ALL ENGLAND 2010 Preview – Roll Up Roll Up, Is this the biggest show on Earth?

Spring has finally popped its head above the European winter haze and the birds begin their springtime chorus as if to herald the dawn of something spectacular. Little do they […]

Spring has finally popped its head above the European winter haze and the birds begin their springtime chorus as if to herald the dawn of something spectacular. Little do they know that the spectacular is almost upon us as the collective might of the world’s greatest badminton athletes land in Birmingham, England for what has to be the biggest badminton show on Earth!!

By Mark Phelan.  Photos: (archives)

This winter, the majority of Europe has been bound by the coldest arctic conditions witnessed in decades. That is all about to change as the temperature rises with the anticipation of the 100th Yonex Badminton Championships. Never before has the release of an entry list for a tournament been so intensely anticipated as the world badminton fraternity eagerly awaited the release of the ‘menu’ ahead of the ‘main course’ on March 9th.

As predicted, the best in the world have come together this coming week for what must be the strongest entry list for any tournament in decades. The quality of the field can be measured by the strength of the qualifiers. In the men’s singles, world number 30 Kashyap Parupalli of India will be hoping someone withdraws for him to make the main draw and any player situated outside the world’s top 50 must wait for another opportunity to even get into Tuesday’s qualification.

Even with a field as strong as it is, there is one clear favourite in the men’s singles. Four-time winner Lin Dan from China is without exception the most talented player on the planet and this is his chance once again to prove his might. The Chinese phenomenon has contested the last 6 All England finals and even with the best players in the world assembled, in an effort to dethrone ‘The King’, it has to be his title to lose as it is hard visualise anyone beating him other than himself.

World number 1 Lee Chong Wei will come to Birmingham well prepared and with no stone left unturned but it is hard to see how the Malaysian will overturn his defeat of 2009. Europe will once again look to Denmark to break the 11-year drought for a men’s singles title. In 1999 ,it was Peter Gade who won the coveted title and who is to say it won’t be the veteran Dane who offers Europe’s best chance of keeping the title at home. Waiting in the wings is Jan O Jorgensen, who certainly has the temperament and self-belief to beat anyone on his day. Brimming with confidence as he is, Jorgensen will be too hot for most of what Asia has to offer.

wang yihan ae2009A revitalised Taufik Hidayat (pictured) will bring his eccentric and eclectic game to Birmingham and if the Indonesian clears the first hurdle against Hu Yun of Hong Kong, he can look forward to a quarter-final match-up with Peter Gade.

In the women’s singles, it would be a risky bet to go against a Chinese victory. Wang Yihan (pictured) returns to defend the crown she won in 2009 as an unseeded newcomer. This year, the Chinese shuttler has all the pressure of defending champion, number 1 seed and world number 1 to contend with. What a difference a year makes! If all goes according to seeding and the plan of Chinese head coach Li Yongbo, Wang Yihan will most probably have to fend off the challenge of one of her compatriots if she is to do the double. Wang Lin will be looking to steal a march from Wang Yihan while current World Champion Lu Lan will also be in the mix and will be looking to take the title that eluded her on finals day in 2008.

Is there to be a realistic challenge from Europe this year? I think there is and who better to stand up to the Asians than 2008 Champion Tine Rasmussen? Will anyone ever forget the scenes of joy and emotion after the Dane’s epic 3-set win in 2008, and wouldn’t it be just perfect for the sport in general if Rasmussen could recapture that form?  After dropping from the lofty heights of world number 1 to number 10, following a persistent ankle injury, Rasmussen will have to win it the hard way by doing it all unseeded. Most likely, the tall Dane will have to beat three – yes three! – Chinese athletes if she is to take the title come March 14.

In the men’s doubles, Cai and Fu will be hoping the form they showed in Birmingham last year will return. 2009 was their All England year and if they are to repeat the success they enjoyed  both last year and in 2005, they will have to be even better prepared than before. In what is a very open competition, there are any of 6 pairs that could realistically hope to come away with the title and Malaysian veterans Koo and Tan will be hoping to add the prestigious All England title to their world number 1 status to round off a fantastic 12 months.

Korea’s Lee Yong Dae and Jung Jae Sung (pictured below) hold the Korean key to lifting gold while Europe will look to Danish showmen Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen (pictured) to steal the honours. The home nation has, in the men’s doubles, the ability and possibility of creating a few upsets. Singapore Open Champions Robertson and Clark will be buoyed by home support as they try to rekindle the fortunes of English badminton but so much depends on which Nathan Robertson turns up in Birmingham next week.

If I were a betting man and enjoyed a flutter on a ‘sure thing’ it would be a pretty safe bet on the women’s doubles title heading back to Asia and, more specifically, China.  It is impossible to look beyond the fortunes of Du Jing and Yu Yang and if they fail to fire, they are followed closely by Ma Jin and Wang Xiaoli, Cheng Shu and Zhao Yunlei, and the duo of Pan Pan and Tian Qing. With Denmark’s almost public announcement that they will be curbing all development in women’s doubles and the breakup of European Champion duo Frier Kristiansen and Rytter Juhl, it is hard to see if any credible challenge will be launched from Europe. The main threat to China will come from Korea and Chinese Taipei as a result.

Finally, in the mixed, defending champions He Hanbin and Yu Yang will most likely have to battle hard to retain their title. Similar to the men’s doubles, the mixed is more of an open book as to who will emerge as champions come Sunday.  One thing is for sure: this is probably Europe’s best bet at getting near a gold medal and the danger is sure to materialise from World Champions Laybourn and Rytter Juhl.  Denmark, however, have been dealt a jung-lee-02-en-superseriesfinals2009serious blow with the withdrawal of Pedersen and Fischer Nielsen due to an ongoing injury to Fischer Nielsen. Indeed, the injury suffered is deemed to be career-threatening to the tall Dane and both he and Pedersen will be missed in Birmingham. Top seeds are Zheng Bo and Ma Jin (pictured top) and Korea will look to Lee Yong Dae and Lee Hyo Jung to break the Chinese stranglehold.

Whatever the outcome, come Sunday one thing is for sure: the All England is still the tournament every player in the world wants to win. Will China walk away with a clean sweep of all events as they did last year?  The answer is that there is a distinct possibility that could indeed come to pass. However, this is the 100th All England and this is the biggest badminton show on earth so whoever does lift the trophies on Sunday evening can rest assured that they did it the hard way and that they beat the very best players in the world to do so.

To see the complete draws for the 2010 Yonex All England Badminton Championships, CLICK HERE

Our partner HOTEL in the All England – City Nites – in the Heart of Birmingham

City Nites Birmingham – a fabulous and cost effective alternative to a hotel room. • There is no closer accommodation venue to the NIA, so if you are attending any show or event, you now know where to stay!

About Mark Phelan