Yonex All England 2023: Men’s Preview
The stage is set for the thrills and skills of the highest standards. Get ready to watch your faves battle it out on court for one of the most respected titles in Badminton.
Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto seemed to cross a threshold in 2022; their performances at the beginning of the year were disappointing but they became more dominant and better at capturing big titles as the months went by. They attributed it to a happier mindset on court and a determination to relish their sport. They are the top seeds here but their opening tie is a potential banana skin. I can’t quite believe that they will be meeting Korea’s KANG Min Hyuk & SEO Seung Jae in the opening round. These two have started the year in good form with two SF plus a final at the German Open. If FajRi can overcome that challenge they should be pretty confident of a run deep into this tournament.
The bottom half of the draw is where there are countless roadblocks on the road to the final. The 2022 World Champions – Aaron CHIA and SOH Wooi Yik – are second seeds but they have a slightly brittle side that can surface at inconvenient times; for instance their underwhelming outing at the German Open. If they can keep their nerve and dominate the front court, then finals weekend awaits.
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty have swerved a difficult R1 clash owing to the late withdrawal of The Minions. The Indian pair should have high hopes for this tournament. Their pacy intensity is exciting to watch as so long as they are prepared to vary their approach if this doesn’t work they can get past a lot of their rivals. I was very sorry to hear about the Kevin Sukamuljo’s withdrawal because of the effects of Dengue Fever. Sending best wishes for a speedy recovery.
LIU Yu Chen and OU Xuan Yi are a new pairing who have gelled almost instantly and are a hazard to every athlete with ambitions. It would be no surprise to see the World Tour Finals winners on the top of the podium at the end of the week. They are seeded 5 and could face Hendra Setiawan/Mohammad Ahsan in a QF. Last year’s finalists are vulnerable to long rallies and to chronic injuries resurfacing and I expect all opponents will attempt to exploit this.
There’s plenty of star quality on show in Birmingham but no-one seems bulletproof this year. I’m intrigued to see the competition unfold and may the best men win!
There’s a somewhat chaotic energy in MS at the moment but with a serene Viktor Axelsen at the centre. His 2022 was stupendous with a win/loss record of 48-3. No-one gets those sorts of stats by accident; his competitive focus is second to none. For all that, his defeats in 2022 came from 3 different players (Sen, LOH Kean Yew, & H S Prannoy) and he recently lost the India Open final to Kunlavut Vitidsarn. Paradoxically it is more interesting to consider his defeats than his relentless success. Viktor is human after all. So, who can find a chink in his armour at the All England?
The top half of the draw is interesting because it contains the 3 men who beat him in 2022, unfortunately not one after the other. His main danger will come from either the third seed Anthony Ginting or fifth seed CHOU Tien Chen either of who could meet him at the semi final stage. Ginting has hauled himself out of his post-Olympic slump quite well although his games against Axelsen are frustrating because he doesn’t seem able to change a losing game plan. I hope he and his coaches have had a look at Prannoy’s game or Kodai Naraoka‘s ‘never say die’ approach as I think there are plenty of clues there to construct a realistic Plan B.
In the bottom half of the draw LEE Zii Jia is 4th seed and a long way from serenity. There is a lot of pressure on him to succeed in every tournament – some self-inflicted – and his frustration at near misses is obvious. He is a fantastic player who has won here before and can win again. He needs a settled environment where he can simplify his distractions and concentrate on being brilliant. I really wish him well in realizing his potential.
Kunlavut Vitidsarn meets Kento Momota in R1. It’s hard to judge where KM is in his comeback. He showed some improvements in the early stages of the recent German open but was absolutely demolished by LI Shi Feng in the SF. Kunlavut’s win over Axelsen in the final of the Indian Open confirmed that he is on the rise. SHI Yu Qui is also in this part of the draw but he was remarkably sluggish in his recent game in Germany. Hopefully he was just conserving energy for Birmingham because at his best he is a threat to everyone.
Can Jonatan Christie raise the trophy on finals day? In the past he has shown no fear of marathon games, that being so, he could construct a scheme to challenge Viktor. In their semi-final at the recent India Open he didn’t really trouble the Dane; he’s going to have to bring a lot more to the court if his ambition is to be satisfied.
It’s well known that it’s very hard to retain a title in sport. Even so, it’s easy for us spectators to predict that Viktor will keep his hands on the All England trophy this year. His invincibility has been breached recently and yet who will do it in Birmingham?
If you enjoyed this then take a look at my women’s preview https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2023/03/11/yonex-all-england-2023-womens-preview/
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