SINGAPORE — The Badminton World Championships will be held from 22 to 28 August at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, and there is added significance this year for Singapore as its top shuttler Loh Kean Yew will be defending the men's singles title he won so memorably in December last year.
Here's everything you need to know about this edition of the elite tournament:
Day 1 (22 August)
The world championships began with round-of-64 matches, and there was one major upset, as world No.3 Anders Antonsen of Denmark was eliminated 15-21, 19-21 by Japan's world No.21 Kento Nishimoto. Otherwise, there were few problems for defending men's singles champion Loh Kean Yew, men's world No.1 Viktor Axelsen, Malaysia's top shuttler Lee Zii Jia and two-time world champion Kento Momota in advancing to the round of 32.
Day 2 (23 August)
Another trouble-free day for the top seeds who are in action. Men's and women's singles world No.1s Viktor Axelsen and Akane Yamaguchi advanced without much fuss, while Indonesia's top two men's shuttler Anthony Sinisuka Ginting and Jonatan Christie each took fewer than 40 minutes to dispatch their opponents. Women's doubles duo Jin Yujia and Crystal Wong, Singapore's only shuttlers in action on Tuesday, were also comfortable in advancing the the last-32. However, Commonwealth Games silver medalist Ng Tze Yong crashed out of the men's singles competition after a 70-minute battle.
Day 3 (24 August)
It was a superb day for Singapore shuttlers, as all advanced into the round of 16. While it was no surprise that Loh Kean Yew made it past Guatemala's Kevin Cordon, men's doubles pair Terry Hee/Loh Kean Hean and mixed doubles duo Hee/Jessic Tan had to dig deep to defeat their higher-ranked opponents. Meanwhile, women's doubles pair Jin Yujia and Crystal Wong advanced after their Japanese opponents withdrew.
Elsewhere, two-time world champion Kento Momota crashed out as he lost to India's H.S. Prannoy, but other top stars like Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia, Taiwan's Tai Tzu-Ying and Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon cruised into the next round.
Day 4 (25 August)
Defending men's singles champion Loh Kean Yew is now the highest-ranked shuttler left in his half of the draw after winning his last-16 tie when Hong Kong's Angus Ng retired midway with injury. With the surprise eliminations of Momota (world No.2), Antonsen (No.3) and Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia (No.5), world No.8 Loh has a clearer path to the final, with Thailand's Kulavut Vitidsarn, China's Zhao Junpeng and India's H.S. Prannoy left to negotiate in his side of the draw.
Elsewhere, world No.1 singles players Viktor Axelsen and Akane Yamaguchi continue to be untroubled in their respective matches. Former three-time women's singles champion Carolina Marin won the best match of the day, as she came from 16-20 down in the final game to stun China's He Bingjiao 16-21, 21-15, 22-20.
Another former world champion, Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon, was upset in her women's singles tie, losing 23-25, 21-16, 13-21 to Canada's Michelle Li. There was also a shock result in the men's doubles, as top-seeded Indonesian pair Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo were beaten 15-21, 9-21 by England's Ben Lane and Sean Vendy.
Day 5 (26 August)
Loh Kean Yew's eight-month reign as world champion ended in the quarter-finals, as he lost to three-time world junior champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand 12-21, 21-17, 8-21. Kunlavut, who also defeated Loh in the SEA Games final back in May, will face China's Zhao Junpeng in the semi-finals, while the other last-four match will see world No.1 Viktor Axelsen taking on world No.4 Chou Tien-chen.
Three-time women's singles winner Carolina Marin's injury comeback ended in the quarter-finals with a 17-21, 17-21 loss to world No.1 Akane Yamaguchi. Meanwhile, men's doubles pair Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik kept Malaysia's hopes of a first World Championships winner alive with a 21-18, 21-16 win over South Korea's Choi Sol-gyu and Seo Seung-jae.
