The joy of their long-sought Thomas Cup triumph having barely sunk in, Jonatan Christie and Co. will have to get once again into battle mode to defend that big prize during the TotalEnergies BWF Thomas and Uber Cup Finals 2022.
On the face of it, not much has changed since Indonesia and China, respectively, won the Thomas Cup and the Uber Cup in Aarhus last October. There have been few notable changes among the top teams – but some patterns have emerged in the intervening months that might offer clues on the fortunes of a few squads.
In Thomas Cup Group A, Indonesia are grouped with Korea, Thailand and Singapore. The Indonesians have had a lot of positives in their doubles department in recent months – apart from the ankle surgery that Marcus Fernaldi Gideon has had to undergo. Their younger pairs have stepped up quite spectacularly, with Muhammad Shohibul Fikri/Bagas Maulana winning the YONEX All England, and Pramudya Kusumawardana/Yeremia Erich Yoche Yacob Rambitan winning the Asian Championships. It is a measure of their doubles strength that the latter pair aren’t in the Thomas Cup squad, as the Indonesians have a luxury of choice in that department.
Concerns in Singles
The Indonesians are expected to top Group A, but their form in singles will be a concern in the knockout rounds, with only Jonatan Christie showing consistency this season. The world No.8 made three straight finals – in Switzerland, Korea and Manila – but his compatriot Anthony Sinisuka Ginting hasn’t had much to write home about. Neither has the likely No.3 Shesar Hiren Rhustavito, who was key to their success in Aarhus.
Korea have had some good news in recent weeks in their home events, with Jeon Hyeok Jin winning the Korea Masters and the new combination of Kang Min Hyuk/Seo Seung Jae winning the Korea Open.
For Thailand, the campaign will heavily lean on Kunlavut Vitidsarn’s shoulders. Several of their top doubles names, like Dechapol Puavaranukroh, Supak Jomkoh and Kedren Kittinupong, are missing in the line-up, and it will be quite an ask for Thailand to qualify to the quarterfinals.
Singapore, led by Loh Kean Yew, will hope for an upset or two. Loh’s matches in the first singles will be among the feature items of Group A, and if the others punch above their weight, Singapore could cause a few ripples.
Japan Have Depth
In the women’s, top seeds Japan arrive with concerns of their own. Groupmates Indonesia, France and Germany are unlikely to trouble them, and the Japanese will be eyeing the big prize that they won in Bangkok four years ago.
Spearhead Akane Yamaguchi has been in fabulous form, but Nozomi Okuhara’s retirement from her first round match at the Asian Championships will be a cause for concern. The other singles options are Saena Kawakami and world junior champion Riko Gunji.
The doubles are in seasoned hands. Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota made a welcome return to form by making the semifinals of the Asian Championships, but Mayu Matsumoto/Wakana Nagahara haven’t played since their bronze medal finish at last year’s World Championships.
Still, Japan did make the last final despite similar challenges, and with Yamaguchi in form, and adequate resources in both singles and doubles, the 2018 champions will be expected to feature at the business end of the tournament.
Close Contest for Second
The tussle in the group essentially will be for second place, between Indonesia, France and Germany.
Germany will look to Yvonne Li and the pairs of Linda Efler/Isabel Lohau – silver medallists at the European Championships — and Stine Kuspert/Annabella Jaeger, while France can count on Qi Xuefei and Leonice Huet in singles and Anne Tran/Margot Lambert in doubles.
For Indonesia, the recent form of world No.203 Komang Ayu Cahya Dewi, who nearly beat Akane Yamaguchi at the Badminton Asia Championships, bodes well, but without many of their top players like Gregoria Mariska Tunjung, Apriyani Rahayu, Putri Kusuma Wardani and Siti Fadia Silva Ramadhanti/Ribka Sugiarto, it will be interesting to see if they can fend off the Germans and the French and create a sensation in Bangkok.