Every big badminton star is in Sydney for the first day of real action at the Star Australian Open. After a break of nearly one month, the fifth event in the 12-tournament circuit of MetLife BWF World Super-series has begun. There is an added value to the event because the Star Australian Open is the first World Super-series tournament that would count in the race for Olympic qualifying points. Like every year, top eight players and pairs will contest in the prestigious year-ending Dubai World Super-series Finals. These rankings are decided by players’ performances in 12 BWF World Super-series tournaments.
Defending men’s and women’s singles champions Lin Dan and Saina Nehwal have been seeded second at Sydney despite Saina regaining the world no.1 ranking in the wake of China’s Li Xuerui slipping down a few rungs. The tournament top men’s seed Chen Long can have another final showdown with Super Dan in men’s field while there are several players in women’s category, who could lay their claims to the title. But the field is very strong in all categories and anything can happen. In men’s singles, Japan’s Kento Momota, India’s Kidambi Srikanth and Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen are all capable of challenging Chen Long and Lin Dan. In women’s field, top seed Li Xuerui, Saina Nehwal, Carolina Marin and several Japanese women including Nozomi Okuhara and Akane Yamaguchi are all strong contenders. Then there are other Chinese players like Wang Yihan, Wang Shixian and Asian champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand to make the women’s field very strong.
The Star Australian Open draw has great depth and even first-round matches have the potential of stealing the show. Wang Yihan plays India’s PV Sindhu; Michelle Li is up against Okuhara and Tai Tzu Ying faces Korean Bae Yeon Ju and India’s Srikanth takes on Denmark’s Hans-Kristian Vittinghus. In men’s doubles, Korea’s world champion pair of Ko Sung Hyun/Shin Baek Choel will make their first appearance this year. But they have an extremely tough first round match against no.2 seeds Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan. If the Indonesians win, they could go all the way to final, barring any major surprises. Those capable of derailing the Indonesians are; Kim Gi Jung/Kim Sa Rang of Korea, Lee Sheng Mu/Tsai Chia Hsin of Chinese Taipei and Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda of Japan. In the top half of the men’s doubles draw, defending champions and no.1 seeds Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong of Korea will do their utmost to reach the final and regain the title.
In women’s doubles, Denmark’s no.2 seeded pair of Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl will present a tough challenge. Pedersen/Juhl have a good chance of reaching the semi-finals where they might likely meet China’s Ma Jin/Tang Yuanting. Other strong pairs in women’s doubles are China’s experimental combination of Tian Qing/Tang Jinhua; Japanese combo of Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi and Indonesia’s Greysia Polii/Nitya Krishinda Maheswari.
In mixed doubles, the field is composed of defending champions Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na of Korea; Kenichi Hayakawa/Misaki Matsutomo of Japan; last year’s runners-up Michael Fuchs/Birgit Michels of Germany and the Danish pair of Joachim Fischer Nielsen/Christinna Pedersen. Apart from these, England’s Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock, France’s Ronan Labar/Emilie Lefel; Holland’s Jacco Arends/Selena Piek and Australian wild cards Sawan Serasinghe/Setyana Mapasa can also make their presence felt.