ASIAN GAMES 2010 XD Preview – Anybody’s gold…even the seeds’

The mixed doubles at the upcoming Asian Games is by far the most difficult to call, with no fewer than four former world #1’s among the ranks of the unseeded, […]

The mixed doubles at the upcoming is by far the most difficult to call, with no fewer than four former world #1’s among the ranks of the unseeded, along with eight solid seeds all vying for Guangzhou gold.

By Kevin Kung, Badzine Correspondent.  Photos: Badmintonphoto

The top two seeds of mixed doubles draw may not be the top contenders for the title in Guangzhou, but still, we can expect them to make some splashes in the Games. The world number 6 pair, Sudket Prapakamol and Saralee Thoungthongkam (pictured below), have beaten their possible quarter-final opponents, fifth-seeded Chen Hung Ling / Cheng Wen Hsing of Chinese Taipei, once in their only encounter, at the Indonesia Open Super Series this year.

But it is more likely that the Thais will face former World Champion and Olympic silver medallist Liliyana Natsir and her new partner Tontowi Ahmad from Indonesia in the quarter-final. The Indonesian pair have played together in only three tournaments before heading to Guangzhou, but their results were outstanding. They reached the finals of all three Grand Prix Gold tournaments (Indonesia, Chinese Taipei, and Macau) and won 2 of those.

Liliyana was the runner-up with Nova in the Doha Games. To get into the Games final again, she and Tontowi need to win the tricky match in first round against Koo Kien Keat / Woon Khe Wei. Their real challenge could be the Thais in the quarter-finals and of course, the Chinese pair Zhang Nan / Zhao Yunlei (pictured top) in the upper half of the draw.

Zhang/Zhao have denied reports that they are the new resident couple in the Chinese team but the gossip is irrelevant to their prospects at the Asian Games. The All England and Japan Open champions are now bearing the responsibility of keeping the title at home, after doubles expert Gao Ling’s retirement.

Gao’s Doha gold-winning partner Zheng Bo is also not in the draw, and his World Champion partner Ma Jin is now playing with He Hanbin in a partnership that started right after the World Championships in Paris. Ma/He will target their second title for their new partnership and will attempt a near duplication of Gao/Zheng’s 2006 feat. Gao/Zheng won the title in Doha after only a month training together and despite it being their first tournament. Can the Chinese pair prove that “time doesn’t matter” once again?

In mixed doubles event, we cannot ignore the Koreans. Reigning Olympic Champion Lee Yong Dae is not in the draw as he has decided to focus on men’s doubles for these Asian Games.  His Olympic gold-winning partner Lee Hyo Jung will join hands with Shin Baek Cheol and face a tricky first round test against unseeded Asian Champions Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying.

The ‘other’ Korean pair, World Championship semi-finalists Ko Sung Hyun / Ha Jung Eun (pictured), are seeded third. Ko and Ha have a bye in first round and they should have no problem dealing with the Nepal pair in the second but after that, they will have to contend with the mighty Zhang/Zhao.  That is, unless Japan’s team flag bearer Reiko Shiota and her partner Shintaro Ikeda can upset the host nation’s highest seed.

The event will start on November 17th, after the completion of team competitions and the final will be held together with the men’s singles final on November 21st, the last day of the badminton event.  Badzine will be on site all week to bring you live photos and reports from Tian He Gymnasium in Guangzhou.

First Round mixed doubles matches of note:

Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying (MAS) vs. Shin Baek Cheol / Lee Hyo Jung (KOR)
Koo Kiet Keat / Woon Khe Wei (MAS) vs. Tontowi Ahmad / Liliyana Natsir (INA)

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