The 2023 BWF World Championships was filled with excitement, heartbreaks, shocking upsets, and everything in-between. It’s every professional badminton player’s dream to become World Champion and it’s therefore the most prestigious badminton tournament out there besides the Olympic Games (which, for those years, the gold medalists are considered “world champion”) Without further ado, here’s my recap of the 2023 BWF World Championships. Spoilers ahead.
The mixed doubles discipline is filled with power houses, with many pairs considered capable of winning the gold medal.
Of the many fantastic pairs out there, these pairs stand out to go far into the tournament:
- Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong (Number 1 seed)
- Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino (Number 2 seed)
- Dechapol Puavarankroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai (Number 4 seed)
These three pairs have proven themselves many times over and have dominated the mixed doubles scene in the last couple of years.
The favorites, however, are the reigning World Champions and number one seeds Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong. This pair have proven themselves time and time again to be the ones to beat. With Zheng Si Wei’s monstrous smashes and intensity and Huang Ya Qiong’s incredible speed and reading of the game, they more often than not are the ones that come out on top. Their badminton resume is one that any one would be proud of, with three World Championship golds, and Olympic silver, and two All England golds, they are, in essence, the final boss of mixed doubles.
As expected, Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong bulldozed their way to the finals without dropping a single game. They looked unbeatable with no other pair able to keep up. Who would they meet in the finals? The bottom half of the draws included both Dechapol / Sapsiree and Yuta / Arisa – which one would prevail?
Their record against Yuta / Arisa was 13 to 5 and against Dechapol / Sapsiree was 11 to 5, both extremely good head to head win rates.
Out of seemingly nowhere, the South Korean pair of Seo Seung Jae and Chae Yu Jung (the number 5 seeds) have risen to the top of the bottom half! In their journey to the finals, they seemed a bit shaky when they dropped a game in their second match to the number 12 seeds but then turned it up a notch to defeat BOTH Dechapol / Sapsiree and Yuta / Arisa in two straight games each! The games weren’t even close, with only dropping 12, 16, 15, and 13 points in the games against such high level opponents. Absolutely amazing!
So, the final is now Zheng Si Wei / Huang Ya Qiong against Seo Seung Jae / Chae Yu Jung. At this point, their head to head is 9 to 0 in favor of the reigning World Champions. Will Zheng and Huang prevail once again as they have many times before? Or will Seo and Chae finally overcome the seemingly impossible task of beating Zheng and Huang?
The match starts off with blazing fast and intense rallies. Seo / Chae edge ahead to a 9 to 5 lead as Zheng and Huang make some untimely errors. However, Zheng and Huang fight back and tie the game back up at 12 points a piece. Once again, Seo / Chae edge back ahead as they’re able to get on the attack and surprises everyone to take the first game 21 to 17. This is the first game that Zheng and Huang have dropped this entire tournament!
It’s clear that Seo / Chae are moving at an intensity faster than they did in the past, but can they maintain such a high level for another game?
The second game begins with blistering pace and intensity, especially from Zheng / Huang as they want to ensure a second game win to force a third and deciding set. At 3 to 1, there’s an absolutely stunning 66 hit rally, with the commentators Gill Clark and Steen Fladberg praising it as “badminton at its brilliant best!” and “I have just seen – I am absolutely certain – I have just seen the best mixed doubles rally I’ve ever seen.” Check it out below!
Zheng and Huang maintain the intensity and go into the interval with a 11 to 6 lead after Zheng makes a miraculous save with a full body dive. They then pull away decisively in the second half of the second game, completely outpacing Seo and Chae with a very comfortable win of 21 to 10. Did Seo and Chae run out of steam? Or would they be able to pull it back together in the decisive third set?
The third game begins with Seo and Chae attacking relentlessly – almost never allowing Zheng and Huang to attack. Their speed and anticipation pay off as they go into the interval with a healthy lead of 11 to 5. However, at this point, the pairs change ends. Both pairs have done significantly better on the end that Zheng and Huang have now for the rest of the game. Could the tables turn after the interval?
