The badminton doubles division is competitive, to say the least. Pairs from all over the world vie relentlessly for the top spot. Any team who wishes to try their hands (and rackets) at the division will face some challenges; very few can claim consistent success in the division. And yet, among these few shuttlers is the men’s doubles specialist, Fu Haifeng.
Fu Haifeng was born in Guangdong, China. He competed in the badminton men’s and mixed doubles divisions, though he was more successful in the men’s doubles division. Throughout his career, Fu Haifeng partnered with other talented Chinese doubles badminton players, but his performances with Cai Yun and his powerful backhand smash are what got him into the Badminton Federation (BWF) Hall of Fame.
Fu Haifeng’s place in the Hall of Fame was also due to his titles, including two Olympic gold medals and numerous Grand Prix and Superseries titles. Fu Haifeng — along with Cai Yun — also dominated the BWF World Championships. Because of his achievements, Fu Haifeng has been immortalized as one of the greatest men’s doubles shuttlers of all time. He announced his retirement in June 2017.
Learn more about one of the greatest doubles badminton players in the world!
Fu Haifeng is a native of Jieyang, Guangdong, China. He started playing badminton when he turned six. Under the influence of his father, Fu Haifeng honed his skills, developing them obsessively.
Unlike most kids, Fu Haifeng played using his left hand. Surprisingly, his father was accepting of it. Despite China’s cultural stance regarding left-handedness, Fu Haifeng continued to be the sole southpaw in rooms full of right-handed players.
Fu Haifeng didn’t compete until he turned 12. He took part in several small tournaments in Guangdong, gathering experience as a youth badminton player. The time he spent on the court prepared him for his debut as a seniors player in 2002.
Early Badminton Career
Fu Haifeng’s first major badminton tournament was in 2002. It was the Realkredit Danmark Open. Fu Haifeng paired with Zhu Lihua for the men’s doubles event. The pair made it until the third round of the tournament, only to be knocked out early.
They lost to Indonesia’s Eng Hian and Flandy Limpele. The Indonesian duo made quick work of Fu Haifeng and Zhu Lihua, beating the Chinese pair 15 – 6 and 15 – 4 in two games.
Months after the defeat at the Denmark Open, Fu Haifeng competed once more at the 2002 China Open. Here, he paired up with a men’s doubles player who would continue to be his partner for most of his career — Cai Yun.
The combination of Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun proved effective. The Chinese duo defeated Denmark’s Jim Laugesen and Michael Sogaard. While Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun didn’t win gold or silver, the victory was enough to get the pair the bronze medal.
The duo continued competing well into 2003, starting the year at the Siam Cement Thailand Open. The pair made it until the semifinals, though they, unfortunately, lost at the hands of Malaysia’s Tai Fook Choong and Wan Wah Lee.
The pair’s next stop was at the 2003 Yonex Japan Open on April 1. Sadly, Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun suffered elimination early on. A few months later, the pair competed again. Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun played at the 2003 BWF World Championships, which took place at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, England.
Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun made it to the semifinals, but they needed to get through the formidable Indonesian team of Candra Wijaya and Sigit Budiarto to advance. The team of Wijaya and Budiarto made short work of Fu and Cai, beating them in the second and third games. The result was that Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun had to settle for the bronze medal.
Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun played at the Malaysia Open on September 7, 2003, where the duo advanced to the finals of a major tournament for the first time in their careers. All they needed to do was defeat the South Korean pair of Kim Dong Moon and Lee Dong Soo to win the gold. Unfortunatey, the pair lost to their South Korean opponents in two straight games — nevertheless, Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun won their first silver medal as a pair.
Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun won their second silver medal a month later at the 2003 Yonex German Open. Here, there crossed paths with Indonesia’s Eng Hian and Flandy Limpele once again.
The two pairs faced off, and just like the first meeting, the Indonesian team trumped the Chinese duo once again. Hian and Limpele won the gold medal, and Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun settled for silver.
2004 — Better Results for Fu Haifeng
Despite coming short of the gold medal multiple times, Fu Haifeng never lost sight of his goal — his first gold medal win. His dream came to fruition, not once, but on two occasions in 2004. In 2004, Fu Haifeng took home the gold medal at the Swiss Open and the Thomas and Uber Cup.
The 2004 Swiss Open took place from March 2 – 7. During the five-day tournament, about 47 pairs entered the men’s doubles event. Among them was the pair of Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun.
Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun bested many pairs to get to the finals. Standing in their way of BWF Grand Prix gold were Indonesia’s Luluk Hadiyanto and Alvent Yulianto.
Unwilling to succumb to their “finals curse,” Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun established dominance early on, beating the Indonesians 15 points to nine. The second game was different, as the Indonesians trailed the Chinese pair by a narrow margin; Fu and Cai were only a point ahead. But as per the rules, a two-point lead was necessary to win a game.
Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun prevailed, beating their Indonesian opponents 17 – 14. The win got the pair their first BWF Grand Prix title.
Later that year, Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun were part of the Chinese team in the Thomas and Uber Cup. In the finals, the Chinese team defeated South Korea, winning the 2004 Thomas Cup. The victory meant another gold medal win for Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun.
World Championship Crowns
Fu Haifeng didn’t let his loss at the 2003 BWF World Championships deter his aspirations for gold. On the contrary, he competed in multiple BWF World Championship tournaments thereafter — and bagged five gold medals!
The pair decimated the entire men’s doubles division to get to the finals. Standing between them and the elusive men’s doubles gold medal were the English team of Robert Blair and Anthony Clark.
Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun won after dominating their English opponents in two straight games — Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun had finally won their first BWF World Championship gold medal.
Three years later, Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun returned, even hungrier for gold than before. The pair were riding on the tailwinds of their previous BWF World Championship win and their victory in the 2009 All England Open.
At the 2009 BWF World Championships, Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun battled the South Korean powerhouse team of Lee Yong Dae and Shin Baek Cheol. The match had the spectators of the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium at Hyderabad on the edge of their seats as it went to a third game. The new scoring rules engendered a match that went beyond the 21-point score cap. Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun prevailed, beating Lee and Jung 28 – 26 in the third game of the match.
At the 2010 World Championships in Paris, Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun defeated Malaysia’s Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boo Heong in the finals. A year later, the Chinese duo thrilled English fans at the Wembley Arena in London with their scintillating performance against Ko Sung-hyun and Yoo Yeon-seong.
Fu Haifeng’s Achievements at the Olympics
Fu Haifeng has represented China four times in the Olympics. As an Olympian, Fu Haifeng competed in the men’s doubles events with different partners.
Fu Haifeng competed in his first Olympic event at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Paired with Cai Yun, the duo lost in the quarterfinals to Jens Eriksen and Martin Lundgaard Hansen.
Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun returned for redemption at the 2008 Olympics. The pressure was on as the Olympics was in Beijing, China. Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun advanced to the finals to face Indonesia’s Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan. Both teams were equally matched that day as the match went to a third game.
The third game went the way of the Indonesian duo. Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun lost the match, winning silver in the men’s doubles event. However, coming so close to an Olympic gold medal only made Fu Haifeng hungrier for it.
In their return at the 2012 London Olympics, Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun once again made it to the finals. There, they faced the formidable Danish team of Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen.
Fu Haifeng and his partner’s confidence were palpable as they made quick work of the Danish pair in the finals. They defeated the pair in two straight matches, winning their first Olympic gold medal.
Fu Haifeng returned at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but he competed with a different partner. This time, he paired with Zhang Nan.
Zhang Nan was a men’s doubles badminton player that Fu Haifeng had already partnered with in many BWF Superseries tournaments. The pair began playing together in 2014 at the Denmark Open — which they won.
Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan faced Malaysia’s Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong in the finals of the Rio Olympics. The Malaysian team proved formidable, dominating Fu and Zhang in the first game.
And yet, Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan turned the tables in the second game. With the third game hanging in the balance, the Chinese and Malaysian teams fought tooth and nail. Scoring the crucial 23rd point to establish a two-point lead, Fu and Zhang Nan won. The result marked Fu Haifeng’s second Olympic victory and Zhang Nan’s first.
In an interview with CGTN, Zhang Nan expressed his joy at the victory. Fu Haifeng, on the other hand, seemed nonchalant in the interview — an odd reaction for someone who has just won the Olympics for a second time.
Fu Haifeng admitted that, while he was happy about the win initially, nothing would beat how he felt the first time he won Olympic gold.
Fu Haifeng’s Retirement and Induction Into the BWF Hall of Fame
Fu Haifeng’s final match was at the 2017 BWF Sudirman Cup. There, he paired with Zhang Nan. After a gold medal-worthy finish that handed China the 2017 Sudirman Cup, Fu Haifeng retired from badminton.
In 2021, Fu Haifeng was inducted into the BWF Hall of fame. He was inducted alongside his longtime partner, Cai Yun. The two received recognition for their contributions to the sport and Chinese badminton.
One of the Greatest Men’s Doubles Badminton Player in History
Fu Haifeng’s achievements in the Super Series, World Championships, Grand Prix, and Olympics solidify his status as one of the best of the best. With titles overflowing from his trophy cabinet, few will deny that Fu Haifeng is one of the greatest doubles players of his generation.
In an article on Fu Haifeng’s retirement, the author closed by saying that Fu left the sport knowing “there was nothing left to conquer” — and that author may just be right.
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