HSBC BWF World Tour Finals - HSBC Moments of the Tournament

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HSBC Moments of the World Tour Finals

The HSBC BWF World Tour Finals is an event for the best of the best. The top 8 players and pairs in each of the 5 disciplines determined by the results from all World Tour events throughout the year. After 2 years of a drastically reduced World Tour calendar, due to the devastating effects and travel restrictions of the global pandemic, in 2022 we saw the return of the top Chinese players and a much more extensive tournament programme. 

No wonder my heart beat a little quicker in anticipation of the end of year finale in Bangkok. 

With such a select gathering of the best badminton players on the planet, I knew there were likely to be upsets and surprises. But perhaps the biggest was Gregoria Mariska Tunjung’s win over the Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei, the number 1 seed and former champion having won the 2019 World Tour Finals. 

Tunjung had only been invited to participate at the event when Pusarla V Sindhu declined the invitation due to injury. She was the only one of the 8 women’s singles players at the WT Finals who had not won a WT event during the year. In fact, she has never won a WT event, while the other 7 women’s singles players at the WT Finals had won 15 of the 19 WT events in 2022 and amassed a staggering 42 career WT titles between them. Furthermore, this was the Group of death, not only did Group A contain the Olympic Champion, but also the defending champion An Se Young, together with the 2 time reigning world champion, Akane Yamaguchi. 

Tunjung’s victory over Chen Yu Fei sent shock waves throughout the tournament and in turn set up the rare scenario for the last of the Group matches on Friday. 

When any sporting contest goes down to the wire, it’s enthralling and captivating. And with 3 of the 4 final group matches on Friday either being a straight play-off or directly affecting who qualified in both the men’s and women’s singles, these final group matches on Friday didn’t disappoint. It was compelling viewing. 

Come semi-finals Saturday, what could be more certain than the defending men’s singles champion Viktor Axelsen (who’s also the reigning world and Olympic Champion) beating Kodai Naraoka for a second time in 3 days. Especially as the tall Dane had totally dominated and outclassed the talented Japanese youngster in the Group stage 21/5, 21/15 in just 33 minutes. 

But nothing is certain in sport. In fact, it’s the unpredictability of sport which keeps us hooked and coming back for more. Axlesen had gone into the last of the group matches against Prannoy with an incredible year win-loss record of 49-2. But he lost to the Indian player in 3 games. One loss, just one defeat can shatter the aura of invincibility, because confidence in sport is a very fragile commodity. 

In the semi-final against Naraoka it seemed as if Axelsen was having a crisis in confidence following his loss to Prannoy. He lost a tight opening game and found himself 17/19 down in the second. The fans were beginning to think the unthinkable, the possibility of Axelsen, the most successful singles player in the history of the HSBC BWF World Tour, losing to a player who had never won a WT title. But champions are judged by the ability to fight back, to find a way to win when not playing at their best. And Axelsen showed his “champion” quality by coming back from the brink of defeat to win in 3 thrilling games. 

Finals day was remarkable as it was a day of numerous records. Both Axelsen and Tai Tzu Ying (women’s singles) became the first players to contest 6 end of year championship finals. Axlesen equalled Lee Chong Wei’s record of 4 men’s singles titles. Liu Yu Chen become only the second player (after the Korean, Lee Yong Dae) to win 2 end of year championship men’s doubles titles with 2 different partners. Chen Qing Chen and Jia Yi Fan equalled the record of 3 women’s doubles titles. And Zheng Si Wei rewrote the record books by winning a record fourth mixed doubles title when contesting his fifth final in his fifth appearance at the event.

There is no doubt my initial excitement and expectations for the 2022 HSBC BWF World Tour Finals were well and truly fulfilled. We had drama and excitement from Day 1. We witnessed upsets and intrigue. We saw incredible athletic ability and technical skill.  All the ingredients which makes sport so compelling to watch, and all were on display in abundance in Bangkok.

Roll on the 2023 edition of the HSBC BWF World Tour.


Gill Clark

December 2022

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