Top players heading to NZ badminton champs

Next month's New Zealand badminton open in Auckland will feature 21 nations represented by 277 players, providing plenty of depth in the US$50,000 tournament.

It means that for the first time ever in an international event in New Zealand there will be a reserve list for two of the qualifying draws.

The April 10-14 tournament at the North Shore Events Centre has attracted former world No 3 men's player Simon Santoso, who currently sits at No 20 and is using the Auckland tournament as a stepping stone to return to the top 10 after injuries have kept him from playing so far this year.

Heading the Kiwi contingent in the 64-strong men's singles draw will be New Zealand No 1 Joe Wu, who has a current ranking of 123 and was a winner of two titles in South and Central America last year.

The women's draw is set to be led by Taipei's Hsiao Ma Pai (ranked 21) followed by Kaori Imabeppu. New Zealand players will include Anna Rankin from Southland and North Harbour's Anona Pak.

The men's doubles draw features four combinations ranked in the world's top 20, including the Indonesian combination of Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan who won the prestigious Malaysian Open earlier this year as an unseeded pair.

The top seeded combination is likely to be Ryan Agung Saputra and Angga Pratama (Indonesia) at No 13 but they will face stiff competition from combinations ranked 15, 16 and 18.

"What is clearly evident in the entry list is that there is huge depth in the sport around the world and it's getting deeper," event director Julie Carrel said. "There are a lot of potential Olympians for Rio in the draw, especially from China who appear to be bringing a large group of younger players who will probably be close to the medals at the next Olympics. As a team the Chinese are taking this tournament very seriously, with coaches, trainers and even their own stringer coming to Auckland."


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