The world’s elite descend on Birmingham for the last Premier event of the Olympic qualifying year and also the last visit for some of the world’s greatest players set to retire in London in less than 6 months time.
Gade’s Last Run
Gade confirmed on Sunday evening that this would be his last All England as a player. The 4th seed starts with a first round match against his opponent at the 2011 World Championships, England’s Rajiv Ouseph. Gade has won the previous 7 encounters against Ouseph, all in two games. Top seed Lee Chong Wei is also in Gade’s half of the draw, taking on the dangerous Wang Zhengming in his opening round match but the world number 1 has won all four of their matches in two games also.
Lin Dan enters the tournament as the form player with his fantastic run in Germany last week, he takes on India’s Ajay Jayaram in his opening round match for their first meeting. The bottom half of the draw is loaded with Chinese threats with Chen Jin and Chen Long all likely to make deep runs this week. Taufik Hidayat has dropped to 12th in the world rankings and has been displaced as Indonesia’s #1 player by Simon Santoso. His status as Indonesia’s number 2 should remain unless Tommy Sugiarto defeats Chen Jin in his opening round match, with Hidayat taking on Guatemala’s Kevin Cordon in the first round.
Chinese Strength On Show
China have only brought a mere 6 players for the women’s singles, with all of them ranked inside the top 10 in the world. Liu Xin is the only unseeded of the six and takes on Michelle Li of Canada before a likely second round match against top seeded Wang Yihan.
Should the Chinese team allow their players to play one another, this could be a fascinating week of play with six players attempting to qualify for potentially three spots in the Olympics. Wang Xin and Wang Shixian hold the other two qualifying places and both have tough openers. Wang Xin takes on the world number 12 Sung Ji Hyun of Korea whilst Wang Shixian takes on the world number 10 and world silver medalist
Cheng Shao Chieh.
Tine Baun and Juliane Schenk lead the European charge, with Baun taking on Fu Mingtian of Singapore in her opening round match whilst Juliane Schenk takes on the world number 13 Bae Youn Joo in her opening round match. The sub-plots begin on Tuesday when qualifying takes place with Susan Egelstaff and Elizabeth Cann fighting for the GB spot at the Olympics, both have been in poor runs of form but could play each other in the final qualifying round on Tuesday night in what could be a decider for the Olympic spot.
China The Nation To Beat
China hold the top seed in all three doubles events, with Cai and Fu on route to take on Lee and Jung for their 21st encounter. Last week’s winners Hong and Shen are in Lee and Jung’s half of the draw also as well as Boe and Mogensen of Denmark. Cai and Fu’s main threat in their half in the Korean pair of Ko and Yoo, their world championship opponents.
Wang and Yu have been off the radar for almost 2 months after their stunning loss to Ha and Kim in Korea, they still remain the top seeds in the women’s doubles and will face a qualifier in their opening round. Their main rivals Tian and Zhao start with Chin and Wong of Malaysia, the world number 14 pairing. Ha and Kim are the 3rd seeds this week and are in the bottom half of the draw and have a rematch of their opening round in Germany last week against Sari and Yao of Singapore who defeated them in three games.
The mixed doubles offers another Zhang and Zhao against Adcock and Bankier rematch in the first round, after meeting in the first round in Korea with the British pair coming up on top. Adcock and Bankier are also in a tight qualification fight against Robertson and Wallwork who take on the world number 11 Thai pairing of Anugritayawon and Voravichitchaikul in the opening round. Xu and Ma are the second seeds this week and start with under the circumstances an “easy” game against the world number 31 pairing of Kim and Jung of Korea. The Danish contingent could face off in the quarter final, but the 3rd seeded Fischer Neilsen and Pedersen take on the new Chinese partnership of Jiaming and Huan. Last week’s German Open winners Laybourn and Rytter Juhl await a qualifier in their opening round.