It is a measure of China’s supreme domination of world badminton that the real interest in the upcoming Sudirman Cup is not about who will win the prestigious tournament, but who will come second. The world team championships, which take place every two years, start tomorrow in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou with the hosts virtually guaranteed to lift the trophy for a seventh time in front of a partisan crowd.
Including China, 34 sides are taking part, but the structure of the mixed teams event is such that only eight of them can win the trophy, with the rest playing for points and national pride, but no money.
South Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia are most likely to get closest to China, ensuring a strong showing from Asia.
The Koreans, who won the cup in 2003, are possibly best equipped to get anywhere near the hosts, but will be relying on their strong doubles teams more than their singles players.
It was their doubles players who took them to victory in 2003 when they became the last country other than China to lift the Sudirman Cup.
Malaysia, meanwhile, will be led by world men’s No. 1 Lee Chong Wei, who has told his teammates he cannot be expected to go it alone.
“My intention is to remain unbeaten in team events but it should not be a solitary effort. I want to see my teammates giving their best so that we can reach the semi-finals,” he was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.
“I will go all out to give a winning start in every tie as this will ease the pressure on my teammates and they can perform better,” he said. “It has to be a team effort and if we fail to reach the semis, there will be no joy even if I end up unbeaten.”
The Sudirman Cup runs from tomorrow until next Sunday.