Veterans Boonsak Ponsana and Juliane Schenk return to the scene of their greatest triumph, the Li Ning Singapore Open which began today.
Defending champions Ponsana (Thailand, Men’s Singles), and Schenk (Germany, Women’s Singles), despite their long professional careers, have won only one Superseries title: the Singapore Open. Both will fancy their chances of retaining their titles. Schenk (left) is fresh from a good runner-up outing at the Djarum Indonesia Open last week.
For Ponsana (right), especially, the task has been made easier by some high profile withdrawals, including World Champion Lin Dan (China), and No. 1 Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia). In Lee’s absence, the top seed is Du Pengyu (China), who has had some strong results in recent times. Du’s compatriots Chen Yuekun and Wang Zhengming are dangerous floaters. There is a strong Indian presence as well, led by P Kashyap, and including the likes of Thailand GP Gold winner K Srikanth, Sai Praneeth, Guru Sai Dutt Sourabh Verma, Anand Pawar and Ajay Jayaram. Each of them is capable of damaging the chances of higher-ranked players.
Marc Zwiebler, who ran into No. 1 Lee Chong Wei in the Indonesia Open final, has a tough draw. He opens his campaign against the dangerous Chen Yuekun, and if he manages to get past, he might run into top seed Du Pengyu next. Those who qualified to the Men’s Singles draw include: Lee Dong Keun (Korea), Sai Praneeth (India), Zulfadli Zulkiffli (Malaysia) and Ng Ka Long (Hong Kong).
Li Xuerui (China) goes in as favourite in the Women’s Singles, which has an impressive array of stars. India’s Saina Nehwal (2) has gone several months without a major title, and would be keen to rectify that. Interestingly, Nehwal’s first round opponent will be Singapore’s Gu Juan, who shocked her in the quarter-finals of the Thailand Open GP Gold recently.
Hong Kong’s Yip Pui Yin had a fabulous run into the semi-finals at Indonesia, beating players like Wang Yihan (China, 3) and Minatsu Mitani (Japan), and her performance here will be keenly followed. India’s Thulasi PC and Arundhati Pantawane, China’s Yu Sun and Singapore’s Xing Aiying have qualified to the Women’s Singles draw.
* The Men’s Doubles draw boasts of some strong teams, including Indonesia Open champions Mohd Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan, Korea’s Lee Yong Dae/Ko Sung Hyun and China’s Cai Yun/Fu Haifeng. Qualifiers include two pairs from Hong Kong (Chan Yun Lung/Lee Chun Hei and Chan Tsz Kit/Lo Lok Kei).
* China are expected to dominate the Women’s Doubles as usual. With pairs like Tian Qing/Zhao Yunlei, Ma Jin/Tan Jinhua and Bao Yixin/Cheng Shu, it will be a surprise if any other team takes the title. Japan’s Reika Kakiiwa, who has changed partners three times in the last nine months, reunited with Miyuki Maeda last week. The pair has qualified for the main draw.
* Two Singapore pairs qualified in the Mixed Doubles. Terry Hee/Fu Mingtian and Tan Zi Jian/Yuliana Dellis entered a strong main draw that includes Olympic champions Zhang Nan/Zhao Yunlei (China) and Tontowi Ahmad/Liliyana Natsir (Indonesia).
Text by Dev Sukumar | Badmintonphoto