With one week to go until the YONEX All England Championships take place at the Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham, we take a look at the form guide and who to watch at this year’s event, the oldest tournament in badminton.
Why is the 2016 YONEX All England important this year?
It not only signifies the start of the final sprint towards Rio 2016 Olympics qualification, but the YONEX All England will also be the first BWF World Superseries event of the year, the first of a clutch of big events ahead of May. Players on the fringes of qualification will be aiming to cause some major upsets and with the top elite entering their first tournament for two months, there could well indeed be surprises in store throughout the week.
Who to look out for…
China's world champion Chen Long will be aiming for his third men’s singles title, but will have compatriot Lin Dan and Malaysian Lee Chong Wei to contend with, the latter pair perhaps playing their final YONEX All England together after lifting eight titles between them since 2004. In the women’s singles, Carolina Marin’s victory last year raised the profile of European badminton as the Spaniard went on a memorable winning streak.
China have won at least two titles across singles and doubles since 1999, but with nations jostling for bragging rights in this key Olympic year, that record could come under threat at the Barclaycard Arena.
Chris and Gabby Adcock, who won the year-end BWF Superseries title in Dubai, are seeded seventh and face a likely quarter-final against Indonesia’s three-time winners, Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir. However the top Asian pair have lacked consistency in recent months and the English duo will be relishing the chance to make Finals weekend in front of fervent home support.
So too Rajiv Ouseph, who made last year’s quarter-finals during a brilliant run. Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge, the national champions, will also be aiming to rubber-stamp their Rio berth and replicate a run which saw them reach last year’s World Championship last eight.
Asia or Europe on song?
China and Indonesia won the Asia Team Championships in the women and men's events respectively in India last month – Japan were runners-up in both – but form heading into the YONEX All England is hard to judge given most of the top players didn’t participate.
Denmark men and women duly won the equivalent European Team Championship titles, and the Danes will travel to Birmingham as a united team with extra emotion after team-mate Carsten Mogensen collapsed and required brain surgery in Kazan, Russia. Mogensen and partner Mathias Boe are the current men’s doubles champions.
What they say
"We finished last year extremely strongly and we've started this year nicely with the national title so we want to use that momentum going into the All England.”
Chris and Gabby Adcock
“There is so much history. The best are gathered, they’re all in good shape and it’s the tournament everyone wants to win.”
Poul-Erik Hoyer, BWF president
If Chris and Gabby Adcock win their first mixed doubles, it will be the first married couple since Herbert and Betty Uber (England) won their three consecutive mixed doubles titles from 1930 to 1932.
A sixth men’s singles title for Lin Dan would see him join only three other players to have achieved the landmark in the 106-year history of the Championships. It would place him on the same level as some of the truly great men's singles champions such as Frank Devlin (Ireland), Erland Kops (Denmark) and Rudy Hartono (Indonesia).
Eurosport will broadcast the 2016 YONEX All England. Schedule and info here
Watch all the world's best players at the YONEX All England Open Badminton Championships, 8-13 March 2016.
Don't miss out - get tickets now -allenglandbadminton.com/tickets/info
Let badminton shape your life. Play for fitness, fun or competition.
Find a court near you – badmintonengland.co.uk/waystoplay