Just two weeks before the Singapore Open, it was announced that 3 more of China’s top players Wang Xin (WR#2), Wang Shixian (WR#4) and 2010 World Champion Wang Lin had withdrawn from the tournament, in addition to earlier announcement that Wang Yihan (WR#1) is also not participating. So not one of the four Wang-der women from China will be coming, but the show goes on, with or without them.
By Timothy Chan, Badzine Correspondent, reporting live from Singapore. Photos: Badmintonphoto
Badminton fans in Singapore once again and usually got their first salvo of disappointment when the organizer announced last month that top players like Lee Chong Wei and especially the Chinese – including the great Lin Dan and defending champions Chen Jin and Cai Yun / Fu Haifeng – would not be coming to the Silver edition of this iconic event in the Singapore sporting calendar.
Then world no. 3’s Chen Long and Li Xuerui also announced their withdrawals at the same time as Wang Xin, Wang Shixian and Wang Lin. And just two days before the tournament begin, more announcement of pull-outs by top players hit the organizers as women’s singles top seed Jiang Yanjiao of China and Bae Youn Joo of Korea cited injuries suffered in Jakarta as reasons for their pull-outs.
And at Monday’s press conference, it was confirmed that Jung Jae Sung and Lee Yong Dae of Korea had pulled out as well -the explanation being most likely that they – like all others – do not want to take any risk to get injured just weeks before the Olympics. If the Li-Ning Singapore Open 2011 was ideally placed as the first major tournament to give Olympic points, its 2012 counterpart is on the contrary in a weaker position to welcome top stars. Nevertheless, it will be a good opportunity for others to shine and give a great show.
A chance to shine for the new wave of players?
In the absence of these top “celebrity” stars, this tournament could now become a platform for the next wave of future top players to excel and perform well in the Singapore Indoor Stadium (SIS) arena. The new wave Chinese contingent coming – consisting of players such as Wang Zhengming, Du Pengyu (pictured right), Chen Xiaojia, Han Li, Shen Ye, Hong Wei, Bao Yixin, Zhong Qianxin and He Hanbin – are good enough to thrill badminton fans at the SIS between June 19-24.
Du Pengyu mentioned during the pre-event press conference that he was not bothered by the withdrawal of those top players. He will still play his best and appreciates the opportunity to play in this tournament. Likewise, Wang Zhengming said that instead of focusing on the withdrawal of top players, the participating players should be focusing on the good exposure given to them to play here in preparation for the Olympics.
While their A Team compatriots Lin Dan, Chen Jin and Chen Long will not be at the Singapore Open, both Du and Wang believe that they can shouldered the responsibility to excel for China. Wang said that that pressure to fit into the shoes of their star team-mates will be there because there will always be that strong competition from the other countries’ players. Du emphasized the fact that he is lucky to have this opportunity to replace them. Du will benefit from the withdrawal of Simon Santoso – who beat him this weekend in Jakarta.
A good show is still in store for those die-hard fans because the other 38 of the world’s top 10 ranked shuttlers will be there to fight for gold, amongst which 70 players qualified for the Olympics – a perfect tournament for them to finalize their preparations before travelling to the London for the biggest sporting event in the world. Beside those new wave of rising stars, there are also those less popular top players that can contribute towards a great show at SIS. Watch out for them:
Sho Sasaki (JPN) (WR#6)
Tago Kenichi (JPN) (WR#7)
Lee Hyun Il (KOR) (WR#8)
Juliane Schenk (GER) (WR#7)
Sung Ji Hyun (KOR) (WR#10)
Ko Sung Hyun / Yoo Yeon Seong (KOR) (WR#4)
Mohammad Ahsan / Bona Septano (INA) (WR#6)
Markis Kido / Hendra Setiawan (INA) (WR#7)
Fang Chieh Min / Lee Sheng Mu (TPE) (WR#9)
Mizuki Fujii / Reika Kakiiwa (JPN) (WR#4)
Shizuka Matsuo / Mami Naito (JPN) (WR#7)
Jung Kyung Eun / Kim Ha Na (KOR) (WR#6)
Miyuki Maeda / Satoko Suetsuna (JPN) (WR#8)
Chen Hung Ling / Cheng Wen Hsing (TPE) (WR#5)
Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying (MAS)(WR#8)
…or a blessing for local shuttlers?
