Past champions bright spots in Singapore Open’s weakest field in years

An appallingly weak field at the 2018 Singapore Open is offset by the promise of returning champions in all 5 disciplines, including 6-time winner Liliyana Natsir and 3-time winning partner […]

An appallingly weak field at the 2018 Singapore Open is offset by the promise of returning champions in all 5 disciplines, including 6-time winner Liliyana Natsir and 3-time winning partner Tontowi Ahmad.

Photos: Badmintonphoto

What the Badminton World Federation (BWF) released today was not only the entry lists for the 2018 Singapore Open.  It was also evidence of just how ill-conceived the – or at least its inaugural year’s calendar – really is.

The Singapore Open initial entry lists include exactly 10 players or pairs currently in the top 10 on the world rankings.  A field this weak was unheard-of in the 11-year , to which the Singapore event’s status is the heir apparent. Even at its very worst, following the Beijing Olympics, the China Masters Superseries – where a world #65 doubles pair made it to the semi-final stage on walkovers – still boasted 17 top ten entrants, and that was excluding late withdrawals.  The only event that has come close was also this year, when 15 top ten players and pairs signed up for the India Open Super 500, and only 11 made it onto a court.

This kind of turnout is hardly a surprise.  Top players have had a two-week rest after the Thomas and Uber Cup Finals, then some are headed to California for a Super 300 event.  Most are skipping the Canada Open Super 100 the following week but then begins a 4-week string of what used to be called Superseries events, starting with the Malaysia and Indonesia Opens, which all top ten players are required to attend.  The Singapore Open comes at the end of these four weeks, and wraps up barely a week before the World Championships begin in Nanjing.

3-time champions Liliyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad (pictured top) are the only ones among the ten top ten entrants who happen to have rejected an invitation to the Worlds.  However, several of the returning Singapore Open champions have no plans to visit Nanjing at the end of July.  Men’s singles defending champion Sai Praneeth is going to Nanjing, as are 2016 women’s singles winner Ratchanok Intanon and 2015 women’s doubles champion Yu Xiaohan.  That still leaves Sony Dwi Kuncoro, Hendra Setiawan, Tang Jinhua, Nitya Krishinda Maheswari, and Lu Kai who are entered in Singapore but not Nanjing.

Perhaps the most interesting name on the entry list is that of 2010 women’s doubles champion Yao Lei (pictured above).  Yao, who retired from international play nearly 4 years ago, is still the only home representative, together with her partner Shinta Mulia Sari, to have won the Singapore Open title.  Yao is on the qualifying list with Lim Ming Hui of Singapore and well down on the reserve list in mixed doubles with Malaysian former world #1 Tan Boon Heong.

Of course, weak is always a relative term.  Even when the above-mentioned China Masters ran with an 8-team women’s doubles draw and was won by an unseeded pair, that winning pair was ranked #1 within a year and one of the players went on to win five World Championship titles and two Olympic golds.  Anyone looking to cash in on part of the $355,000 total prize money on offer in Singapore this year will still have to deal with plenty of unsung talent, no matter how many top ten shuttlers stay away.

Click here to download the complete entry lists from the BWF website

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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