The first time Sydney put on a big badminton tournament, the 2000 Olympics, the brightest constellation competing were the handsome blonde Danish couple, Camilla Martin and Peter Gade, and an Indonesian teenager who had just turned world number one, Taufik Hidayat.
It was twelve years between drinks, but Sydney again hosted another sold out show, with China’s lovely Wang Lin, a former world champion, receiving the lioness’s share of adulation both in real and digital lives.
In 2013, gravity will be pulling everyone towards none other than the superstar who is the current men’s singles world number one and double Olympic silver medallist, Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia.
Before you start assuming that winning will be a stroll in the park for him, did you know that there are three men in the race for the Australian Badminton Open title have beaten him? Not to mention a further eight dotted throughout the draw, who have stretched him into a rubber deciding game, including his younger compatriot, the other Chong Wei (Feng), plus five players from India?
Do Two Halves Equal One?
Indonesia’s Hendra Setiawan and Chen Hung Ling of Chinese Taipei, are the only defending champions returning to Sydney. However, Setiawan will be partnering Mohammad Ahsan this time instead of Markis Kido, whom he won the Beijing Olympics with.
Although ranked 37th in the world, the new partnership of Setiawan and Ahsan have already shaken up the badminton scene by snaring the second Superseries title of the year in Kuala Lumpur. Hence, they arrive in Sydney as heavy favourites to grab their second title.
Chen Hung Ling, renowned for his bespectacled likeness to Harry Potter, unfortunately cannot defend his mixed doubles title without Cheng Wen Hsing making the trip as well, so he is featured in just the men’s doubles.
Thailand March in April
Thailand, with seven women’s doubles pairs and six in mixed doubles contention, the most of any other nation apart from the locals, will be the country to prevent from scooping glory.
Many new combinations are being tested out which leaves 2012 Thailand Open winners Lam Narissapat and Saralee Thoungthongkam to march forth as the most successful pairing. Nevertheless, they will be wary of the quality of reigning Olympic silver medallist, Japan’s Reika Kakiiwa, with new partner Yuki Fukushima, as well as Indonesian veteran Vita Marissa, partnering Aprilsasi Putri Lejarsar Variella.
Without any other top 10 mixed pairs competing, the way is cleared for Saralee Thoungthongkam, a former world number one and current world number six, with Sudket Prapakamol, to reap a possible double doubles top podium spot, which Cheng Wen Hsing narrowly failed to complete last year. Unlike last year when there were four other top 10 calibre mixed pairs competing, the obvious threat at this edition is China’s Yu Yang. Yu is returning to mixed doubles duty after previously earning a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics