Lee, Jorgensen skip S'pore stop

World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei is expected to retire this year. World No. 2 Jan O Jorgensen will skip Singapore after making the trip here in the last two years.
World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei is expected to retire this year. World No. 2 Jan O Jorgensen will skip Singapore after making the trip here in the last two years.PHOTOS: ST FILE, AFP

Top 2 men's shuttlers won't be here but seven reigning Olympic champs among strong field

Next month's OUE Singapore Open will feature all but one of the gold medallists from last year's Olympic Games, although the tournament will be without the world's top two men's singles players.

World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei and No. 2 Jan O Jorgensen were the most notable absentees after badminton powerhouses Malaysia, Denmark, and Indonesia were among the last teams to finalise their entries before registration closed on Tuesday.

With Lee expected to retire this year, this means local fans are unlikely to see the badminton great compete here again.

The 34-year-old won the 2008 title, but has not often made the Singapore stop in recent years. He last competed here in 2014, losing in the final to Indonesian qualifier Simon Santoso. Before that, he was a quarter-finalist in 2010.

The three-time Olympic silver medallist, still recovering from a knee injury, is slated to open his season at next week's All England Championships.

Jorgensen, meanwhile, will also be in Birmingham but will skip Singapore after making the trip here in the last two years.

The Dane beat Olympic champion Chen Long to win the China Open title last November but has failed to produce his best form at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, with a quarter-final spot in 2009 his best showing in six appearances since 2008.

Fans like Lui Syen Kai, 27, had been hoping Lee would compete here once more.

Said the compliance officer, who has seen the Malaysian play in person three times: "Lee Chong Wei is a legend of the sport and fans around the world cherish every chance to watch him play.

"I was hoping he would be here but it'll be interesting to see the up-and-coming players battle it out since they'll be the ones taking over the badminton world after he retires."

The April 11-16 event is not short of star power.

Rio de Janeiro mixed doubles gold medallists and world No. 3 pair Liliyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad will spearhead an Indonesian team at the US$350,000 (S$493,195) Superseries event.

Their inclusion means reigning Olympic champions in four of five events - men's singles (Chen), women's singles (Spain's Carolina Marin), women's doubles (Japan's Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsutomo) - will be in action here.

China's men's doubles champion Zhang Nan is pencilled in, but will play without his usual partner Fu Haifeng. He will team up with Liu Cheng here.

The Malaysian squad includes Olympic men's doubles finalists Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong, as well as mixed doubles finalists Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying.

Said Chan: "The draught in the stadium has always been a common problem among the players. But I believe that if we are able to manage it well and use it to our advantage, we will be able to advance.

"I think everyone in the (Malaysian) team is motivated and eager to perform, especially after our Olympic achievements."

Singapore will be represented by a team of young shuttlers, including Rio Olympian and women's singles world No. 24 Liang Xiaoyu, 21.

Singapore's world No. 15 mixed doubles pair Terry Hee, 21, and Tan Wei Han, 23, are hoping to make it to their first Superseries quarter-finals. Their best result is a round of 16 appearance.

Said Tan: "This is a test of how we fare against the top few in the world."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2017, with the headline 'Lee, Jorgensen skip S'pore stop'. Print Edition | Subscribe