Thursday, May 18, 2017
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
Australia will be looking at leveraging the support of home fans as they take on their Group 2 challengers at the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017 in Gold Coast.
The hosts are in sub-group 2B with Singapore, USA and Austria. Sub-group 2A consists of Vietnam, Scotland, Canada and New Zealand.
Women’s Doubles duo Gronya Somerville and Setyana Mapasa (featured image) have had a good season so far, winning the Casa Del Sole Noumea International and the Victor Oceania Championships, and with a strong squad boasting of the likes of fellow-continental champions Pit Seng Low (Men’s Singles); Wendy Chen (Women’s Singles); Matthew Chau/Sawan Serasinghe and Sawan Serasinghe/Setyana Mapasa (Mixed Doubles), the Australians will be confident of making it a memorable event for the home crowd.
Australia finished 23rd overall (third in Group 3) at the last edition, and will want to continue their ascent up the overall placings.
Among their biggest challengers will be Singapore, top seeds in Group 2 for the draw. Singapore have a balanced side led by Liang Xiaoyu, Women’s Singles World No.24. The team has depth in Men’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles with the likes of Danny Bawa Chrisnanta/Hendra Wijaya and Terry Hee/Loh Kean Hean (No.38) and Terry Hee/Tan Wei Han (No.17).
While the attention of fans at the upcoming Sudirman Cup might be on the teams in Group 1 competing for the title, teams in Groups 2 won’t just be making up the numbers.
Group 2 can boast of a number of world-class players and pairs who will be keen to elevate their respective team to the highest possible spot on the overall placings.
Michelle Li, for instance, will be one of those to watch out for. Li was last seen on the world stage at the Yonex Open Japan last September, where she crashed out in the first round. Li then underwent surgery followed by rehab, eventually returning to action at the Peru International Challenge in April, which she won. That was followed by a surprise second round loss to compatriot Brittney Tam at the Pan American Championships.
Li will be inspired by her performance at the last Sudirman Cup, when she won a memorable thriller against World champion Carolina Marin (Spain).
The team includes Pan Am champion Rachel Honderich, Brittney Tam, Jason Anthony Ho-Shue, Nyl Yakura, Michelle Tong and Josephine Wu. With these players having helped Canada scoop four of the five titles at the Pan American Championships, they will back themselves for a strong showing in sub-group 2A. Having finished 19th overall (7th in Group 2) in the last edition, Canada will be confident of a higher placing this time.
Vietnam, winners of Group 3 at the last edition, will be led by their veteran warhorse Nguyen Tien Minh. The former Men’s Singles World No.5, winner of the Vietnam International Challenge in March, can bank upon a strong team with the likes of Do Tuan Duc, Pham Hong Nam (men) and Vu Thi Trang, Le Thu Huyen, Pham Nhu Thao and Nguyen Thuy Linh (women).
Kieran Merrilees, Men’s Singles World No.65, winner of the Slovenia International last year, and Kirsty Gilmour, European Championships runner-up in Women’s Singles, will lead a Scotland team comprising Martin Campbell, Adam Hall, Patrick Machugh (men) and Rebekka Findlay, Julie MacPherson and Eleanor O’Donnell (women).
New Zealand have experience in Kevin Dennerly-Minturn, Oliver Leydon-Davis and Susannah Leydon-Davis. Their familiarity with the conditions in neighbouring Australia might prove to be a decisive factor in their campaign.
Niccolo Tagle, their highest-ranked Men’s Singles player at No.229, will be joined by Dylan Soedjasa, Oscar Guo and Maika Phillips (men) and Sally Fu, Gaea Galvez, Anona Pak and Danielle Tahuri (women).
USA have a young squad with their most well-known names being Crystal Pan and Jamie Subandhi. Vinson Chiu, Kyle Emerick, Timothy Lam, Nicholas Robert Henson Waller and Darren Yang (men) and Jennie Gai, Annie Xu and Kerry Xu (women) will back Pan and Subandhi as they try to better their 18th position from the last Sudirman Cup.
Austria were 24th in the last edition but are assured of a much higher-place finish this time. In Luka Wraber and Elisabeth Baldauf they have reliable singles players and will hope for a couple of upsets that will push them past some of the more fancied teams.
2A: Vietnam; Scotland; Canada; New Zealand
2B: Singapore; Australia; USA; Austria