World Grand Prix Finals11 April, 2016
The World Grand Prix Finals was an annual tournament that capped off every season of IBF World Grand Prix badminton events from 1983 to 2000.
The event was held, usually in December, after the points from all of the Grand Prix tournaments of the year were compiled and a small group of players from the top of the table were invited to take part. The early 1980s were an exciting time for world badminton. The International Badminton Federation (IBF), now the Badminton World Federation (BWF), had just set up its individual world championships in 1977. In 1981, Korea began competing internationally, followed a few months later by the merger between the IBF and the World Badminton Federation (WBF) that paved the way for China to begin competing in top-level events, including the IBF’s brand-new Badminton World Cup.
However, change was also afoot within IBF member associations to create more annual world-class badminton events that would soon become the IBF World Grand Prix. Europe was already home to some long-standing badminton events, particularly in
By the end of 1983, the Federation had worked world-class badminton events both old and new into a World Grand Prix series and in December of that year, the top twelve men’s singles players and the top eight women were invited to take part in a season finale at the Istora Senayan stadium in
The first World Grand Prix Finals marked the first time that the top Chinese shuttlers had competed in
It was not until 1986 that the three doubles disciplines were added and this allowed pairs from Malaysia, Korea, and England to add their names to the roll of honours, which at that point contained only Chinese winners apart from Denmark’s Morten Frost Hansen, one of only two Europeans ever to win a singles title in the tournament.
The Grand Prix Finals continued until the 2000 season. The season-ending tournament itself was moved to early 2001, marking the fourth time that it did not fall within the calendar year that it finished off.
Forerunner to the Superseries?
The concept of a season finale that would bring together the ranking leaders at the end of the year did not disappear permanently after the last Grand Prix Finals in 2001. The BWF World Superseries Finals took on an analogous role in the BWF World Superseries, which began in 2007. Both events offered a handsome prize purse at the end of the year and featured a small, elite field that would begin with round robin preliminary rounds. However, there were some important differences in the way the two events were designed.
The main difference between the Grand Prix Finals and the Superseries Finals lies in the series itself. The Grand Prix rankings of 1983 to 2000 were based on points accumulated in tournaments of a much bigger number and variety. While the Superseries was fixed from the start at twelve “regular season” tournaments, the IBF World Grand Prix consisted of as many as eighteen tournaments. All twelve Superseries events offered the same number of ranking points until they were split into two tiers from 2011. In contrast, the Grand Prix comprised tournaments at six different levels. At the top end, six-star tournaments had over ten times the minimum prize money of the one-star events and earned their winners just over three times as many ranking points.
With the Finals themselves, there were more differences. Right from the start, the Superseries Finals invited the top eight players or pairs in each of the five disciplines. The Grand Prix Finals, though, saw many changes in the number of competitors. Only the top twelve men’s singles and the top eight women’s singles players were invited to the inaugural edition in 1983. The doubles categories were not part of the Grand Prix Finals until the fourth edition, in 1986. By 1988, there were sixteen invited for men’s singles and twelve for women’s singles, along with just the top six pairs in each of the doubles disciplines. These numbers continued into the mid-1990s but by 1999, the doubles fields had each grown to eight pairs.
Innovation and conclusion
The last three editions of the Grand Prix Finals were hosted by
The finale to the 2000 season - the only Grand Prix Finals to be played after the turn of the millennium – was one of the earliest and biggest events to be a testing ground for the scoring innovation that involved five games of seven points. Although the Grand Prix Finals was discontinued that year and the scoring system change was repealed a year later, both were part of an overall effort by the IBF toward overhauling the appeal of top badminton events for the public and for television.
The Federation announced the end of the Grand Prix Finals only in the context of the plans to replace it with something bigger and more marketable. The BWF World Superseries, which had its start in 2007, was obviously the fruit of that planning. With an even newer scoring system, higher prize money, and a plan to gain television coverage for the whole series of twelve events, the stage was set for a more concentrated top-level circuit and an even more exciting race to its season finale.
World Grand Prix Finals fast facts:
The player with the most Grand Prix Finals titles is Ge Fei, with seven. The Chinese player shares the record of six titles in a single discipline with her partner Gu Jun and with women’s singles player, Susi Susanti of Indonesia. The biggest winner among male players was Dane Thomas Lund, with five titles, all in mixed doubles.
When Ge Fei and Gu Jun won the Grand Prix Finals in 1997, they were simultaneously the reigning champions in the Olympic Games, All England Championships, IBF World Championships, World Cup and the Grand Prix Finals.
Of the six women’s singles players who won World Championship titles during the 1983-2000 lifetime of the World Grand Prix Finals, Camilla Martin of Denmark was the only one who never won the latter event.
The World Grand Prix Finals did not include doubles competitions until the fourth edition, in 1986 in
All eighteen World Grand Prix Finals tournaments were held in
European shuttlers claimed more than half of the mixed doubles titles in the history of the World Grand Prix Finals but only two of the remaining sixty-six titles.