Badminton World Tour Finals 2021 preview: Everything you need to know

Only the top eight badminton players in the world have been invited to participate in the World Tour season closer in Bali from 1 to 5 December.

By Sanjeev Palar
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

The final BWF World Tour event of the 2021 season will see the best performing badminton players on this year's tour battle for the honour of being crowned World Tour Finals champion.

Only eight players from each of the five disciplines - men's and women's singles, men's and women's doubles as well as mixed doubles - are invited to participate in the season closer from 1 to 5 December in Bali, Indonesia.

The five gold medallists from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games earn an automatic invitation, while the rest of the numbers are made up based on the season-long World Tour Rankings, not to be confused with the world rankings.

All players also had to be competing in the season closing tournaments in Bali, ensuring that they are already within the tournament's COVID bubble.

Given that 2021 has continued to be a challenging year for players travelling to tournaments and for organisers hosting them, there are quite a few unexpected players and pairings going for the World Tour season closing crown.

Here's a who, and what to watch out for, at this year's BWF World Tour Finals 2021.

Don't forget to follow all the action from Bali in our daily LIVE BLOG.

Vikor Axelsen headlines the men's singles field

Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen earned an automatic invitation to the World Tour season closer, but there was never a doubt that he would have made the cut on merit.

The 27-year-old played in the final of all three Super 1000 events held this year and was victorious in two of them: the Denmark Open and the Indonesia Open, while Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia denied him of victory at the All England Open.

There is no doubt that the Dane will be one of the favourites for the title. Axelsen is keen on making up for his defeat in last season's World Tour Finals when he lost the decisive match against his compatriot Anders Antonsen.

Antonsen won't play in this year's event but Denmark will still have two players in the men's singles thanks to Rasmus Gemke who has enjoyed a solid campaign this season.

Gemke made the semi-finals of the Indonesia Open and was stopped in the quarter-finals of the Indonesia Masters by Momota Kento. It is the first time the 24-year-old will play in the prestigious end-of-season event.

Axelsen, Momota and Gemke will be joined in Group A by India's youngster Lakshya Sen.

Momota Kento returning to form

Two-time world champion Momota has had a shakey return to the sport following his near-fatal accident and subsequent surgery. The much anticipated Olympic Games in Tokyo proved that the 27-year-old still has some way to go to get back to his near-perfect self prior to the accident.

However, the Indonesia Masters 2021 saw him clinch a much awaited world tour title, his first since the 2020 Malaysia Masters.

Although Momota lost in the second round of the Indonesia Open to Singapore's Loh Kean Yew, the Japanese ace has been playing a lot of badminton during the Sudirman and Thomas Cup. The more matches he plays, the more we see of the killer instinct that made him such a fearful opponent on court.

"My draw is tough but I just want to do my best in the group stage and after that, I don't know what will happen," said Momota. "My opponents will feel the same, as in wanting to do their best. I want to get the title."

The world No.2 already won the 2019 World Tour Finals.

Japan's Momota Kento in action at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

India with a blend of youth and experience

For the first time, India will have two men's singles players flying the flag at the finale: 28-year-old Kidambi Srikanth and 20-year-old Lakshya Sen.

Kidambi has made three semi-finals appearances on tour this year, including at two of the last three tournaments. The former world No.1 shared with Olympics.com that he feels he is in good physical shape following a period of injury.

He believes that he can slowly raise his game back to the level that it once was at.

Meanwhile, Sen has earned his debut appearance by playing in seven of the nine World Tour events that were staged this season. He reached the semi-finals of the HYLO Open and the quarter-finals of the French and All England Open. With a silver medal at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games as well as a bronze at the 2018 Junior World Championships, Sen is hungry to emulate his success as at senior level.

Lee Zii Jia's fitness in question

In Group B Lee Zii Jia is considered to be the favourite even though this season's All England Open winner has been struggling with fitness issues recently.

The 23-year-old pulled out of the final of the HYLO Open and retired again in the first round of the Indonesian Masters before losing in the opening around of the Indonesian Open.

It has not been the best end of the season for the Malaysian who has proved that he can beat the likes of Axelsen and Momota if he is able to play to his full potential.

"My draw looks a little kind. I'm feeling good, strong and my target is to get to the semifinals. That would be great," said Lee Zii Jia who faces Kidambi and two young and exciting World Tour Finals' debutants: France's 23-year-old Toma Junior Popov and Thailand's 20-year-old Kunlavut Vitidsarn.

Vitidsarn reached the final of the Swiss Open this season and has been troubling many of the top ranked players on tour.

