Stars will return next year: S'pore Open chairman Ang

Men's singles champion Chou Tien-chen is one of the few top-10 players to play in Singapore before heading for the World Championships.
Men's singles champion Chou Tien-chen is one of the few top-10 players to play in Singapore before heading for the World Championships.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Some 5,600 fans watched the last day of the Singapore Badminton Open at the Indoor Stadium yesterday - a drop from last year's 6,500.

Organisers said it was a "very good turnout", although the US$355,000 (S$486,000) Badminton World Federation World Tour Super 500 tournament was missing top-class players such as women's singles top seed Ratchanok Intanon, who withdrew on the eve of the tournament.

In previous years, the tournament had been graced by luminaries such as Chinese legend Lin Dan and Malaysian ace Lee Chong Wei.

However, tournament organising chairman Eugene Ang is confident that things will improve next year, when the competition is moved back to its traditional April slot.

"This year, the tournament was shifted to July because of the Commonwealth Games in April and the Thomas and Uber Cup Finals in May," he said. "The timing of our tournament was a bit unfortunate, not only because we were the last of four (back-to-back) stops, but also because we end eight days before the World Championships."

He believes that the stars will return for the 2019 edition, slated for April 9-14, explaining: "We will be one of the last tournaments before the Olympic qualifying period starts on April 29, and a lot of top players will turn up because they would want a good seeding for competitions during the qualifying period.

"I am quite confident that most of the top players will return."

He added that the event will also be on a lookout for a title sponsor, something it did not have this year.

But he insisted the 2018 edition has been "successful" because of "a panel of smaller but very loyal sponsors who supported our event".

Weighing in on the post-mortem, SBA president Lawrence Leow said he was "very satisfied" with the Singaporeans' performances this year. The local players made the top 16 in all five events, compared to just one in the same stage in 2017.

Leow singled out men's singles world No. 228 Loh Kean Yew, who beat France's world No. 37 Lucas Corvee in the first round, for praise.

Leow added: "That speaks volumes of his potential as a player to watch in the coming years...

"This current slate of players who took part in this Singapore Open are mostly between 19 and 23 and their exposure to competitions may not be enough."

He said the SBA would look into giving them more opportunities to improve so that "next year we can have a better showing at the SEA Games".

At last year's Games, the Republic claimed bronzes in the men's and women's team events.

Lim Say Heng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2018, with the headline 'Stars will return next year: S'pore Open chairman Ang'. Print Edition | Subscribe