China are favourites to top not only Uber Cup Group B — which includes Chinese Taipei, Spain and Australia — but to defend the title. Primarily, this is because they have no discernible weaknesses. That their No.3, Wang Zhi Yi, beat both An Se Young and Akane Yamaguchi to claim the Badminton Asia Championships last week is an indicator of their depth.
With Chen Qing Chen/Jia Yi Fan leading the doubles, and Du Yue/Li Wen Mei in second doubles, China head into the Uber Cup with the solidity that will be the envy of all their opponents.
The chase in Group B, essentially, is for second spot between Chinese Taipei, Spain and Australia. And while the outcomes of these ties are likely to be close and interesting, just as arresting will be the individual faceoffs. Tai Tzu Ying and Carolina Marin meet more than a year after they jousted in three successive finals of the Asian Leg in January 2021 – incidentally, in Bangkok, with Marin winning the two Thailand Opens and Tai the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals. Tai is also likely to run into Chen Yu Fei; their last meeting was in the final of the Tokyo Olympics, with Chen edging Tai in a tense endgame. Marin, on her part, having won the European Championships on her return from injury, will want to prove that she hasn’t lost any of her sharpness after the long layoff.
Young Stars Command Attention
Denmark, China, France and Algeria face off in Thomas Cup Group B; of particular interest is the youth of the Chinese and French squads.
China are without their spearhead of recent times, Shi Yu Qi. Li Shi Feng, Lu Guang Zu and Zhao Jun Peng can pull their weight in singles, and the Chinese will be enthused by the form of Weng Hong Yang, the virtual unknown who went on to win the Korea Open.
And while the Chinese do appear vulnerable, their young players did take them to the Thomas Cup final last year, and they do have the experience in doubles, in the form of Liu Yu Chen, Liu Cheng, He Ji Ting, Tan Qiang and others.
France have a young and exciting team, with the likes of Toma Junior Popov, Christo Popov, young sensation Alex Lanier, and the doubles of Fabien Delrue/William Villeger and the Popov brothers. The French are capable of causing a few upsets, and the top two teams will be wary of letting their guard down.
Denmark were widely reckoned to be favourites for Thomas Cup on home soil last year in Aarhus, and while they faltered in the semifinals to Indonesia, they have the opportunity for another shot at the title with most of the same personnel.
With Viktor Axelsen nearly unstoppable in recent months, Anders Antonsen, Rasmus Gemke and Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus in singles, and several options in doubles, the Danes have an efficient look about them.
Algeria’s position is an unenviable one, given that they are in a group with such strong teams; but if they can pull off a match or two, the experience will be invaluable for them.