Both teams are hungry and the intensity continues, but with Seo and Chae extending their lead to 16 to 8 showing their nerves of steel. However, Zheng and Huang fight back and show why they’re three-time World Champions to close the gap to 19 to 15. Huang Ya Qiong to serve and she makes a fatal service error. Now, Seo and Chae have five gold medal points. Three gold medal points come and gold as Seo and Chae still cannot convert. The score is now 20 to 18. Zheng serves to Seo, who forces a high defensive lift from Zheng. Seo drops to Huang in hopes of continuing the attack in a better position and Huang hits a slightly weak cross court lift, which is all Seo needs to thunder down a smash to Zheng’s awkward forehand position which Zheng is unable to return.
Seo and Chae jump in joy and are practically in tears from their victory as they become the 2023 mixed doubles World Champions! Zheng and Huang are gracious in defeat, even giving a thumbs up and hug to their opponents. Seo and Chae have finally defeated Zheng and Huang, the final boss of any major tournament.
Women’s doubles was perhaps the most straight forward of the disciplines but it was not without hiccups.
The top half of the bracket featured three-time reigning World Champions Chen Qing Chen and Jia Yi Fan who are also rightfully the number 1 seeds as they are in prime form still. They are the clear favorites to take home the gold for a fourth time. They ran into the formidable Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida but were able to dispatch them despite a loss in the second game. They then handedly disposed of their unseeded compatriots Zhang Shu Xian and Zheng Yu in the semifinals to comfortably make it to the finals.
On the bottom half were second seeds Baek Ha Na and Lee So Hee who lost in a surprisingly one sided match against Olympic gold medalist Apriyani Rahayu and her new partner (after the 2021 Olympics) Siti Fadia Silva Ramadhanti from Indonesia. The Indonesian pair slid comfortably into the finals after defeating the strong pairs of Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota (number 5 seeds) and Kim So Yeung and Kong Hee Yong (number 3 seeds). They looked like they were in really good form the whole time, often beating other high ranking pairs with large margins in score.
So the final is now the favorites of Chen Qing Chen and Jia Yi Fan of China versus the 11th seed Apriyani Rahayu and Siti Fadia Silva Ramadhanti. The Chinese pair have met Apriyani before in the 2021 Olympic finals where Apriyani paired with Greysia Polii and defeated the Chinese pair for the gold medal. Can Apriyani do it again with her new partner or will the Chinese pair get revenge for the Olympic final loss?
The Chinese pair start off nervously with some easy mistakes but get their game faces on to come back to an 11 to 6 advantage at the mid-game interval. They keep the advantage throughout the second half of the game to take it 21 to 16. Interestingly, Apriyani is smiling wryly throughout the game, perhaps simply having fun or a bit nervous of the big stage? She is quite experienced though at this point so it doesn’t seem like that would be the case.
In the second game, the Chinese pair start off strong, especially in the service situation and continually gain the attacking advantage and are able to convert the rallies. For a while, the Indonesian pair are content with simply lifting and defending but their defense proves to be too weak as the Chinese pair continue to break through to once again an 11 to 6 advantage at the interval.
The Indonesian pair show a little more urgency in the second half of the game and are able to attack more frequently but still have a hard time winning points. They’re relying on the Chinese pair making unforced errors. The Chinese pair actually do make quite a few unforced errors in the game but it proves to be not enough as the Chinese pair coast to a 21 to 12 point victory.
Chen Qing Chen and Jia Yi Fan make history once more with their 4th World Championship gold. They’re making a strong case to becoming the greatest women’s doubles of all time, with only the Olympic Games gold medal missing from their resume.
Women’s singles is filled with talent from many different nations, all of whom are hungry for the World Championship title. Many big names are participating in this year’s event, including the youngest ever World Champion Ratchanok Intanon (at age 18 in 2013), the Indian superstar and former World Champion PV Sindhu, former World Champion Nozomi Okuhara, reigning Olympic Champion Chen Yu Fei, three-time World Champion and Olympic Champion Carolina Marin, Taiwanese super star Tai Tzu Ying, two-time World Champion Akane Yamaguchi, and the new recent world number one from South Korea An Se Young.
