Europe Takes Centre Stage in October

October promises a shift for the international badminton scene. The pro tour will cut its second major swath through Europe, starting this coming week with the US$70,000 Bitburger Open, continuing […]

ImageOctober promises a shift for the international badminton scene. The pro tour will cut its second major swath through Europe, starting this coming week with the US$70,000 Bitburger Open, continuing with the venerable Dutch Open and the Denmark Open Super Series, and finishing with a bang with the French Open, the last Super Series tournament in Europe and the first tournament of its size in the history of that great nation. But just before the shadows lengthen and the European summer fades into memory, the Asian summer still stands large enough to do some overshadowing of its own and the month will begin with Bitburger sharing the week with the larger Macau Open Gold.

By Don Hearn; Photos: Badmintonphoto.com

The coming week will see many players taking some much needed rest while those choosing to play for the Olympic qualifying points on offer will be split between Luxembourg and Macau. While the Bitburger Open will attract its share of Asian players, including World Champions Yang Wei and Zhang Jiewen of China, and the 2nd seeds in both singles, Lee Tsuen Seng (pictured) and Jiang Yanjiao, the only Europeans anywhere in the Macau draw are Andrew Smith of England, the men’s singles 14th seed, and two more in women’s singles.

The Asian dominance in Macau will make for some changes on the podium from last year, when Europe scored some surprising wins. Judith Meulendijks, the 2006 women’s singles champion in Macau will be the 5th seed in Luxembourg this week while Rytter Juhl / Laybourn, last year’s mixed doubles champions, are, like most of the top Danish players, missing from Grand Prix action this week.

The Chinese, Korean, and Malaysian teams will be at full strength in Macau. Indonesia will send many top stars but with some partnership changes and rumours of withdrawals, their chances are not clear.

Even without the defending champion, it will be tough for the top two seeds in women’s singles to produce a repeat of the once-predictable Xie-Zhang final. The biggest threat will likely come from the Hong Kong triumvirate of Zhou Mi, Wang Chen, and last year’s runner-up Yip Pui Yin. Yip and World Champion Zhu Lin are in the top half of the draw with Zhang Ning while Xie Xingfang will have to contend with Wang, Zhou and compatriot Lu Lan in her half.

Asian Summer Tour Finishes with Olympic Preview

The following week will see a slightly quieter week in Europe while back in China, the Good Luck Beijing 2007 International Badminton Invitational Tournament will serve as a reminder of why all these athletes are so desperately scrambling for those ranking points. As the event will feature all the top Chinese stars taking on a handful of determined invitees, it will likely be a preview of the Chinese success at home that the local Beijing fans are hoping to see next year.

For those at the beginning of their careers who are merely dreaming of the , October is an even bigger month. As early as next week, a handful of the bravest European juniors, mostly from Bulgaria, Denmark, England, and Scotland, will be in Bulgaria to test their mettle against those older competitors who shied away from the star-studded fields in both Bitburger and Macau. The US$15,000 Bulgarian International is part of the International Challenge series, which always attracts some top juniors.

There are almost no Asians entered in this challenge but European Junior Champions like Olga Konon of Belarus and Joan Christiansen / Christian Larsen of Denmark will be looking for some high level competition and, even in a week so busy for the seniors, they will not be disappointed. World #11 Petya Nedeltcheva (pictured) will be the top seed at her home tournament and World #16 Michael Logosz / Robert Mateusiak will help make the men’s doubles interesting.

ImageThe European juniors, of course, will be hoping that October will culminate, for them, in some medals at this year’s World Junior Championships in Auckland. Whether the European youngsters opt to get some last-minute tournament experience through junior events in Slovenia and Croatia in mid-October or whether they have the month off from competition like their Asian counterparts, they will all be eying the same prizes in New Zealand.

European Leg Begins in Earnest

Badzine will be keeping you up to date with the latest happenings with the juniors but most eyes in the badminton world will be fixed intently on Europe by that time. Starting on October 16th with the Dutch Open Grand Prix, the second European tour will move into full swing. Although the Netherlands did not end up hosting an event in the inaugural Super Series, the Dutch Open is a tournament with tradition and always attracts a competitive field.

The month will come to its peak with the Denmark Open and the French Open. The Denmark Open is one of the oldest badminton tournaments in the world and it has always been among the top three tournaments in Europe in terms of prize money so its inclusion in the Super Series surprised no one. The French Open, however, although not a brand new event, is re-inventing itself for the Super Series. To begin with, the Super Series-level prize money makes the French, along with the Denmark, All England, and Swiss Opens, the most lucrative tournament in Europe. More than the money even, it is the Olympic ranking points that will attract the big names to France in 2007. Add to that the fact that it is one of the last 3 events where players can bag points for the US$500,000 Super Series Master Finals and this year’s field is set to be far stronger than the French Open has ever seen before.

And, of course, Badzine will be there to bring you the action all through this exciting month of badminton.

For this week’s draws, see here: Macau Open, Bitburger Open, Bulgarian International

Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @ badzine.net