Day 6 (27 August)
Malaysia's men's doubles duo Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik continued their fine run, beating India's Commonwealth Games gold medallists Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty 20-22, 21-18, 21-16 in a gruelling, 78-minute semi-final encounter.
They will face three-time world champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia in the final.
Reigning SEA Games gold medallist Kunlavut Vitidsarn powered past China's Zhao Junpeng 22-20, 21-6 to book his first World Championships final appearance. He will face top seed Viktor Axelsen, who dispatched world No.4 Chou Tien-chen 21-15, 21-17 to seal his first final since winning the world title in 2017.
The women's singles final also features the current world No.1, Japan's Akane Yamaguchi, who beat South Korea's An Se-young 21-19, 21-12 to book her berth in the final. However last year's other finalist, Taiwan's Tai Tzu-ying, was beaten by China's Chen Yufei, 21-15, 14-21, 18-21 in the other semi-final.
Day 7 (28 August)
Malaysia's long wait for a badminton world champion is over, as Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik won the men's doubles final, beating Indonesia's Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan 21-19, 21-14 in 40 minutes.
In the men's singles final, world No.1 Viktor Axelsen clinched his second world title after subduing Thailand's Kunlavut Vitidsarn 21-5, 21-16 in 50 minutes. The Dane thus adds the world title to his Olympic gold medal, both won in Tokyo.
Top-seeded women's singles star Akane Yamaguchi gave the home crowd much to cheer about, as the Japanese retained her world title after a 68-minute battle with China's Chen Yufei, winning 21-12, 10-21, 21-14.
Relive Loh Kean Yew's 2021 world title victory:
Facts and figures
Official name: Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Championships
History and significance: Together with the Summer Olympics badminton competitions, this tournament offers the most ranking points for participating shuttlers on the BWF Tour circuit. The winners of each category are crowned as world champions, and are awarded gold medals.
The tournament started in 1977, and has been held annually since 2006, although it is not held during the Summer Olympics years to avoid schedule conflicts.
Most successful shuttlers: Only one singles player has won the World Championships five times - China's Lin Dan, who won the men's singles event in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013.
Spain's Carolina Marin is the most successful women's singles player, winning the event in 2014, 2015 and 2018.
In the doubles events, South Korea's Park Joo-bong and China's Zhao Yunlei have each won five titles. Park won two men's doubles (1985, 1991) and three mixed doubles titles (1985, 1989, 1991), while Zhao clinched two women's doubles (2014, 2015) and three mixed doubles golds (2011, 2014, 2015).
Only 12 countries have produced world champions: China, Indonesia, Denmark, South Korea, Japan, England, Sweden, United States, Thailand, Spain, India and Singapore.
2022 World Championships
Date and location: 22 to 28 August at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, Tokyo
Format: Six rounds of knockout competition from round-of-64.
Top four seeds (based on world rankings on 9 August)
Men's singles: 1. Viktor Axelsen (Denmark) 2. Kento Momota (Japan) 3. Anders Antonsen (Denmark) 4. Chou Tien-chen (Taiwan)
Women's singles: 1. Akane Yamaguchi (Japan) 2. Tai Tzu-ying (Taiwan) 3. An Se-young (South Korea) 4. Chen Yufei (China)
Men's doubles: 1. Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (Indonesia) 2. Takuro Hoki/Yugo Kobayashi (Japan) 3. Hendra Setiawan/Mohammad Ahsan (Indonesia) 4. Lee Yang/Wang Chi-lin (Taiwan).
Women's doubles: 1. Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan (China) 2. Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota (Japan) 3. Lee So-hee/Shin Seung-chan (South Korea) 4. Kim So-yeong/Kong Hee-yong (South Korea).
Mixed doubles: 1. Zheng Siwei/Huang Yaqiong (China) 2. Dechapol Puavaranukroh/Sapsiree Taerattanachai (Thailand) 3. Yuta Watanabe/Arisa Higashino (Japan) 4. Wang Yilyu/Huang Dongping (China).
