Having qualified for his fifth Olympics, Boonsak Ponsana will look to shore up his ranking points with a solid performance at the Yonex Open Chinese Taipei, the penultimate Grand Prix Gold event before the Rio Games.
The points will count towards seedings in Rio, and Ponsana (featured image), who qualified in 20th place, could do with a boost late in the Olympic qualifying season, at the GPG event in Taipei that started today.
Thanks to some withdrawals in Men’s Singles of high profile stars like Lee Chong Wei, Chen Long and Lin Dan, perennial title underdogs like Thailand’s Ponsana, Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen and Hong Kong’s Hu Yun find themselves with a fair shot at featuring on the weekend. Ponsana’s best performance this year was a semi-final at the Syed Modi International Championships in January.
“I’ve come here many times,” said the veteran campaigner, who has never won this tournament. “I’m happy to be here; it’s a good venue and I get a lot of support, I thank the fans for that. There are a lot of good players in the draw and I have to work hard to beat them. If I have to pick one, I’d say Chou Tien Chen is the player to beat. A lot of people say he resembles me and ask if he’s my brother!”
Ponsana, seeded 9, and Chou (5) are slated to meet in the third round. The next big test would probably come from China’s top contender Tian Houwei in the quarter-finals.
In the bottom half, there will be a lot of interest in Sony Dwi Kuncoro; the Indonesian had come in from the cold to win the OUE Singapore Open in April, and fans will follow his matches to see if he can maintain that level. His stiffest test could be in the semi-finals against Hong Kong’s Ng Ka Long – if both get that far.
Others expected to do well are Hong Kong’s Hu Yun, Wei Nan and Wong Wing Ki, Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Jen Hao and Wang Tzu Wei and Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk. Hu, like Ponsana, will look to a good performance here to improve his seeding in Rio. South Africa’s Jacob Maliekal, who has qualified to Rio on continental representation quota, is in the main draw and will take on local player Shih Kuei Chun.
In today’s qualifying rounds, six local players made the main draw, including Hseuh Hsuan Yi, Chu Han Chou, Chi Yu Lo, Lu Chi Yuan, Teng Shih Hua, Hua Chun Liang.
In Women’s Singles, a crackling final between local star Tai Tzu Ying and top seed Wang Shixian (China) looms large; Wang should have an easy path while Tai has potential roadblocks in the form of Thailand’s Porntip Buranaprasetsuk in the third round and China’s Sun Yu in the quarter-finals. Thailand has other contenders in Busanan Ongbumrungpan and Nitchaon Jindapol.
Meanwhile, a Li Xuerui-lookalike qualified to the main draw and might cause some trouble to the higher ranked players up there. China’s Gao Fangjie, who bears a striking resemblance to Li – who isn’t playing this event – and has even modelled her playing style after the Olympic champion, won her three qualifying round matches with ease to book her first round against Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Ya Ching.
Gao, quarter-finalist at the BWF World Junior Championships last year, acknowledged Li was her icon. “I have tried to model my game after her. People even say I look like her,” she said. “I hope to give it my best in the main draw.”
Chinese youngsters Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen find themselves top-seeded in Men’s Doubles. The Chinese duo though have some tough competition lined up; Chinese Taipei’s Lee Sheng Mu/Tsai Chia Hsin and Thailand’s Bodin Issara/Nipitphon Puangpuapech are in the same half. Malaysia’s Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong and another young Chinese pair, Zheng Siwei/Huang Kaixiang, are likely to meet in the quarter-finals of the draw’s lower half, with Hong Kong’s Or Chin Chung/Tang Chun Man capable of altering the script.
Qualifiers included two pairs from Malaysia: Nur Mohd Azriyn Ayub/Jagdish Singh and Lim Khim Wah/Jian Guo Ong.
Women’s Doubles top seeds Luo Ying/Luo Yu, who haven’t been seen in action since the Badminton Asia Championships in April, received an unexpected bonus today after the withdrawal of Korea’s Chae Yoo Jung/Kim Ji Won, which meant a straight path to the quarter-finals. The Chinese will expect to face off against Malaysia’s Vivian Hoo/Woon Khe Wei in the last-four; the lower half has two strong Chinese pairs in Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan and Zhong Qianxin/Huang Dongping. Indonesia’s Della Destiara Haris/Rosyita Eka Putri Sari, Thailand’s Jongkolphan Kititharakul/Rawinda Prajongjai and Chaladchalam Chayanit/Phataimas Muenwong are others in the reckoning.
Mixed Doubles has a fairly strong draw, with Malaysia’s Chan Peng Soon/Goh Liu Ying getting the top billing. With the Malaysians headed for Rio, the ranking points from this event might prove crucial in their seeding for the Olympics. They however have a tough draw, with China’s Liu Yuchen/Jia Yifan and title favourites Zheng Siwei/Chen Qingchen in their path.
Second seeds Lee Chun Hei/Chau Hoi Wah (Hong Kong) will also want to round off their Olympic preparations with a strong show in Taipei; other names to look out for are China’s Huang Kaixiang/Huang Dongping, Malaysia’s Tan Kian Meng/Lai Pei Jing, Indonesia’s Riky Widianto/Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja and Thailand’s Bodin Issara/Savitree Amitrapai.
Men’s Singles: Lee Chak Wai (Hong Kong), Teng Shih Hua, Hua Chun Liang (both Chinese Taipei), Teck Han Tan (Malaysia)
Women’s Singles: Gao Fangjie (China), Shih Jyun Jhou, Hung Shih Han (both Chinese Taipei), Kim Na Young (Korea)
Men’s Doubles: Nur Mohd Azriyn Ayub/Jagdish Singh, Lim Khim Wah/Jian Guo Ong (both Malaysia); Chung Yonny/Tam Chun Hei (Hong Kong); Bae Kwon Young/Deok Young Kim (Korea)
Mixed Doubles: Wang Chi-Lin/Cheng Chi Ya, Lu Ching Yao/Huang Mei Ching (Chinese Taipei); Nipitphon Puangpuapech/Jongkolphan Kititharakul (Thailand); Tam Chun Hei/Ng Tsz Yau (Hong Kong)