There's a good chance that the World Superseries Finals currently on in Dubai might be the last of its kind, at least in the present nomenclature, as the Badminton World Federation (BWF) has adopted a new tournament format for the 2018 season. Here's all you need to know about the new schedule set to kick in with the Indonesia Masters and the India Open in January.
What is the format as of now?
The 2017 BWF calendar classifies tournaments into four levels. Level 1 comprises the major events like the World Championships and the World Superseries Finals. Level 2 includes the Superseries and Superseries Premier tournaments; besides the ongoing tournament in Dubai, there were 12 Superseries events in 2017.
Level 3 consists of the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Gold Series and offers lesser ranking points and prize money than the first two levels. Level 4, which is the lowest, features the International Challenge, as well as the International and Future series.
What are the rule changes for next year?
The BWF has made it mandatory for the top 15 singles players and the top 10 doubles players in each discipline to participate in a minimum of 12 tournaments every year. A failure to do so will see the players lose ranking points as well as incur fines. At present, there is no such stipulation. Despite some complaints from the badminton community, historically most top players end up playing anywhere between 12 and 19 tournaments a year anyway, depending on their fitness and requirement to pick up ranking points.
What is the proposed format for 2018?
The 2018 season will have tournaments classified into three Grades. Grade 1 will include the World Championships, Thomas Cup and Uber Cup.
Grade 2 will have six levels from 1 to 6, with Level 1 having the highest prize money and ranking points. Level 2 will include the All England Open, Indonesia Open and China Open. Level 3 will comprise of five tournaments - the Malaysia Open, Japan Open, Denmark Open, French Open and China Masters.
Grade 3 will include the continental circuits, namely the International Challenge, International Series and Future Series.
Does this change the number of tournaments India gets to host?
As a matter of fact, it will increase. India will host three tournaments which will fall under the Grade 2 category: India Open (Level 4) in New Delhi in January, Hyderabad Open (Level 6) in Hyderabad in September and the Syed Modi Open (Level 5) in November. The Hyderabad Open will be a new addition to India's sporting calendar and will provide the likes of Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu an opportunity to play in front of their hometown fans.
How has the badminton community reacted to the new schedule?
Most top players, including World Champion Viktor Axelsen, have criticised the decision to make the top players contest in a minimum of 12 tournaments.
"I liked the old schedule. We can be better if we play fewer tournaments. But, that's not what BWF is doing. There is nothing you can do about it," had said recently. "Playing 12 tournaments and all the team stuff is pretty stressful and, personally, I would have liked it to be different. The players' association would discuss the issue. But, the final decision would rest with the BWF."
It was a sentiment shared by Pullela Gopichand, who was quoted telling Firstpost, "Personally, I don't agree to the idea of getting the players to play so many tournaments. They are prone to injuries and inconsistencies in form. There are other ways to promote the sport and this is not the way to go about it at all."