CANADA OPEN 2011 Preview – A Grander Grand Prix

Richmond is set to host Canada’s second Grand Prix tournament and Olympic qualifying, along with the event’s growing reputation, have conspired to attract no fewer than three former Olympic gold […]

Richmond is set to host Canada’s second tournament and Olympic qualifying, along with the event’s growing reputation, have conspired to attract no fewer than three former Olympic gold medallists.

By Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto

On the outskirts of Canada’s western metropolis of Vancouver, the city of Richmond gets set to welcome some of the best of the badminton world for the second consecutive year.  Last year, three former World Champions made the trip to Canada, but in 2011, with Olympic qualifying points on the line, former Olympic champions Tony Gunawan and Taufik Hidayat (pictured), are headed back to the Richmond Olympic Oval, site of the long-track speed-skating events of the Vancouver games.

This year, however, they will be joined by Beijing gold medallist Lee Yong Dae (pictured below with partner Ha Jung Eun), who is part of a small contingent of eight first-string Korean players who are slated to join in the US$50,000 event.  In a way, there is even a fourth Olympic champion if you include Singapore Youth Olympic winner Sapsiree Taerattanachai, who comes at the head of a young but hungry Thai team.

Grand White North?

Organizing committee co-chair Bobby Milroy stated last month that he hoped to make the better than the U.S. Open, which for a second straight year is a paired July event on the North American west coast, but again at the more lucrative Grand Prix Gold level.

In fact, last summer, a huge elite Korean university team, along with the withdrawals of Tine Baun and Taufik on the eve of the U.S. Open, gifted the Canadian event with a stronger field, despite the discrepancy in prize money. However, unfortunately for the Richmond organizing team, they will not be able to compete with Orange County on the strength of the draw this year.  South of the border, there will be much stronger contingents from China, Japan and especially Thailand, including such world top 10 luminaries as Chen Jin, Boonsak Ponsana, Nguyen Tien Minh, and Kunchala Voravichitchaikul, who will not be in Canada.

Where the Canadians hope to excel once again is in fan support.  As with the American event, this Open is situated in the nation’s new badminton heartland and with an even stronger field than in 2010, as well as the addition of one of badminton’s few heartthrobs, the Canadians expect great things.

Women’s singles

At last year’s edition of the Canada Open, Chinese Taipei wrapped up all three doubles titles. While this year that feat might be more elusive, Taiwan does have the top seed in women’s singles, the in-form Cheng Shao Chieh. Cheng and young compatriot Tai Tzu Ying have the task of dealing with some of the home team’s hopefuls, facing Joycelyn Ko and Charmaine Reid in their respective first round matches. Canadian national champion Michelle Li (pictured), meanwhile, starts in the same quarter as formidable second seed Pi Hongyan.

In addition to Tai, there should be a very strong youthful challenge to the veterans from youngsters Mitani Minatsu of Japan, Carolina Marin of Spain, and Sapsiree Taerattanachai of Thailand.

Men’s singles

Taufik Hidayat is the heavy favourite once again this year, and he will again be joined by 2010 runner-up Brice Leverdez.  Of the three players who pushed Taufik to three games last year, only Dieter Domke is back and he may be overshadowed by compatriot and All England semi-finalist Marc Zwiebler, who comes in as the second seed.  Domke will most likely come up in the second round against the only Canadian in the main draw, Stefan Wojcikiewicz.

Last year, Leverdez kicked off his run to the final with a tough win over then-newly-crowned Russian Open champion Takuma Ueda of Japan.  Ueda is back this year and he is joined in the top quarter by China’s Tian Houwei, who was runner-up in Vladivostok this year.  Taufik may well have to face these two in succession before the semi-final stage.

King of the European Circuit Pablo Abian of Spain will be hoping to do well in only his third tournament of the year at the Grand Prix level while India has a couple of dangerous entries in the form of Chetan Anand and youngster R.M.V Gurusai Datt.

Men’s doubles

Fang Chieh Min and Lee Sheng Mu are heavy favourites to take the men’s doubles title again.  Their strongest challenges could come from 2005 World Champions Howard Bach and Tony Gunawan (pictured) or perhaps from compatriots Chen Hung Ling / Lin Yu Lang.  This is actually the weakest of the events for Korea this time, with the biggest threat coming from the scratch pairing of Lee Yong Dae and Ko Sung Hyun.  Ko and Lee are competing in men’s doubles primarily to get accustomed to the fitness drain from playing it alongside mixed doubles.  They begin their campaign against Canadians Toby Ng / Jon Vandervet.

Germany will provide two quality pairs to stiffen the competition in Richmond.  Second seeds Ingo Kindervater / Johannes Schöttler will be eager to get over their consecutive losses to Chai/Guo in the last two Super Series tournaments.

Women’s doubles

The women’s doubles could well be the most hotly contested event in the Oval.  Defending champions Cheng Wen Hsing / Chien Yu Chin return as top seeds.  Their first match is likely to be against Korea’s Kim Ha Na and Jung Kyung Eun.  The Swiss Open runners-up will be playing against the mighty Cheng/Chien for the first time but Kim and former partner Eom Hye Won played two tough matches against them earlier this year.

The winner of that match will play their quarter-final match against the victor among 3 of the strongest North American pairs, Alex Bruce / Michelle Li, Eva Lee / Paula Lynn Obanana, and Grace Gao / Joycelyn Ko.  Meanwhile, Shinta Mulia Sari / Yao Lei (pictured) have had their 2010 position as second seeds usurped by Korea’s Kim Min Jung / Ha Jung Eun and the two pairs are likely to play a rematch of last summer’s Singapore Open final in the second round in Canada.

The big question in the women’s doubles is outside of the seeds, however, as China has two dangerous pairs in the running in Bao/Cheng and the Luo twins.

Mixed doubles

Mixed should be all about Chinese Taipei and Korea.  Last year it was an all-Taiwan final and both pairs are back on the eastern side of the Pacific and looking for more.  Last year, both Lee Sheng Mu and Chien Yu Chin were double gold-medallists in Canada but Chen Hung Ling and Cheng Wen Hsing (pictured) were not far behind.  Korea, though, has their four best mixed pairs all primed for action, including Lee Yong Dae and Ha Jung Eun, who are on a quarter-final collision course with Canada’s best Toby Ng / Grace Gao.

Two of Canada’s other top pairs, Adrian Liu / Joycelyn Ko and Kevin Li / Alex Bruce are crammed into the bottom corner of the draw along with second seeds Fuchs/Michels of Germany and brand new Korean pairing Ko Sung Hyun / Kim Ha Na.

Badzine will be on site in Richmond to bring you all the action, together with live photos from Badmintonphoto.

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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 @