Badminton: Chen begins Singapore open campaign against Wang

Singapore shuttler Liang Xiaoyu is hoping to do better than she did at last year's S'pore Open, when she fell to China's Sun Yu in the first round.
Singapore shuttler Liang Xiaoyu is hoping to do better than she did at last year's S'pore Open, when she fell to China's Sun Yu in the first round. ST FILE PHOTO

Olympic champ eyes first win over rival as draw sets up three tasty rematches

China's Olympic champion Chen Long will have a chance to avenge his German Open loss to Chinese Taipei's Wang Tzu-wei at next month's OUE Singapore Open, where he will face the 22-year-old in his opening match.

The draw for the April 11-16 tournament, which will take place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, was announced yesterday.

Chen, who lost the only match he played against Wang - 18-21, 21-8, 18-21 in the semi-finals of the German Open this month - will be eager to add the Singapore Open trophy to his cabinet.

"After the Olympics, I rested for seven months and have just begun competing again, so my focus is to get back to my best condition," said the 28-year-old, who returned to the Badminton World Federation's professional circuit at the German Open. "Everyone goes into a tournament aiming to be the champion and I am no exception, especially since I have not won in Singapore."

The two-time world champion's best performance in three appearances here was a quarter-final showing last year.

The women's singles draw, which features nine of the world's top 10 shuttlers, will also see two more significant rematches.

Olympic silver medallist P.V. Sindhu of India will start her campaign against bronze medallist Nozomi Okuhara of Japan. The latter leads their head-to-head 3-2, but Sindhu won 21-19, 21-10 during their last encounter at the Olympic semi-finals in Rio de Janeiro last year.

Singapore's Liang Xiaoyu and Chinese Taipei's Hsu Ya-ching are also set to clash again. Liang, the world No. 25, lost 18-21, 13-21 to 24th-ranked Hsu at last year's New Zealand Open. Said Liang: "I am looking forward to playing on home ground in my best condition. I will put forth my best performance in front of the supporters."

Compatriots Grace Chua and Yeo Jia Min will play in the qualifying rounds for a spot in the main draw. The trio are among 17 Singaporean shuttlers who will feature in the main draw and qualifying rounds.

The Singapore Open will be a key part of the national shuttlers' preparations for the Aug 19-31 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, said national chief coach Chua Yong Joo.

"We will be looking out for our players' progress and also their conditions," he added. "Our key focus now is for them to peak during the SEA Games."

Singapore's top mixed doubles pair, Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han, ranked 17th in the world, are gunning for a quarter-final appearance at the US$350,000 (S$489,594) Superseries event.

The duo, who won two titles last year but lost in the second round of the Singapore Open, are confident of overcoming their Indonesian opponents (18th-ranked Ronald Ronald and Melati Oktavianti) in their opener.

Said Tan: "If we proceed to the top 16, there is a chance we might meet this year's All England champions from China (Lu Kai and Huang Yaqiong), whom we have lost to previously. It is tough but we will be the underdogs and we will definitely do our best."

The 23-year-old is aware that her opponents will likely feature at the SEA Games, adding: "It's important that we gain a victory in this match (to get) a future advantage.

"The SEA Games are a major Games; the OUE Open is also considered a major event because it is held in our home country. There will be pressure to perform and we hope to work with that pressure positively.

"Being the top mixed doubles pair in Singapore, there will also definitely be pressure on us to deliver results in the SEA Games."

Hee, 21, will team up with Loh Kean Hean in the men's doubles qualifying rounds.

Fellow Singaporeans Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Hendra Wijaya will play in the main draw, where they take on Thailand's Bodin Isara and Nipitphon Phuangphuapet in the first round.

The duo, who reached the round of 16 last year, are targeting a quarter-final appearance this year.

Said Chrisnanta: "The OUE Open will definitely help Hendra and myself to improve our chemistry as partners and to gain more confidence playing at the higher level tournaments."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2017, with the headline 'Chen begins S'pore open campaign against Wang'. Print Edition | Subscribe