Last year saw the first time China were denied the Women’s Singles crown a second year in succession. From 1983 onwards, since the debut of the Chinese in the World Championships, until 2013, they claimed all but two world titles. However, the last two years saw a sharp turn in the script, with Intanon and then Marin nipping the Chinese challenge in the title round.
Marin has gone from strength to strength this year. The Spaniard bested the field in three of the six World Superseries events, winning the Yonex All England, the Maybank Malaysia Open and The Star Australia Open. The defending champion might run into the doughty Wang Shixian in the quarter-finals, following which a semi-final against Olympic champion Li Xuerui is likely.
But Marin herself seemed unsure of how her title defence would turn out as she had just recovered from a right foot injury.
“I injured my right foot a month ago,” Marin told the media today.
“I was sad, I thought I couldn’t play the World Championships. I talked it over with my coach and I started to train two weeks ago. I’m very happy to be here. I don’t want to think of my condition. I prefer not to think in terms of my percentage of fitness.”
“I’m very excited. I like this country, and the Indonesia Open is my favourite tournament. I know I have many fans here. I know I had a bad result at the Indonesia Open in June (she lost in the first round), but I was tired after winning the Australian Open. I don’t want to think about my title defence.”
Two-time runner-up Li (above) has a trickier path. No.11 seed PV Sindhu is due to meet her in the third round; the Indian can prove to be a dangerous customer, and Li will be wary of her opponent despite her apparent lack of form.
Nehwal’s (above) campaign will hinge on her possible quarter-final against China’s Wang Yihan, who has been showing signs of reclaiming her prime form. Nehwal, the India Open winner, has never gone past the quarter-finals of the World Championships and that is one barrier the Indian ace will want to cross.
Ratchanok Intanon (BWF home page) stormed back as a title contender after winning the Asian title and the BCA Indonesia Open. The Thai has a relatively comfortable draw, and barring a major surprise, should be in the quarter-finals against Canada’s Michelle Li or Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying.
Although the attention has uncharacteristically been off the Chinese, few would dare to dismiss the chances of Li Xuerui, Wang Yihan and Wang Shixian. What makes this category perhaps the most unpredictable of all is the presence of other competitors who are capable of going far in the draw. Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun (above) is in Li’s quarter and a dark horse to go all the way, but she will probably have to battle Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara before that. Either of the two is capable of giving Li a hard time. Then there are the likes of Sung’s compatriot Bae Yeon Ju (in Nehwal’s quarter), Canada’s Michelle Li – who upset Carolina Marin in a sensational match at the Vivo BWF Sudirman Cup; Nehwal’s compatriot PV Sindhu, and Japan’s Sayaka Takahashi and Minatsu Mitani.