The Start of 2021: Will Asia Dominate?
The YONEX Thailand Open will be the opening tournament for 2021. The event will be held in Bangkok, Thailand on January 12th-17th, as the first major event after the All England Tournament back in March 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the cancellation of all tournaments after that due to the health and safety considerations by the Badminton World Federation (BWF).
For example, major tournaments like the Thomas-Uber Cup were affected. The men's and women's team tournament which was supposed to be held in Aarhus, Denmark, failed. The Thomas-Uber Cup was initially scheduled for May, then postponed to August, then again to November, until it finally could not be held in 2020 and was rescheduled for 2021 at a later date.
So naturally, when BWF issued the latest schedule for the tournament, the federation and the badminton players all over the world were greeted with joy. The majority of the world's top badminton players are scheduled to take part in the tournaments in Thailand.
But unfortunately, the pandemic is still very much present and causing problems for everyone. China, as one of the giants in badminton, issued a statement stating that their players will not be participating in Thailand. Japan also withdrew its players as Kento Momota, the number one men's singles player who is also the top seed in the Thailand Open, tested positive.
In the men’s doubles, Indonesian top seed pair Kevin Sanjaya / Marcus Fernaldi Gideon also pulled out as Kevin tested positive. However, the rest of Team Indonesia tested negative and all of the other players, coaches and staff still went to Thailand for the World Tour. The absence of Momota and the Kevin / Marcus pair automatically changes the landscape of the competition.
In the men's singles event, Momota's absence does not mean that Chou Tien Chen has an easier path to winning. The existence of the Indonesian duo, Anthony Sinisuka Ginting and Jonatan “Jojo” Christie, as well as Viktor Axelsen and Anders Antonsen are still the biggest challenge for him.
Looking at his achievements at the All England Open, Axelsen is one with a good chance to become a champion despite being “only” on the fourth position in the top list at the YONEX Thailand Open. The only steep road for him is in the quarter-finals and semifinals. Axelsen could potentially meet the two young players from Indonesia, Jonatan Christie and Anthony Sinisuka Ginting. Axelsen has always been challenged when facing the two Indonesian players. Faced with Jojo, he lost against him at their last meeting at the 2019 French Open. Against Ginting, Axelsen only won two out of six meetings. He has an even bigger chance to win the finals if he meets Chou Tien Chen, whom he has won against ten times and only lost twice.
Despite the challenging situations, we are hopeful of all of the Asian players competing for the upcoming tournaments. Let’s give them our best support in the next 3 weeks and have a great start for 2021 in Asia’s badminton.