Strong Thailand Open field to start minus 2018 finalists

On the eve of the 2019 Thailand Open, 3 of the top 4 women’s singles seeds dropped out, including last year’s champion and runner-up, Nozomi Okuhara and Pusarla Venkata Sindhu […]

On the eve of the 2019 , 3 of the top 4 women’s singles seeds dropped out, including last year’s champion and runner-up, Nozomi Okuhara and Pusarla Venkata Sindhu respectively.

Photos: Badmintonphoto

2019 marks the Thailand Open’s second year as a tournament.  Its inaugural edition suffered from unfortunate scheduling, coming sandwiched in between two compulsory World Tour events ahead of it and the World Championships and Asian Games soon afterward.  Indeed, the 2018 event had only one top ten pair enter in mixed doubles and though it started with 4 top ten players in men’s singles, that was down to only one by the time the tournament kicked off last summer.

Tournament organizers would have been delighted with this year’s entry lists, by contrast.  Each discipline had between 5 and 9 out of the top ten, along with plenty more talent from both the teen ranks and even a few coming back from retirement.

In particular, this will be the Super 500 debut for 17-year-old New Zealand Open winner An Se Young (pictured right), as well as the first tournament for her former world #2 compatriots Kim Gi Jung and Kim Sa Rang since the latter announced his retirement from international badminton following the Rio Olympics.  Two-time World Junior Champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn is also here for his first Super 500 outing.  Just two days after winning his first Asian Junior title, Vitidsarn will be playing 2012 Thailand Open champion Sony Dwi Kuncoro in the qualifying rounds.

One of the highlights of last year’s events was the women’s singles, where Akane Yamaguchi, Nozomi Okuhara, and P. V. Sindhu were the only top ten players who survived until opening day, as Saina Nehwal and Ratchanok Intanon withdrew their entries.  Fans were rewarded with a repeat of the 2017 World Championship final between Okuhara and Sindhu.

This year, those 2018 finalists withdrew on the eve of the tournament, along with Yamaguchi, who is expected to go back up to world #1 tomorrow following her win at the Japan Open.  This leaves All England champion Chen Yufei of China as a clear favourite, although she will begin her campaign against the dangerous An Se Young.  Unlike some of An’s recent upset victims, however, Chen has already played against the Korean teen, ejecting her early at the Asian Games last year.

Most of the other top players entered in the Thailand Open are expected to appear on court this week.  3 notable exceptions are the expected absence of All England men’s singles champion – who seriously injured his ankle in Indonesia earlier this month – and current and China’s two Asian Games gold medallists Zheng Siwei / Huang Yaqiong in mixed and Chen Qingchen / Jia Yifan in women’s doubles.

Men’s doubles is the one discipline where no one from the main draw withdrew on the eve of the tournament.  One young pair did drop out of the qualifying rounds and that means that the two Kims will have to begin their comeback by facing reigning World Junior Champions Wang Chang and Di Zijian (pictured).  The Chinese youngsters are fresh off an unsuccessful attempt to defend their Asian Junior title.

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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 @