To say that the field is stacked is an understatement.
On the top half of the draw, An Se Young is the number 1 seed as she has been destroying the competition this year thus far, only dropping two matches against the formidable Akane Yamaguchi in the finals of the Malaysia and German Open. She is the favorite to win the entire event as she is in the form of her life and is the youngest player at only 21 years of age. Like Ratchanok Intanon, she is a badminton prodigy.
An Se Young’s first two matches go by with relative ease and she then faces former World Champion Nozomi Okuhara in the quarterfinals. Nozomi hasn’t had great results in the past few years as she has had complications from injuries in the past. However, she has shown that she is back in form by defeating both PV Sindhu and Ratchanok Intanon in two straight games each.
Nozomi Okuhara surprises the audience by defeating An Se Young in the first game 21 to 16, making everyone wonder if a potential upset could occur. Nozomi’s play style uses lots of energy though as she moves around vigorously around the court. An Se Young on the other hand seems to glide around with ease and you can tell that Nozomi is running out of steam in the second game and loses 10 to 21. The third game is more of the same and An Se Young prevails at 11 to 21.
An Se Young then meets reigning Olympic Champion Chen Yu Fei in the semifinals and prevails yet again despite a close first game. Who will she meet in the finals? Akane Yamaguchi, the second seed, is the favorite and is the only player who has been able to beat An Se Young this year. But alas, it is not Akane, but rather the three-time former World Champion and former Olympic Champion Carolina Marin that meets An Se Young in the final!
Carolina Marin was an absolute powerhouse from 2014 to 2018 and could even be in the running for the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) women’s singles players. Her dominance was only stopped by her ACL injury in 2019. Ever since her injury, Carolina has not seen much success in major tournaments, but she has shown amazing resilience to come back in great fashion in this World Championships.
In the quarter finals, Carolina defeated the formidable Tai Tzu Ying convincingly and then defeated Akane Yamaguchi in a close first game of 23 to 21 and then a comfortable 21 to 13 in the second game.
Carolina did not drop a single game in her run to the finals – but she will now face the seemingly unstoppable An Se Young in the finals. Will the newly crowned world number 1 An Se Young be able to win her first World Championship title? Or will Carolina be able to take home the gold once more for her fourth World Championship title, cementing herself clearly as the greatest women’s singles player of all time? It’s a battle of the new generation of badminton players versus the old generation.
The game begins evenly with the players testing each other’s form at four points a piece. An Se Young pulls away though with superior consistency and stability. Despite Marin’s extensive amount of experience, she looks more nervous than An Se Young and is making more errors than expected. An Se Young’s anticipation and court coverage prove to be too much for Marin who struggles to find winners. An Se Young glides to a first game win of 21 to 12.
The second game begins with An Se Young bringing the attack to Marin by increasing the pace. It works as An Se Young leads 9 to 5. However, Marin fires back with her own attacking play and they are back at 10 points a piece. For the first time in the match, it looks like Marin has a fighting chance against An Se Young.
However, in the second half, Marin seemed to lose her edge, or her nerves. With some careless errors from Marin and extremely solid play from An Se Young, the game ends at 21 to 10. An Se Young wins 11 points in a row, most of which were fairly short rallies.
An Se Young screams in delight for her well deserved first World Championship title (and perhaps many more to come in the coming years) and embraces her coach. She then goes to shake Marin’s hand but it seems Marin was upset that she did not come to shake her hand before going to her coach. You can see the interaction down below.
The men’s singles discipline was a roller coaster of a ride. Viktor Axelsen was deservedly so the number one seed of the tournament as he has been dominating the scene in the last couple of years. He is the reigning World Champion and is ranked number 1 in the world and is the clear favorite to take home the gold once more.
On the bottom side of the bracket is Anthony Sinisuka Ginting as the number two seed. However, due to incredibly unfortunate circumstances, Anthony has withdrawn from the World Championships due to the loss of his mother on August 9, 2023.
With Anthony withdrawn from the competition, it’s anyone’s game in the bottom half, with solid contenders such as Anders Antonsen, Lee Zii Jia, Shi Yu Qi, and Kodai Naraoka. All these players certainly have a shot at getting to the finals on their day.
