Former World #1 Players Confirm Entry for NZ Open
The SKYCITY New Zealand Badminton Open has scored a coup with two former world number one ranked players and a former world number three all confirming entry for the April 15 – 19 tournament at the North Shore Events Centre.
The quality of play at the second SKYCITY New Zealand Open will be up with the best ever seen in this country, with highlights sprinkled throughout the 240 players entered from 16 countries in the World Grand Prix status event, with strong representation from badminton powerhouses Malaysia, Indonesia, Chinese Taipei and Thailand in particular.
Tournament Director Julie Carrel says fans are in for a great week of badminton.
“I am thrilled at the quality and number of players entered across all events highlighted by the entry of former world number one Lee Hyun Il (Korea) and former number three ranked Simon Santoso (Indonesia) in the men’s singles and the amazing thought of former world number one men’s doubles star Koo Kien Keat (Malaysia) playing here in New Zealand. All have huge respect in the sport and bring a real touch of class to the tournament.
“Add to that we have the world number 8 mixed doubles pair Sudket Prapakamol and Saralee Thoungthomgkam (Thailand) and the world number 12 women’s doubles pair of Kunchala Voravichitchaikul and Duanganong Aroonkesorn (Thailand). There is also good depth in each event though and these star players or combinations will not have it their own way by any stretch, we are going to see some world-class badminton throughout the week.”
Also of interest is the return of Shizuka Matsuo and Mami Naito of Japan, who have not played internationally since 2012, both will add further depth and flair to the tournament and appeal to Japanese fans living in Auckland in a tournament that strongly reflects the multi-cultural aspects of Auckland’s thriving Asian communities.
After New Zealand’s 72 players, Malaysia is the next largest representation with 40 players making the trip to Auckland while Indonesia will provide 27 players in the draw, including Santoso who was top seed in 2013 when upset in the quarter-finals.
While not as large in numbers, the strongest team in terms of likely seeds looks set to be Chinese Taipei with the Asian powerhouse providing top ranked players in both singles and men’s doubles for the SKYCITY backed event. Final seedings will be determined this weekend by the world body (BWF) based on the latest world rankings.
One of the dangers lurking in the men’s singles draw will be Arvind Bhat (India). While ranked 65 in the world, Bhat won the recent German Open, regarded as one of the strongest Grand Prix Gold tournaments, defeating several players more highly ranked than him to win including the current world number 15 in the final.
The New Zealand representation is a mix of the country’s very best player’s right through to the most promising juniors. Joe Wu (Northland) is the highest ranked Kiwi in the men’s singles field that has well and truly exceeded capacity.. A total of 96 entries have been received for the men’s singles alone, with 88 positions available in the main draw and qualifying, some will miss out on entry to the qualifying rounds.
In women’s singles Michelle Chan (Auckland) is a genuine albeit outside threat to win the title as the fourth highest ranked player currently on the entry list, with Anna Rankin one spot behind at fifth ranked in the main draw with a total of 13 Kiwis on the women’s singles entry list.
Susannah and Oliver Leydon Davis will fly the flag in the mixed doubles, the Waikato siblings will keenly await seedings and the final draw which will be available on 1stApril, as one of the higher ranked combinations. Oliver will then pair up with Kevin Dennerly-Minturn (Auckland) in the men’s doubles in another combination capable of upsetting their more fancied international opponents in the search for vital world ranking points.
A number of New Zealanders as young as 15 have entered to gain vital international experience and to test themselves against much higher ranked opponents as players seek to earn a place in the main draw through qualifying which starts on Tuesday 15 April.
CLICK HERE for a link to the entry list for the SKYCITY NZ Badminton Open April 15-19
The final draw and seeding list will be confirmed by the BWF with details released early next week.