THAILAND OPEN 2011 Preview – Welcome back!

The SCG Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold Badminton Championships 2011 returns to Bangkok on June 7th, 2011 after last year’s political upheaval and riots in the Thai capital forced the […]

The SCG Gold Badminton Championships 2011 returns to Bangkok on June 7th, 2011 after last year’s political upheaval and riots in the Thai capital forced the Badminton Association of Thailand to cancel the 2010 tournament due to concerns for the safety of the participants.  This year’s event will showcase many of the veteran and younger Thai stars as well as strong contingents from around the badminton world.

By Gerald Jew, Badzine Correspondent.  Photos: Badmintonphoto

Korea will be sending many of its top stars including fan favourite Lee Yong Dae, who will participate in both the men’s doubles with long-time partner Jung Jae Sung and mixed doubles with Ha Jung Eun, as well as top singles shuttlers Park Sung Hwan and Bae Youn Joo.  Lee, who scored the first Grand Prix double-gold performance of his career here in 2006, has not been back to the Open since his runner-up finish four years ago.

Although China will not be sending many of their highest ranked stars, they will be strongly represented by the likes of Chen Long and Chen Jin who are seeded number one and four respectively in the men’s singles discipline. Chinese women’s singles shuttlers Li Xuerui and Jiang Yanjiao represent the number eight and number two seeds. Also lurking in the women’s draw is unseeded Wang Lin, who as recently as late 2009 held the number one ranking in the world in women’s singles, and Lu Lan who along with Wang Lin are both former BWF World Champions. Xu Chen and Ma Jin, arguably the unsung stars during China’s march to victory at last week’s Sudirman Cup are seeded fifth in mixed doubles but will certainly be a duo to keep an eye on.

India’s Saina Nehwal returns to Thailand after last year’s strong showing in the Uber Cup Asia Zone regionals in Nakhon Ratchisima as the top seed in women’s singles. The formidable Indian women’s doubles team of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa are seeded fifth and Kashyap P looks to build upon his victory over Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana at the Sudirman Cup in men’s singles.

Europe will be well represented with Germany, sending their top men’s and women’s singles players in Mark Zweibler and Juliane Schenk (pictured above). France’s Pi Hongyan, Brice Leverdez and England’s Rajiv Ouseph will be on hand, as will Denmark’s reigning World Junior Champion Viktor Axelsen.

Men’s Singles

The top-seeded and presumably well-rested Chen Long, who watched as Lin Dan took care of the heavy lifting at the Sudirman Cup, will face Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk in a first round match at the top of the men’s draw. Saensomboonsuk could prove to be a worthy opponent if his power game is working on all cylinders.

Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen (pictured) will face veteran Wong Choong Hann of Malaysia in a first round match.  Wong usually seems to play at the top of his game when he comes to Bangkok and certainly will be a stiff test for the 17-year-old.

Axelsen’s predecessor, 2008 World Junior Champion Wang Zhengming , the tenth seed and another Wang on the seemingly endless list of Chinese  world-class Wangs, will be on course to face the second seeded Thai superstar Boonsak Ponsana, should they both advance to the third round as the seedings suggest they will.  Ponsana will face China’s Lu Yi in what could prove to be a tough opening round encounter for the 29-year-old veteran, who comes into the tournament as the world’s sixth ranked men’s singles shuttler.

First round men’s singles matches of note:
Chen Long [1] (CHN) vs Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk (THA)
Boonsak Ponsana [2] (THA) vs Lu Yi (CHN)
Wong Choong Hann [16] (MAS) vs Viktor Axelsen (DEN)
Marc Zwiebler [5] (GER) vs Suppanyu Avihingsanon (THA)

Women’s Singles

The women’s singles should be exciting to watch with a mix of lowly seeded former BWF World Champions (Lu Lan and Wang Lin), top seeded Saina Nehwal, two rising Thai stars in Ratchanok Intanon (pictured) and Porntip Buranaprasertsuk, China’s second-seeded Jiang Yanjiao, Korea’s sixth ranked and number three seed Bae Youn Joo, Germany’s tenth ranked Juliane Schenk along with a host of other players who are either just beginning their steps to stardom or attempting to resurrect or lengthen their careers.

Intanon will be playing her first round match against Taiwan’s sixth and higher seeded Cheng Shao Chieh whom she defeated in last week’s Sudirman Cup. Intanon was a mildly surprising pick to play the women’s singles at the Sudirman Cup in light of the way that Buranaprasertsuk has been playing,  and the fact that Buranaprasertsuk has surpassed her in the rankings and moved up to ninth in the world. The 16-year-old Intanon proved her coaches made a good decision when she not only beat Cheng, but also defeated Nehwal in Thailand’s loss to India in a battle of former World Junior Champions.

Buranaprasertsuk, who is seeded fourth in the top half of the women’s draw, could face Nehwal in the semi-finals if the women’s seedings prove to be correct.

In the bottom half of the women’s draw, yet another former BWF World Junior Champion, China’s  second seeded Jiang Yanjiao will be the favourite to meet the fifth-seeded Schenk in a possible third round matchup.

