Badminton: Olympic champion Chen Long leads strong Chinese contingent at Singapore Open

Olympic champion Chen Long headlines a list of 42 China shuttlers who are bound for the April 7-12 Singapore Badminton Open.
Olympic champion Chen Long headlines a list of 42 China shuttlers who are bound for the April 7-12 Singapore Badminton Open.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SINGAPORE - These days, Olympic badminton champion Chen Long cannot do without his daily dose of caffeine.

Married to former women's singles No. 1 Wang Shixian, Chen became a father for the first time last June, and "Little Coffee" is the nickname of the little bundle of joy that is his new motivation.

Chen, who turned 31 on Jan 18, headlines a list of 42 China shuttlers who are bound for the April 7-12 Singapore Badminton Open at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

He said in a statement on Wednesday (Jan 22): "I have gone through many changes in 2019, such as becoming a father. The new experience has played a huge part in making me stronger mentally and I'll look to bring that to my game.

"I'm a very happy father. If I'm not in Beijing, I will video call my son every day. This is what I enjoy and what keeps me going in my career now.

With two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan in decline, 2018 All England winner Shi Yuqi out injured, and the young Chinese shuttlers failing to step up, Chen is his country's best shot at retaining the gold medal at Tokyo 2020.

While the world No. 4 did not start last season well - he was the only Chinese player to lose a match in the Sudirman Cup in May - Chen reached four finals and won the French Open.

Chen, who won the world title in 2014 and 2015, said: "My goal for 2020 is still the same, which is to firstly qualify for the Olympics and then to successfully defend my title.

"I know it will be a huge challenge and every tournament such as the Singapore Open will give me the practice I need to get to that end goal."

Compatriot Lin has also confirmed his attendance at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, as has women's world No. 1 Chen Yufei, who captured the Malaysia Masters title earlier this month, beating second ranked Tai Tzu-ying. The Taiwanese is the Singapore Open defending champion.

Yufei, 21, said: "In the past, I have always hoped for a good draw. But now, I have learnt to be confident and fearless about any opponent that I'm going to face."

The Singapore Open is likely to attract a strong field with many of the world's top shuttlers using it as part of their build up preparation for the Olympics competition, which will be held from July 25-Aug 3 at the Musashino Forest Sports Plaza in Tokyo.

It remains to be seen whether world No. 1 Kento Momota, who is heavily tipped to win Olympic gold, will compete at the Singapore Open where he is the defending champion.

The 25-year-old Japanese was involved in a car accident after winning the Malaysia Masters and is reportedly recovering from a broken nose.

Singapore Open early bird tickets are available until Feb 16 through www.apactix.com/events/detail/singapore-badminton-open-2020.