It’s not often a sportsperson in the top couple of rankings in the world plays in New Zealand, but the KLRC US$50,000 New Zealand Open badminton tournament starting with initial matches on Tuesday at the North Shore Event Centre can easily claim it has one of the best.
Hong Kong’s Zhou Mi entered this week’s Grand Prix event at No3 in the world but then moved up to the top spot in the world rankings before just a few days ago being overtaken by Denmark’s Tine Rasmussen who has a lead of three points (69483) ahead of Mi on 69480.
If Zhou Mi, 29 is able to defending her title in Auckland she will retake the top world ranking, something she says might be a little difficult as she is trying to get over a dos of the flu.
“This competition is very important and it is important to be No1. It is a major event,” she said through an interpreter “I’m not scared of not being able to get the ranking back. I’m confident I can win, but have to recover from the flu.”
Zhou Mi recently winning the Macau Open Gold Grand Prix, the China Masters Super-Series, the Indian Gold Grand Prix and the Korea Super-Series. This was all after she was not selected by China which led to a dispute and her retirement in 2005 and her return to the sport and her change of nationality last year.
Zhou Mi will play her first round singles match at 5.20pm on Wednesday against Southland’s Anna Rankin.
Also joining Mi are, Sairul Amar Ayob of Malaysia who won in 2005 and Tsuen Seng Lee from Taipei the 2006 champion have confirmed their appearances. Ayob is currently ranked at 22 and will be the top seed and Lee at 32 in the world.
Waitakere’s Dan Shirley, 27 a world championship bronze medalist in 2005 and silver medalist for New Zealand at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games is returning to top competition for the tournament after some time away from the sport.
His former doubles partner John Gordon is also playing top badminton again teaming up with Shirley in the men’s doubles. The pair were previously ranked in the top-10 in the world.
“I never really retired. I was just taking some time out. I will see how things go in this tournament and then maybe I might resume my playing career. I guess it’s better than having a job and sitting behind a desk,” says Shirley
Another highly regarded player to come out of a short retirement is Australia’s Kate Wilson-Smith who is teaming up with Kiwi singles No1 John Moody to take part in a strong mixed draw.
The tournament is one of the very few New Zealand sporting events to ever be broadcast live into nations such as China, Indonesia and Malaysia.
The KLRC Grand Prix tournament to be held 11-15 November is supported by the North Shore City Council. The finals of the tournament will be broadcast live into China, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia as well as New Zealand.
Play starts at 6pm on Tuesday 11 November with the first round of men’s singles and the mixed doubles.
Wednesday has play from 3pm.
The quarterfinals are from 5.30pm on Thursday and the semis from 6pm, Friday with the finals from 5pm on Saturday.