SINGAPORE - It may be missing the likes of Chinese superstar Lin Dan and world No 1 Lee Chong Wei - as well as top Chinese women Wang Xin, Li Xuerui, and Wang Shixian - but the US$200,000 (S$255,600) Li-Ning Singapore Open promises to serve up thrilling battles for local fans at the Singapore Indoor Stadium from June 19 to 24.
The draw for the OSIM BWF World SuperSeries was held on Tuesday, with the Republic's shuttlers expected to face tough competition on court in their bid to replicate Yao Lei and Shinta Mulia Sari's title-winning run in 2010.
Seeded eighth for the tournament, world No 16 Gu Juan - who is nominated for the London Olympic Games in July - will need to overcome Thailand's Porntip Buranaprasertsuk (17) in the first round of the women's singles, while compatriot Derek Wong will have to battle through the qualifiers of the men's singles before facing Simon Santoso of Indonesia (No 9) in the main draw. Newly crowned Sportswoman of the Year Fu Mingtian was handed an easier draw, and will face a qualifier in the first round.
Quarterfinalist at the 2011 All-England Championships, 22-year-old Gu Juan is looking forward to doing well in front of a home crowd as she said: "The Li-Ning Singapore Open will is not only a prestigious international tournament but also be a good platform for me to gauge my abilities right before the Olympics. I hope that Singaporeans will come and support us as we prepare for the biggest sporting event."
Added Wong: "This tournament is crucial for me as I continue my preparations for the upcoming Olympics. Over the past few months, I have been training hard and also picking up some new techniques and tactics that the coaches instilled."
Women's doubles pair Yao Lei and Shinta - who are seeded seventh for the tournament - will face the new Malaysian pair of Vivian Hoo and Woon Khe Wei in the first round. Said Yao Lei: "We want to do our best at this event in front of our home supporters. Of course, winning in Singapore again this year would be a dream come true for us."
Local fans can also look out for some exciting battles at the six-day SuperSeries, including that of top seed Sho Sasaki (Japan) and Denmark's rising star Viktor Axelsen in the men's singles first round, while the women's competition will see veteran player Juliane Schenk of Germany up against Thailand's Salakjit Ponsana.