The curtain finally closed on the 110th edition of the All England and while many had argued it should have been shut down and with players refusing to talk, shake hands or leave the hotel, this edition will be certainly be remembered for a very long time. However as always, the Arena Birmingham offered some “sport-wise” historic moments, and this will also be remembered.
By Tarek Hafi, Badzine Correspondent live in Birmingham. Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)
For sure, this edition has been in many ways pressuring, suffocating at some points, with the spread of the Covid-19 becoming increasingly severe throughout Europe. Most of the players were ordered to stay in their hotel at all times except for training and matches, and others, understandably, were very reluctant to talk to the media. The media centre itself happened to be empty all the week, without the usual crowd closely monitoring all matches. Still, the All England has always been a place where history was made, and this edition did not neglect that.
Fukushima and Hirota, finally!
Three-time silver medallists at the World Championships, despite multiple World Tour titles, Japan’s Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota (pictured right) finally showed the world their abilities by playing their best badminton the whole week. The duo only lost one game in the whole 5 days and finally prevailed against China’s Du Yue and Li Yinhui 21-13, 21-15.
“Obviously we lost in the final two years ago and in the semi-finals last year so we are really happy we could win as we didn’t think this moment would happen,” commented Hirota after the match.
“This will encourage us for our next tournaments. We have to prepare properly, especially for the Olympics, although we are not sure what will happen next,” finished Fukushima, alluding to concerns about the Covid-19 virus and whether the competition will still go ahead.
Viktor at last
21 years of rough waiting and it is now finally over! Former World Champion Viktor Axelsen (pictured) finally got his hands on the All England trophy, 21 years after his illustrious compatriot Peter Gade was the last Danish men’s singles winner.
In this, his second straight appearance in the All England final, the genius from Denmark confronted Chou Tien Chen (pictured bottom) of Chinese Taipei and did his best to not repeat his defeat of last year, when he lost against Kento Momota. Viktor Axelsen did not take too much time, as he appeared in constant control of the match, and finally sealed the victory 21-13, 21-14.
“It’s a big dream come true. It’s up there with my biggest achievement in my career so far. It’s a day I will remember for the rest of my life,” said an emotional Axelsen, who did not forget about the hardship all had to go through this week: “I’m just happy we were able to play this week. I hope everybody is safe and this gets under control quickly.”
2nd for Jordan, 1st for Melati
Exactly four years ago, he took the world by storm with his former team-mate Debby Susanto, executing a splendid win in 2016. This time, Indonesian mixed doubles ace Praveen Jordan came back with his new partner Melati Daeva Oktavianti (pictured) – whom he had a brilliant European campaign last year – and added to that success this year with an All England trophy.
The Indonesians faced world #3 Sapsiree Taerattanachai and Dechapol Puavaranukroh from Thailand and dominated the deciding game of a marvellous final.
“I am so happy to be here and win this tournament for the second time with a different partner,” said Jordan afterward. “My feelings are not the same as the first time but I am of course still overjoyed.”
For Melati it was a whole new story as 2020 marked the biggest title of her career: “When I was a child, I always dreamt of winning the All England and it has finally come true. All badminton players dream about being here and standing where we are now.”
The Taiwanese superstar, Tai Tzu Ying (pictured) regained her title in Birmingham, avenging her 2019 defeat against Chen Yufei. This time, the Chinese player found no possible way to counter attack the diverse shots displayed by the Asian Games gold medallist. Despite a short opposition, the Kaohsiung native needed only two games to seal the deal 21-19, 21-15.
“I am always very excited to play at the All England and it was a well–fought match against an opponent who I am especially familiar with over the last few years,” said the usually shy Tai after her match.
Sometimes, a nemesis just remains a nemesis! World #1 Gideon and Fernaldi couldn’t find a way to overcome their biggest hurdle, Yuta Watanabe and Endo Hiroyuki (pictured). The Japanese pair demonstrated majestic passion to finish this tournament beautifully and win their first All England title as a pair.
Indeed Yuta Watanabe had already won a title in mixed doubles with Arisa Higashino. That occasion marked the best ever achievement for Japan in that discipline. This one, though, completes the set of historical titles for the nation as men’s doubles was, until this year, the only category in which Japan had yet to title at the storied event.
The last match of the day also proved to be the best, with fantastic rallies and pure creativity from four geniuses of the discipline. Still, a winner had to be elected and it was Watanabe and Endo who ended up standing onto the higher step of the podium, wrapping-up the tournament with a brilliant 21-19 performance in the deciding game.
WD: Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota (JPN)  beat Du Yu / Li Yinhui (CHN)  21-13, 21-15
MS: Viktor Axelsen (DEN)  beat Chou Tien Chen (TPE)  21-13, 21-14
XD: Praveen Jordan / Melati Daeva Oktavianti (INA)  beat Dechapol Puavaranukroh / Sapsiree Taerattanachai (THA)  21-15, 17-21, 21-8
WS: Tai Tzu Ying (TPE)  beat Chen Yufei (CHN)  21-19, 21-15
MD: Hiroyuki Endo / Yuta Watanabe (JPN)  beat Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (INA)  21-18, 12-21, 21-19