As the tournament progressed, the bottom quartile was dominated by none other than Anders Antonsen, making quick work of his opponents by winning in two straight games each with only a small scare against Ng Tze Yong. Anders’ smart play and accurate shots gave him a well deserved spot in the semifinals.
In the third quartile, Kodai Naraoka coasted to the semifinals with his incredible retrieving abilities and defense. His consistency and accuracy was too much for his opponents and Shi Yu Qi was the only one even close to taking a game off of him.
Kodai and Anders at this point are guaranteed a 3rd/4th place medal (there’s no 3rd place match in the World Championship) but they’re hungry for more. They, of course, battled it out in the semifinals which resulted in an absolutely brutal first game. In the game, Anders pulled away to a comfortable lead of 17 to 11 and was looking like an easy first game win, but through sheer willpower, Kodai clawed his way back into the match. Point after point, Kodai closed the gap slowly and steadily until it was dead even at 19 all. Who will hold their nerve when it matters the most?
Anders was the first to blink, giving Kodai the first game point. They trade points and Kodai has a second game point. The game is as tense as can be and with each little moment perceived as stalling from Kodai, the Danish crowd jeered and booed. Perhaps it affected the players a bit as then Anders held his nerve for the next 2 points and got a game point himself at 22 to 21. Another trade of points leaves Anders with another tantalizing game point at 23 to 22. Kodai, desperate to force a winning point, pushes a drive that was surely out, but with the help of hawk-eye shows that the shuttle just barely touches the outside of the baseline. Kodai then brings it home for an amazing comeback to win the game at 25 to 23.
In the second game, Kodai comfortably defeats Anders with his patient play and secures himself a spot in the finals.
But who would Kodai meet in the finals? Surely it would it be Viktor Axelsen, the clear favorite and world number 1. But no! Viktor was knocked out in a surprise of events by the Indian badminton player H. S. Prannoy – who surprisingly hasn’t had many big tournament runs despite his prowess on the badminton court. Prannoy pulled out all the tricks in the book to give him a well deserved spot in the semifinals, denying Viktor any medal at the prestigious event.
In the semifinals, Prannoy meets none other than Kunlavut Vitidsarn, the runner up of the 2022 World Championships and three-time World Junior Champion. Prannoy starts off strong in the first game, winning it 21 to 18, but Kunlavut adapts and fires back with two fast wins at 21 to 13 and 21 to 14 to end Prannoy’s amazing run at the 2023 World Championships.
So, the finals of the men’s singles event is Kunlavut versus Kodai, an exact repeat of the 2018 World Junior Championships finals! Despite Kunlavut besting Kodai in that final, their head to head is 3 to 3 at this point. Both players are just 22 years of age and are on the biggest stage badminton has to offer bar the Olympics. Both are hungry for their first World Championship gold, but only one can claim it!
The match begins and it’s immediately clear that it’s going to be a long, brutal war of attrition. With Kodai’s patient and defensive style and Kunlavut’s resilience, the rallies are long and tiring. Whoever loses the first game is going to have a tough pill to swallow as their stamina was used up with no reward. The game is back and forth, with Kodai leading most of the game until the end, when Kunlavut ups the pace to edge ahead 19 to 18. Kodai is resilient and survives the onslaught as Kunlavut makes unforced errors while attacking to give Kodai the game 19 to 21.
The second game is equally physically brutal and long with the players trading points in what was certainly a test of mental stamina as well. At 18 points a piece, it’s very apparent that both players are hurting from the long and tedious rallies. With just a couple more points, Kunlavut summons the strength to continue attacking and finishes the game 21 to 18, tying up the match a game each.
In the third and deciding game, it’s evident that Kodai is running out of steam and is relying on Kunlavut to make errors. However, Kunlavut has a second wind of stamina and attacks his way through to a 10 to 1 lead. The rest of the game is more of the same as Kunlavut coasts to victory at 21 to 6 and celebrates his first World Championship gold!
Men’s doubles was a rather interesting discipline this year which had an epic ending.