Popov, meanwhile, won the Orleans Masters and Spain Masters earlier in the year and will also make his World Tour Finals men's doubles debut with his younger brother Christo Popov.

PV Sindhu hoping for a happy end

Since the World Tour continued after the Olympic Games, Japan's Yamaguchi Akane has been in top form. The 24-year-old first helped her nation to finish runners-up in the Sudirman Cup and the Uber Cup before going on to win back-to-back World Tour title at the French Open and the Denmark Open.

Akane's run of form came to a halt in Bali when she was denied the Indonesian Masters 2021 title by South Korea's An Seyoung. The teenager then went on to win the Indonesian Open 2021 title.

Both players seem at the top of their game and will be looking to snatch the final World Tour title on offer in the absence of Olympic Champion Chen Yu Fei who has opted not to play in the Bali tournaments.

Singapore's Yeo Jia Min and Thailand's Busanan Ongbamrungphan are the other two players in Group B.

Looking to spoil the party will be India's PV Sindhu. The two-time Olympic medallist has been struggling to regain her form but has managed to make the semi-finals of the last three tournaments she's played in. Sindhu last won the World Tour season closer back in 2018.

Sindhu will be challenged by Denmark's Line Christophersen, Germany's Yvonne Li and Pompawee Chochuwong from Thailand

South Korea's An Seyoung in action at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

List of invited player to the BWF World Tour Finals 2021

Here's the complete list of the players taking part in the BWF World Tour Finals 2021 in Bali from 1 to 5 December.

Men's singles:

  1. Viktor AXELSEN (DEN)
  2. LEE Zii Jia (MAS)
  3. KIDAMBI Srikanth (IND)
  4. Rasmus GEMKE (DEN)
  5. Toma Junior POPOV (FRA)
  6. Lakshya SEN (IND)
  7. Kento MOMOTA (JPN)
  8. Kunlavut VITIDSARN (THA)

Women's singles:

  1. Pornpawee CHOCHUWONG (THA)
  2. Akane YAMAGUCHI (JPN)
  3. PUSARLA V. Sindhu (IND)
  4. Busanan ONGBAMRUNGPHAN (THA)
  5. AN Seyoung (JOR)
  6. Line CHRISTOPHERSEN (DEN)
  7. YEO Jia Min (SGP)
  8. Lianne TAN (BEL)

Men's doubles:

  1. Marcus Fernaldi GIDEON & Kevin Sanjaya SUKAMULJO (INA)
  2. HOKI Takuro & KOBAYASHI Yugo (JPN)
  3. Kim ASTRUP& Anders Skaarup RASMUSSEN (DEN)
  4. ONG Yew Sin & TEO Ee Yi (MAS)
  5. Christo POPOV & Toma Junior POPOV (FRA)
  6. Pramudya KUSUMAWARDANA & Yeremia Erich Yoche Yacob RAMBITAN (INA)
  7. Satwiksairaj RANKIREDDY & Chirag SHETTY (IND)
  8. LEE Yang & WANG Chi-Lin (TPE)

Women's doubles:

  1. Jongkolphan KITITHARAKUL & Rawinda PRAJONGJAI (THA)
  2. MATSUYAMA Nami & SHIDA Chiharu (JPN)
  3. Gabriela STOEVA & Stefani STOEVA (BUL)
  4. KIM Soyeong & KONG Heeyong (KOR)
  5. TAN Pearly & THINAAH Muralitharan (MAS)
  6. Chloe BIRCH & Lauren SMITH (ENG)
  7. Ashwini PONNAPPA & REDDY N. Sikki (IND)
  8. Greysia POLII & Apriyani RAHAYU (INA)

Mixed doubles:

  1. WATANABE Yuta & HIGASHINO Arisa (JPN)
  2. Dechapol PUAVARANUKROH & Sapsiree TAERATTANACHAI (THA)
  3. Mathias CHRISTIANSEN & Alexandra BOJE (DEN)
  4. Marcus ELLIS & Lauren SMITH (ENG)
  5. TAN Kian Meng & LAI Pei Jing (MAS)
  6. CHAN Peng Soon & GOH Liu Ying (MAS)
  7. TANG Chun Man & TSE Ying Suet (HKG)
  8. Praveen JORDAN & Melati Daeva OKTAVIANTI (INA)

Schedule of Day 1

Here is a look at the schedule of day 1.

GO OLYMPIC. GET ALL THIS.

Free live sport events. Unlimited access to series. Unrivalled Olympic news & highlights.