Loh Kean Yew's title defence
His stunning victory against India's Kidambi Srikanth in the Spanish city of Huelva last December can arguably be traced back to Tokyo, after he took part in last year's Olympics and was eliminated by Indonesia's Jonatan Christie in the opening group stage.
Yet, in Tokyo, the 25-year-old was invited by world No.1 Viktor Axelsen to train together for a month in Dubai. He accepted, and following that training stint, he began finding the best form of his young career.
He started with two modest titles in Europe - the Dutch Open in October and then the Hylo Open in Germany a month later. Next came the Indonesia Open, a prestigious BWF World Tour Super 1000-level tournament, and Loh began by stunning Japan world No.2 Kento Momota, going all the way to the final before succumbing to Axelsen in three sets.
By then, Loh had already gather a head of steam going into the World Championships, and immediately turned the tables on Axelsen in the opening round. He followed up with victories over Austria's Luka Wraber, Thailand's Kantaphon Wangcharoen, India's HS Prannoy, Denmark's world No.3 Anders Antonsen and finally Srikanth to write a monumental piece of sporting history for Singapore.
Following his World Championships win, however, Loh's form waned in 2022 as he struggled to adapt to his sudden rise in prominence. While he has stayed consistently in the top 10 of the world rankings all year, there were no more titles won on the BWF Tour circuit as well as at the SEA Games and Commonwealth Games.
Few fancy Loh to retain his title in Tokyo, but he has already surpassed all expectations of his badminton career. His place in Singapore's sporting history is secure.
Other Team Singapore shuttlers
Singapore's newly-crowned Commonwealth Games mixed doubles champions Terry Hee and Jessica Tan will begin their world championships campaign against England's Callum Hemming and Jessica Pugh in the round of 64.
Hee and Tan are in the same bracket as Thailand's world No.2 pair of Dechapol Punvaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai, and could meet them in the quarter-finals should they advance to the stage.
Hee will also be taking part in the men's doubles competition with Loh's elder brother Kean Hean, as they are set to face France's Cristo Popov and Toma Junior Popov in the opening round.
Women's doubles pair Jin Yujia and Crystal Wong will take on Austria's Serena Au Yeong and Katharina Hochmeir in their opening-round tie, while Jason Teh will begin his men's singles campaign against the Netherlands' Mark Caljouw.
There was bad news for Singapore's top women's shuttler Yeo Jia Min, who had to pull out of the championships after contracting COVID-19 for a second time and failing to get a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test in time to travel to Tokyo.
The world No.18, who earned a bronze medal in her singles competition at the Commonwealth Games, was scheduled to face South Korea's world No.43 Sim Yu-jin in her opening round.
Team Malaysia shuttlers
Malaysia's top male shuttler Lee Zii Jia started the year in deep controversy, as he was hit with a two-year ban from international tournaments in January, following his resignation from the national badminton squad.
The move by Badminton Association of Malaysia was condemned by the badminton world, and the ban was lifted just a few days later, allowing Lee to compete as an independent player on the tour circuit.
Since then, the 24-year-old has won at the Badminton Asia Championships - earning him the title of Asian champion - as well as the Thailand Open, allowing him to climb to No.5 in the world rankings.
As Lee opens his World Championships campaign against France's world No.40 Brice Leverez, he could be a dark horse for the title as Malaysia still seeks its first-ever world champion.
The men's doubles competition could also see a possible Malaysia triumph, with all four pairs - world No.6 Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik, No.10 Ong Yew Sin/Teo Ee Yi, No.12 Goh Sze Fei/Nur Izzuddin and No.15 Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong - receiving byes into the round of 32.
Women's doubles pair Pearly Tan and M. Thinaah, who clinched gold at the Commonwealth Games on Monday, also received a bye into the next round, and will face either compatriots Low Yeen Yuen/Valerie Siow or India's Tressa Jolly/Gayatri Gopichand Pullela.
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