The top bracket included the World Number 1 pair, Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto as well as the legendary “Daddies” Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan who already have three World Championship golds under their belt together as a pair and are 35 and 39 years old respectively. Hendra Setiawan even has an Olympic gold and another World Championship gold with another partner. With his resume, he has a very strong case for being the greatest men’s doubles player of all time. Even at their ages, they’re able to give the other top players a run for their money.
More notable pairs in the top bracket include reigning World Champions Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik who are eager to retain their title as well as Taiwan’s reigning Olympic Champions Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin. Further, China’s heavyweight “towers” (as they’re both quite tall at 6 foot 4 inches and 6 foot 2 inches) Liu Yuchen and Ou Xuan Yi are also in the top half of the bracket and are contenders for the title.
All of these players have proven themselves already in one way or another in the past, but alas, none of them would make it to the finals!
The number 1 seeds Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto had a shocking second round loss to Taiwan’s unseeded pair Lee Jhe-Huei and Yang Po-Hsuan while the others either took each other out or ran into the in form 9th seed dark horses Kang Min Hyuk and Seo Seung Jae from South Korea! Remember the guy that won mixed doubles seemingly out of nowhere? Yup, Seo. He’s back again for men’s doubles and is absolutely KILLING it.
First the Korean pair dismantle the legendary “daddies” in the quarter finals and then shuts down reigning World Champions Aaron and Soh convincingly in the semifinals. They’re through to the finals and they can taste the gold. Can Seo do it? Can he win BOTH the mixed doubles and the men’s doubles gold at the same event?
On the bottom side of the bracket, we have the rising pair from China Liang Wei Keng and Wang Chang as the number 3 seeds as well as the extraordinary Indian pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty as the number 2 seeds. The Indian pair have been in excellent form in the last few tournaments they participated and are certainly a strong contender for the gold.
However, once again neither of these strong pairs reach the final! Instead, the tactical and somewhat expressive Danish home pair (the tournament is in Copenhagen, Denmark) of Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen (number 11 seeds) come out on top! The Danish pair defeat both the second and third seeds in close and nail biting games to clench a spot in the finals.
So who will win the finals? The Korean pair of Kang and Seo or the home favorites Kim and Anders? Seo would be making history if he were to win, obtaining the so-called “doubles double” (two wins in two doubles events). However, his mixed doubles match against the beastly pair of Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong must have tired him out, especially since it went to three games. Does he have the stamina to continue on?
Luckily for Seo though, the mixed doubles was the first event and the men’s doubles is the last event, giving him a much needed break. Not to mention, the men’s singles match was extremely long, which delayed the men’s doubles match.
With the stage set, the two pairs start battling it out. Kang and Seo start off shaky with several unforced errors, but there are no signs of fatigue from Seo. The Danish pair come out swinging to an impressive 8 to 2 lead and also included some theatrics from Kim, perhaps to try and get into the Korean pair’s heads or to rile up the Danish audience. However, the Korean pair fight tooth and nail back to even the score at 9 points a piece. The Danish pair then ramp up the attack – and with a little bit of luck – take home the game at a comfortable 21 to 14.
In the second game, we see the Korean pair putting in extra effort to get on the attack, rarely lifting unless absolutely necessary. The Danish pair are on the defense almost every rally but are able to still keep it close with some clever shots to the open spaces. The attacking style pays off though as the Korean pair go into the mid-game interval 11 to 7.
After the interval though, the Danish pair suddenly come roaring back with excellent counter attacks to even the game at 14 points a piece. However, the Danish pair become a little too complacent with defending and the Korean attack becomes too strong, ending the game at 21 to 15.
The third game starts off with fireworks. Each team desperately trying to get the initiative and it results in some fast paced epic rallies with full length dives. The Korean pair inch ahead with a small lead but are able to maintain it resiliently. The two pairs trade points back and forth until the Korean pair finally end it with a score of 21 to 17.
Kang and Seo have done it! The first World Championship gold for Kang and the second in the same day for Seo!! History has been made and the Korean team can go home proud, taking three of the five gold medals in the event.
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