With the withdrawals of many top star players, this tournament could also be a good time for the local shuttlers to shine. During the pre-event press conference, it was announced that due to the massive last minute pull-out, the fixture was rescheduled and the lucky Olympic-bound Derek Wong (pictured left) who was supposed to play in the qualifying round has been given a slot in the main draw. This means that local boy Derek is on track hitting the big time.
“This tournament is crucial for me as I continue my preparations for the upcoming Olympics,” said Derek. “Over the past few months, I have been training hard and also picking up some new techniques and tactics that the coaches instilled.
“I am excited to take to the court and see if I can implement what was practiced in training. Can’t wait for it to start!”
His compatriot Ashton Chen faces an uphill task if he makes it out of his qualifying draw as his prospective spot in the first round has him facing China’s top representative Wang Zhengming.
As for the men’s doubles, a surprising doubles pair has appeared on the fixture and that’s the pair of Hendra Wijaya and Hendri Kurniawan Saputra. The two brothers have been out of action for quite a while in the badminton circuit. They will have to beat the pair of Malaysia’s Tan Bin Shen and Robert Blair of Scotland in the qualifying round to meet another pair of semi-retired relatives, Candra Wijaya and brother-in-law Ronald Susilo in another qualifying round match to progress to the main draw.
In the women’s draw Olympic-bound Singapore shuttler Gu Juan (pictured top) also faces a difficult draw, starting against Porntip Buranaprasertsuk of Thailand. “The Li-Ning Singapore Open will is not only a prestigious international tournament but is also a good platform for me to gauge my abilities right before the Olympics. I hope that Singaporeans will come and support us as we prepare for the biggest sporting event,” said world no. 16 Gu Juan.
South-East Asian Games gold medallist Fu Mingtian luckily has been given a bye in the first round progressing to the second round to meet the winner of the matche between Sung Ji Hyun of Korea and Japan’s Mitani Minatsu. In the first-round matches on Wednesday, struggling Xing Aiying will play Lianne Tan of Belgium and Chen Jiayuan will play veteran Yao Jie of the Netherlands. Olympic-bound Yao Lei and Shinta Mulia Sari (pictured right), the duo who created history when they won Singapore’s first-ever Super Series title in 2010, will meet new Malaysian pairing of Vivian Hoo and Woon Khe Wei.
“Winning the title in 2010 opened up a whole new world for us,” said Shinta. “Maybe we were distracted after winning the title and the pressure was on us suddenly. Our form dipped but we are fighting back now.”
“We want to do our best at this event in front of our home supporters. Of course, winning in Singapore again this year would be a dream come true for us,” added Yao Lei.
First round matches of note:
Shinta Mulia Sari Yao Lei (SIN)  vs. Vivian Hoo / Woon Khe Wei (MAS)
Anneke Feinya Agustin / Nitya Krishinda Maheswari (INA) vs. Eom Hye Won / Jang Ye Na (KOR)
Vita Marissa / Nadya Melati (INA) vs. Duanganong Aroonkesorn / Kunchala Voravichitchaikul (THA)
Cheng Shao Chieh (TPE)  vs. Han Li (CHN)
Gu Juan (SIN)  vs. Porntip Buranaprasertsuk (THA)
Chen Xiao Jia (CHN) vs. P. V. Sindhu (IND)
Shon Wan Ho (KOR)  vs. Tommy Sugiarto (INA)
Lee Hyun Il (KOR)  vs. Kashyap Parupalli (IND)
Liu Xiaolong / Qiu Zihan (CHN) vs. Mads Conrad-Petersen / Jonas Rasmussen (DEN)
Fang Chieh Min / Lee Sheng Mu (TPE)  vs. Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari / Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif (MAS)
Diju V. / Jwala Gutta (IND)  vs. Markis Kido / Pia Zebadiah Bernadeth (INA)
Muhammad Rijal / Debby Susanto (INA)  vs. Yoo Yeon Seong / Jang Ye Na (KOR)
Mads Pieler Kolding / Julie Houmann (DEN) vs. Robert Mateusiak / Nadiezda Zieba (POL)
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