First round women’s singles matches of note:
Saina Nehwal [1] (IND) vs Lu Lan (CHN)
Sung Ji Hyun [8] (KOR) vs Wang Lin (CHN)
Cheng Shao Chieh [6] (TPE) vs Ratchanok Intanon (THA)

Men’s Doubles

Korean stars Lee Yong Dae and Jung Jae Sung will enter the Open as the top seeds in the men’s doubles discipline and will face a qualifying pair in their first round match. Standing in their path to the finals in the top half of the draw will be the USA’s eighth-seeded Howard Bach and Tony Gunawan, Chinese Taipei’s number three seeds Fang Chieh Min and Lee Sheng Mu, possible third round opponents Germany’s Ingo Kindervater and Johannes Shoettler and defending men’s doubles champion Chan Peng Soon, who will be playing with Tan Wee Kiong in place of 2009 partner and co-champion Lim Khim Wah.

In the bottom half of the draw, China’s Chai Biao and Guo Zhendong (pictured), coming off strong performances this year in Chengdu, Birmingham, and especially Kuala Lumpur, hold the fifth seed. Standing firmly in their path to the finals will be Korea’s second seeded Ko Sung Hyun and Yoo Yeon Seong, the world’s fourth ranked pair and Korea’s sixth seeded pair of Cho Gun Woo and Kwon Yi Goo. Indonesia’s Alvent Yulianto Chandra and Hendra Aprida Gunawan, who recently reached the finals at the Malaysia Open Grand Prix Gold, will be looking to improve their tenth place world ranking.

First round men’s doubles matches of note:
Tony Gunawan / Howard Bach [8] (USA) vs Liu Xiaolong / Qiu Zihan (CHN)
Shin Baek Cheol / Kim Ki Jung (KOR) vs Patipat Chalardchaleam / Maneepong Jongjit (THA)

Women’s Doubles

Thailand’s Kunchala Voravichitchaikul and Duanganong Aroonkesorn, the world’s eight ranked women’s pair are the top-seeded team at this year’s Open and will face the Malaysia’s Vivian Hoo and Woon Khe Wei in their opening round match. A possible third round battle with Korea’s sixth seeded pair of Ha Jung Eun and Kim Min Jung (pictured) may be in store for the Thai pair in the top half of the women’s doubles draw.  New Chinese pair Cheng Shu and Bao Yixin will be strong contenders to meet the Thai or Korean teams in the semi-finals, Germany’s fourth seeded team of Sandra Marinello and Birgit Michels will hope to have a say in the matter.

The Singaporean team of Yao Lei and Shinta Mulia Sari (pictured below), who last won in the 2010 Singapore Open Super Series hold down the second seed and will compete in the bottom half of the women’s doubles draw. They face a tough first round matchup with Korea’s Jung Kyung Eun and Kim Ha Na, who came in with a bang, reaching the Swiss Open final in their first tournament.  The Koreans will have to stay hot, though, as they were not invited to the pre-Olympic World Championships this August.

Other seeded teams to look out for in the bottom half of the women’s doubles draw are India’s Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa, who if seedings hold true to form, could face the third-seeded team of Lotte Jonathans and Paulien Van Dooremalen of the Netherlands in the third round.

China’s fifth-seeded pair of Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei will look to improve upon their strong performances earlier this year. The Chinese pair won the Proton Malaysia Super Series and reached the finals before losing at both the Asian Championships and Korean Open Super Series events.

First round women’s doubles matches of note:
Kunchala Voravichitchaikul / Duang Anong Aroonkesorn [1] (THA) vs Woon Khe Wei / Hoo Vivian Kah Mun (MAS)
Cheng Shu / Bao Yixin [7] (CHN) vs Kim Min Seo / Jang Ye Na (KOR)
Yao Lei / Sari Shinta Mulia [2] (SIN) vs Kim Ha Na / Jung Kyung Eun (KOR)

Mixed Doubles

The second seeded team of Kunchala Voravichitchaikul and the always smiling Songphon Anugritayawon will be in the bottom half of the draw looking to defend the title they won at the 2009 Thailand Open. Thai team-mates Sudket Prapakamol and Saralee Thoungthongkam are the top seeds and will compete in the top half of the mixed doubles draw.

The top seeds will face a qualifying pair in the first round and they have their work cut out for them with a possible second round matchup with the eighth-seeded pair of Indonesia’s Nova Widianto and Vita Marissa. Germany’s third seeded team of Michael Fuchs and Birgit Michels present a possible third round match and Korea’s Lee Yong Dae and Ha Jung Eun are possible semi-final opponents.

Voravichitchaikul and Anugritayawon, the world’s seventh ranked mixed doubles pair will face Indonesia’s Fadhiliah Irfan and Anggraini Weni in their opening round match. Hoping to prevent the Thai pair from repeating their championship will be China’s Xu Chen and Ma Jin (pictured), likely third round opponents should the seedings hold true to form.

First round mixed doubles matches of note:
Wong Wai Hong / Chau Hoi Wah (HKG) vs Johannes Schoettler / Sandra Marinello (GER)
Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying [6] (MAS) vs Cho Gun Woo / Kim Min Seo (KOR)

New Venue

This year’s Thailand Open will move to a new venue, located just over a kilometre away from the previous location at the National Stadium complex, this year’s tournament will be held at the Sports Complex of Chulalongkorn University, where Porntip Buranaprasertsuk is currently matriculating.  The action will begin 7, June and conclude on Sunday 12, June.

After last year’s disappointing cancellation, this year’s tournament will present one of its strongest fields in recent years and should make for an exciting return of world class badminton to Thailand with solid representation from the world’s badminton powerhouses. Badzine will cover the tournament live from Bangkok and you can follow the results daily here on the Badzine website.

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