Badminton: No Singapore shuttler at the All England Open for the first time since 2006

Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han have qualified for the All England mixed doubles event but will focus on the Commonwealth Games.
Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han have qualified for the All England mixed doubles event but will focus on the Commonwealth Games.LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE PHOTO

Mixed doubles duo sit out as SBA focuses on C'wealth Games; Lin slams new service rule

In 2006, Italy won their fourth football World Cup, sprinter Asafa Powell twice equalled his 100m world record of 9.77 seconds, while the Miami Heat beat the Dallas Mavericks for their first NBA title.

It was also the last time that Singapore did not have a representative at badminton's All England Open.

That streak of 11 straight appearances will end when this year's edition begins in Birmingham tomorrow.

World No. 23 mixed doubles pair of Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han had qualified under the revamped Badminton World Federation (BWF) tournament structure but will not travel to England as the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) said it is concentrating its efforts on next month's Commonwealth Games in Australia.

SBA's director of team administration Chew Keet Hou said: "We are working with our players... and have also invited some overseas sparring partners to help with our preparations these two weeks."

The Gold Coast Games run from April 4 to 15. Singapore won two silvers (men's singles, doubles) and one bronze (mixed team) at the 2014 Glasgow Games.

Hee and Tan, along with Liang Xiaoyu (women's singles), played in last year's All England Open, which previously had a qualifying round for lower-ranked players to get into the main draw.

That format has changed this year. It is one of three tournaments - the Indonesia Open in July and the China Open in September are the others - now classified as a Level 2 event on the BWF Tour, second only to the Level 1 World Tour Finals.

The BWF has removed qualifiers for all Level 2 and 3 competitions, making it harder for weaker players to gain entry.

Given the current make-up of Singapore's mostly young and inexperienced squad, former Singapore No. 1 men's singles player Derek Wong said it was "understandable" that the Republic did not send anyone to the competition this year.

The prestigious event will also be at the centre of controversy this week after top players like former world No. 1s Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan slammed a controversial new service rule. It states that as a player serves, he or she cannot hold the shuttlecock more than 1.15m above the ground. This appears to put taller players at a disadvantage.

There were no restrictions previously and the guideline was trialled at last week's German Open and will be trialled at the All England.

Chinese great Lin wrote on Weibo: "I have played major and small tournaments for more than 10 years and trained for more than three decades and now the world body comes to teach us how to serve. To be honest, this is really absurd."

The SBA was less forceful. Chew said: "We have conducted some initial trials and we don't see much difference for our players.

"We are still working with our international technical officials to conduct more comprehensive trials."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2018, with the headline 'No S'pore shuttler for all England open'. Print Edition | Subscribe