals will finally take place in Bangkok from 27 to 31 January.

The tournament is the third event in three consecutive weeks, following the Super 1000 double-header events, held at the Impact Arena of the Thai capital, where the organisers have set up a bio-secure bubble for players and teams.

However not all of the world's best have flown in, with the Japanese and Chinese contingents opting to sit out the trio of tournaments due to COVID-19 concerns. So we have been denied seeing reigning world champion Momota Kento compete internationally following his recovery from eye surgery, as well as Okuhara Nozomi who seemed on fire on her way to clinching the Denmark Open title last October.

Nonetheless, fans have been spoilt with some great match-ups over the past two weeks with Carolina Marin, Viktor Axelsen and men's doubles pair Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin as well as home favourites, mixed doubles pair Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai, managing to secure back-to-back Thailand Open titles.

Can they continue their form and clinch a hat-trick of victories? Here are the top things you need to know about the 2020 BWF World Tour Finals.

Unstoppable Marin hunting for her maiden title

Carolina Marin is in top form in Bangkok.

The Spaniard defeated top seed Tai Tsu Ying in the final not once, but two Sundays in a row. And that's no easy feat.

It's the first time that the reigning Olympic champion has managed consecutive straight games victories over the Chinese Taipei player since 2015.

Marin looks unstoppable at the moment and revealed that she's applied a new approach this year, "with a new mindset with more focus on the game" and it is certainly paying off.

Despite twelve Tour titles under her belt, she has yet to win the season finale. Given her current run of form, she could be set to clinch another first.

Tai, who is seeded second behind Marin, will relish the opportunity to pull one back on her rival to curb the three-time world champion's confidence as they build up to the Olympic Games in Tokyo this July.

The home nation will have plenty of reason to cheer in the women's singles with third seed Ratchanok Intanon ahead of South Korea's teenage sensation, An Se Young, the fourth and final seeded player.

With only two players per nation being allowed to compete, fifth ranked Pornpawee Chochuwong clinched the second entry for Thailand at the expense of eighth ranked Busanan Ongbamrungphan.

This, together with Okuhara's absence, opened the door for Russia’s first singles player to qualify for the season finale in the form of Evgeniya Kosetskaya and India's P.V. Sindhu to join Canada's Michelle Li in the final eight.

Reigning world champion Sindhu, has endured a difficult two weeks in Bangkok. She was knocked out in the opening round of the first tournament but managed to reach the quarter-finals of the second tournament. The Rio 2016 silver medallist could do with a strong result to boost her confidence.

Axelsen extends unbeaten streak to 28 matches

It has been a dream return to competition for Axelsen, who clinched two tournament titles in two week.

The Dane suffered an ankle injury that required surgery and spend the second half of last year gradually easing back into training.

Axelsen was able to resume his winning ways that saw him clinch the All England title in 2020 as he continued his win streak and remains unbeaten on court after 28 matches.

The Rio 2016 bronze medallist also became the first men's singles player to win all three Super 1000 events in a season. Can he now make it three tournament wins in a row?

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The 2017 World champion goes into the Tour Finals as the top seed but nipping at his heels is compatriot and second seed Anders Antonsen who has struggled to find the form that saw him clinch the Danish Open last October. Chinese Taipei's Chou Tien Chen is seeded third ahead compatriot Wang Tzu Wei.

Thailand Open finalist Angus Ng Ka Long is joined by former world number one Kidambi Srikanth from India, Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia and Indonesia's Anthony Sinisuka Ginting who make up the men's main draw.

Apart from Ng who managed his career best result in a Super 1000 tournament, the other three have endured a dismal outing in Thailand which they could put behind them with a strong result in the season finale.

Chinese Taipei's men's doubles looking for the triple

When they arrived in Bangkok, Wang Chi-Lin and Lee Yang were the sixth ranked men's doubles pair.

The Chinese Taipei duo, who have only been playing together since the start of the 2019 season, find themselves the top seeds in the men's doubles draw after first clinching their maiden Super 1000 title and then adding another the following week.

They'll face some serious competition, mainly in the form of reigning world champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan from Indonesia. Although the veteran pairing only managed to make the semi-finals of the second Open, they are known to rise to the occasion, especially when such an elusive title is at stake.

Women's doubles supremacy race wide open

Japanese pairs have dominated women's doubles recently, however with none of them on hand in Bangkok to compete, Indonesia's Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu lead the seedings.

After clinching the first Open title, the 2019 World Championship bronze medallist fell in the semi-finals of the second Open to Korea's Lee So Hee and Shin Seung Chan.

Lee and Shin are seeded third behind compatriots Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong who beat them to the second Open title.

The women's doubles category is also the only category to see two different winners after two tournaments, so you can expect the competition to be close.

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Thai mixed doubles targeting third title

Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai lived up to their top seed billing on home soil to clinch both the Open titles on offer.

The Thai reversed the result from their 2020 All England Open final loss against Indonesia's Praveen Jordan and Melati Daeva Oktavianti to win the first tournament and then beat South Korea's Chae YuJung and Seo Seung Jae in the second final to sweep clean the two Super 1000 titles on offer.

The 2019 world championship runners-up will relish the opportunity to now clinch the World Tour Finals title in what will certainly be their most successful season as a pairing.

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