Badminton: Top Chinese shuttlers to play in Singapore Open

Chen Qingchen was a double champion at the Dubai World Superseries Finals in December, partnering Jia Yifan to win the women's doubles title and teaming up with Zheng Siwei for the mixed doubles crown.
Chen Qingchen was a double champion at the Dubai World Superseries Finals in December, partnering Jia Yifan to win the women's doubles title and teaming up with Zheng Siwei for the mixed doubles crown.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Teen mixed doubles aces Zheng & Chen and Olympic champ Zhang join other big names

Some of the world's top doubles badminton players, among them a world No. 1 pair and a former world and Olympic champion, will be here to play in the OUE Singapore Open.

World No. 1 mixed doubles duo Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen, as well as two-time Olympic champion Zhang Nan have been pencilled in for the April 11-16 tournament, as part of a sizeable Chinese squad.

They join a list of top players, including defending champions Sony Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia and world No. 5 Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand, as well as reigning Olympic champion Carolina Marin (No. 2) of Spain.

Zheng and Chen, both 19, were catapulted to the top of the world standings after a breakthrough season last year, lifting six titles on the Badminton World Federation professional circuit, including the prestigious season finale in Dubai.

Chen told The Straits Times from Bangkok, where she won the Thailand Masters women's doubles title with Jia Yifan yesterday: "Sometimes it does feel like a lot of success has come very suddenly. I don't think about anything beyond giving my opponents a good challenge on court.

"But it doesn't make me full of pride - it just makes me want to improve even more and work towards more good results."

Chen already had a creditable run at last year's edition, reaching the quarter-finals with Jia and the mixed doubles semi-finals with Wang Yilyu.

Teaming up with Zheng, however, means the doubles specialist from Guangdong province has eyes only for better results this year.

She said: "There will be some pressure that I'm putting on myself because I definitely don't want to do worse than last year. I'm looking to win the title."

Although still teenagers, Chen and Zheng are widely tipped to succeed their more illustrious team- mates, Zhang and Zhao Yunlei.

Zhang and Zhao - who were a couple but have since split up - are the 2012 Olympic champions, winning a bronze at the Rio Games last August. They also have three world titles. Zhao recently retired.

Zhang is also part of a successful men's doubles partnership with Fu Haifeng, winning the 2016 Olympic title - but will play in Singapore this time with new partners.

He will contest the men's doubles with 25-year-old Liu Cheng, while teaming up with 19-year-old Li Yinhui in the mixed doubles.

Zhang now sees himself playing a greater role in helping China's up-and-coming shuttlers improve.

Said the 26-year-old: "I'm very passionate about badminton and hope to do my part to lead the younger players, while improving together with them.

"I've played with two very great partners and now it's my turn to help lead the team and the up-and-coming players.

"We will be prepared for a tough fight in every round and aim to get to the final, and even win the title."

More players are expected to confirm their attendance at the Singapore Open, which has a prize purse of US$350,000 (S$497,200).

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2017, with the headline 'Top Chinese shuttlers to play in S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe