Held in the charming town of Odense, the most intriguing aspect of this year’s Premier Superseries tournament is the splitting up of established pairs in favour of new partnerships. Teams have rejigged their combinations, keeping in mind important events ahead. For instance, China’s legendary Men’s Doubles duo – the four-time world champions Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng – has been separated and teamed up with new partners, Chai Biao and Hong Wei respectively.
Even the world No. 1 pair has not been spared. Recent Adidas China Masters champions Lee Yong Dae and Ko Sung Hyun’s (Korea) year-long partnership has ended, at least for the time being, with Lee partnering Yoo Yeon Seong and Ko teaming up with Shin Baek Choel.
Women’s Doubles too is witnessing new alignments. The successful Chinese pair of Ma Jin and Tang Jinhua is no longer. Ma will play with Zhong Qianxin, while Tang and Bao Yixin are paired together. Korea’s Eom Hye Won and Jang Ye Na have new partners – Eom with Shin Seung Chan and Jang with Kim So Young. The re-alignment bug has hit veteran Polish Mixed Doubles ace Robert Mateusiak as well. Instead of long-time partner Nadiezda Zieba, Mateusiak teamed up with Agnieszka Wojtkowska. The Polish pair lost their opening round today to No. 2 seeds Xu Chen/Ma Jin (China) in a tough battle, 16-21 21-16 21-15.
Both singles events promise top-quality action from the early rounds. In Men’s Singles, Superseries king Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia, 1) and Chen Long (China, 2) head the opposite ends of the draw, but they have a minefield to cross en route to the final. Lee is up against feisty Korean Lee Dong Keun in the first round, while Chen faces another qualifier, Anand Pawar of India. Du Pengyu (China, 3), Kashyap Parupalli (India), Wang Zhengming (China) and Kenichi Tago (Japan, 4) will expect to cause some ripples. China Masters winner Wang and Japan Open runner-up Tago face off in the first round and it might go the distance. Both have been in form recently.
In Women’s Singles, fourth seed Saina Nehwal (India) looks to defend her title and claim her first trophy for 2013. The Indian has a comfortable draw until the quarter-finals. However, in her half lurk strong competitors from China, including Olympic champion Li Xuerui (1); Swiss Open champion Wang Shixian (7); Wang Xin, who is on the comeback trail after injury; and youngster Yu Sun.
World champion Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand, 2) will grab all the attention in the first round. The Thai has not competed since winning the BWF World Championships in August and, with the likes of Tai Tzu Ying (Chinese Taipei, 8), PV Sindhu (India), Juliane Schenk (Germany, 3) and former champion Wang Yihan (China) in her half, her quest to win the title will be anything but easy.
* Japan’s world junior champion Kento Momota (right) overcame two Indians in qualifying-round matches to enter the main draw of Men’s Singles. Momota held off HS Prannoy 21-14 21-19, before fighting past Thailand Open GP champion Srikanth Kidambi, 21-19 10-21 21-17.
* Denmark dominated Women’s Singles qualifying, ensuring three out of four qualifiers. Local hopes Mia Blichfeldt, Sandra-Maria Jensen and Anna Thea Madsen won their qualifying matches comfortably, as did Wang Xin of China (centre above). Once ranked No. 1, Wang has slid to No. 183. She breezed through both qualifiers, beating Danish hopefuls, Julie Finne-Ipsen (21-14 21-7) and Camilla Martens (21-15 21-12).
* In Mixed Doubles, former Olympic champion Lee Yong Dae (Korea), teaming up with new partner Shin Seung Chan, advanced to the main draw. Lee/Shin were mostly unchallenged by Kasper Antonsen/Amanda Madsen (Denmark) 21-12 21-12, before sweeping past Chai Biao/Tang Jinhua of China 21-16 21-9.