By David Leggat
It’s not every day you get the chance to play alongside an Olympic medallist, and in your own backyard, so Oliver Leydon-Davis intends making the most of the experience at this week’s New Zealand Open at North Shore.
Waikato’s Leydon-Davis, one of the country’s best badminton exponents, will team up with Korean Lee Jae Jin, a bronze medallist at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, at the newly minted gold status Grand Prix event.
Now based in Taiwan, Leydon-Davis has had little practice time with Lee, but will do as much prep work as he can fit in before their opening – and, hopefully, second – round men’s doubles clash at North Shore Events Centre tomorrow.
“It does mean a lot,” the 24-year-old said of this week’s event.
“As Kiwi players, we [spend] a lot of time overseas and there’s not many chances to play on home soil.”
Leydon-Davis quipped that while his partner “knows his way round the court, I’ve got my work cut out, but it couldn’t be better so I’m really looking forward to it”.
The event has a US$120,000 ($157,000) purse, is being televised to a potential 220 million-plus audience and has attracted 30 players ranked inside the world top 50, including former Olympic and world championship medallists, and present world junior champions.
This event features a host of players who are stars in their Asian homelands, so spare a thought for 14-year-old Tamara Otene, a Westlake Girls’ High student, who has received a pass into the first round draw against Japan’s Natsuki Nidaira today, because of a late withdrawal.
Organisers are delighted with the qualify of the field, which directly relates to the improved prizemoney derived from the gold status.
“It’s all about world ranking points,” event organiser and former New Zealand international Julie Carrel said yesterday.
“Everything in badminton is about world rankings, that’s how you qualify for world champs, Olympic and Commonwealth Games.
“Now it makes it worth their while to come down and play for those points.”
Women’s singles top seed Adrianti Firdisari of Indonesia was a late withdrawal because of injury yesterday but the men’s No1 seed, Taiwan’s Hsu Jen Hao, starts his campaign at lunchtime today.
The finals are this weekend.
– NZ Herald