Sony Dwi Kuncoro (@3.0) vs Kodai Naraoka (@1.33)
11-09-2019

Our Prediction:

Kodai Naraoka will win

Sony Dwi Kuncoro – Kodai Naraoka Match Prediction | 11-09-2019 09:40

Im sorry, I dont think this is the ideal question. In my point of view, the value of a player doesnt depend on how early he could win the title but on how long he could stay on court. A player could win titles at the age of 15, but this kind of thing doesnt mean anything. If he could win titles at the age of 15 and keep playing on the professional court until the age of 35, I believe this will be the most valuable thing to him and to the sport.

The two oldest singles players on the tour suggest yet another facet of the modern game. Players like Lee Hyun Il (37) and Hu Yun (36) are part of a whole legion of players some recently retired and some still going who kept playing well into their thirties and even if they themselves only combined for about a dozen Superseries titles made it difficult for youngsters to title early.

Not that it stopped the girls. In roughly the same period, Zhang Ning, Tine Baun, Xu Huaiwen, Pi Hongyan, Julian Schenk, Zhou Mi, and Wang Chen all played past the age of thirty and this did not preclude players like Lu Lan, Wang Lin (pictured left, with Zhou Mi), Saina Nehwal, Wang Yihan, Wang Shixian, Li Xuerui, Ratchanok Intanon, or Tai Tzu Ying from taking major titles before turning twenty.

But once we go down a rung to the Grand Prix Gold level, mens singles is still showing 0 teen winners while mens doubles has Lee Yong Dae and Tan Boon Heong, plus Zheng Siwei, Huang Kaixiang (pictured right), Li Junhui, Liu Yuchen, and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, while in mixed doubles, 3 of those 5 have titled before age 20, along with Zhang Nan, Wang Yilyu, Lee Chun Hei, and just this year He Jiting, Seo Seung Jae, and Dechapol Puavaranukroh. In fact, overall, more major mixed titles have gone to teenaged boys than girls, including the only Olympic gold ever won by a teenager.

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If we only consider the Superseries, mens doubles has had exactly two teen winners Tan Boon Heong and Lee Yong Dae and they both won with veteran partners. In fact, Lee is also one of only two teenaged boys to title in mixed doubles at the Superseries level, but the other one, Zheng Siwei, earned his first 3 Superseries titles with fellow 19-year-old Chen Qingchen. Although mens singles has the lowest number of teen champions, we cant ignore the fact that it is in both singles and doubles that boy winners are less common.

So maybe mens singles is just like that, and veterans never get fooled or even outrun by peppy upstarts. Well, that may be partly true but there was a reason we brought it up with Lin Dan back in 2013. Not only was that right after Ratchanok Intanon won the womens singles World Championship title at age 18 but it was also nearly ten years after Lin Dan had won his second major title as a teenager. Lin won the 2002 Korea Open title at age 18 and then the 2003 Denmark Open title a few weeks before turning 20.

Players like LCW and LD at their old age wont stand a chance against younger players, and we could observe that in fact there were very few players still active at the age of more than 35 years. Back then, when the 15 point system (no rally point!), it required an incredible physical endurance. IMHO, in the 21 rally point system, skill and experience play a more important role in the game. Its strange that you did not take into account the different scoring system.

But even more telling are the big names that are absent from the junior lists. Peter Gade won doubles but not singles and Taufik Hidayat and Lin Dan were continental but not world champions. Unable to top a major junior podium at all were then-future mens singles world #1s Chen Hong, Lee Hyun Il, Son Wan Ho (pictured left), and especially all-time Superseries leader Lee Chong Wei.

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On the other hand, if we keep going further back into the past, we do find more. Its a little difficult to track down every historical instance but 10 years before Chen and Hidayat, the Hong Kong and China Opens were won by teenagers Wu Wenkai and Ardy Wiranata respectively. Earlier in the 80s, Icuk Sugiarto and Zhao Jianhua had titled at the biggest events before age 20, too. Its not an annual thing, but then again, a 14-year gap seems excessive.

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We cant ignore what else has happened since the 2014 poll. Axelsen has become World Champion, one player from our poll has multiple Superseries titles, two others have been in Superseries finals, and two won their first major titles at age 20. As to why teenagers arent winning mens singles titles or when the next such occasion will arise, we can continue to speculate. But meanwhile, a new generation is taking over maybe slowly, but surely, and not always early.

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