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Global stars prepare for battle at Yonex All England Championship

Fasten your seatbelts – the wait for the 2020 Yonex All England Championship is almost over.

And it promises to be quite the spectacle at Arena Birmingham over the next five days, as the global badminton elite descend on the West Midlands for a thrilling bonanza of action on English soil.

The first round draw gets underway on Wednesday morning, as the 32 entrants in each of the five draws will be whittled down to 16 throughout a hectic day under the Birmingham lights.

In the men’s singles, second seed Viktor Axelsen will arrive bidding to avenge his defeat in the final against Kento Momota last year, taking on Thailand’s Sitthikom Thammasin in his opening round clash.

And first seed Chou Tien-chen comes up against India’s Sameer Verma, with Chou eager to put together a run at this year’s competition following his disappointing first round departure to Huang Yuxiang last year.

2018 champion Shi Yuqi is set to duel it out with Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto, while fifth seed Anders Antonsen faces Son Wan Ho and 2019 semi-finalist Ng Ka Long prepares to take on Kenta Nishimoto.

The women’s first round draw looks similarly competitive, as defending champion and world No.1 Chen Yufei kicks off her title defence against Korea’s An Se-young.

And at just 22-years-old Chen has taken the women’s game by storm, hoping to replicate her hegemony at the China Open, Hong Kong Open and Malaysia Masters on the Birmingham courts this week.

Second seed Tai Tzu-ying will provide some stiff opposition, however, vying to avenge her defeat to Chen in the final last year and make it a hat-trick of All England triumphs after her 2017 and 2018 success.

And then there are the equally dangerous likes of Nozomi Okuhara, Pusarla Venkata SindhuAkane Yamaguchi and Ratchanok Intanon, as Okuhura bids to lift her second All England trophy after soaring to glory back in 2016.

Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour is also in action in the women’s singles first round draw, although the world No.32 faces a tricky start in the form of seventh seed He Bingjiao – who won World Championship bronze in Nanjing in 2018.

Over in the men’s doubles and it’s home favourites Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge who will receive the loudest roar from the Birmingham crowd, vying to construct a memorable run that will start against Chinese pair Di Zijian and Wang Chang.

And they’re not the only English duo in action, as Ben Lane and Sean Vendy kick off their All England campaign against sixth seeds Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe.

Meanwhile, first seeds and current world No.1s Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo – nicknamed ‘The Minions’ owing to their height – will be hoping to emulate their All England titles of 2017 and 2018, while Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan arrive in the Midlands looking to defend their crown.

There will also be two home favourites in the women’s doubles draw, where Chloe Birch and Lauren Smith are flying the English flag and begin their run at the championship against German pair Linda Efler and Isabel Herttrich.

And the local duo arrive in Birmingham with considerable momentum, triumphing at the England National Championships in Winchester at the beginning of last month.

English players Jenny Moore and Victoria Williams are also in women's doubles action, taking on Indian pair Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy in their first round bout.

First seeds Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan will be defending their 2019 title this week, while second seeds and last year’s finalists Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara will have ambitions of dashing their hopes of making it two All England titles on the spin.

The All England Championship wouldn’t be complete without a scintillating set of mixed doubles action, where there is further English representation in the form of married couple Chris and Gabrielle Adcock.

They will be hoping to discover the sort of form that saw them reach the final at the Dutch Open last year, while fellow English pair Ellis and Smith will arrive at Arena Birmingham off the back of a brilliant win at the Thailand Masters earlier this year.

The duo clinched their maiden BWF World Tour title since the 2018 Scottish Open in Thailand, and will do battle with Takuro Hoki and Wakana Nagahara in their opening round bout.

The favourites in the competition will surely be Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong, who boast the reputation of first seeds and also arrive as defending champions at a tournament they clearly enjoy.

2018 champions Watanabe and Arisa Higashino take on Candian pair Joshua Hurlburt-Yu and Josephine Wu as they vie to avenge their 2019 final defeat, while second seeds Wang Yilu and Huang Dongping will open their campaign against Russia’s Rodion Alimov and Alina Davletova.

So, the stage is all set for what promises to be a compelling five days of badminton action, where the inevitable thrills and spills of the All England Championship will unfold once again.

While the outcome of this year’s competition remains unclear, one thing is for certain: badminton fans around the world are in for a treat.