SURREY players are queueing up to try to stop Rajiv Ouseph’s bid for a sixth successive men’s singles title when the English National Badminton Championships get under way at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester tomorrow (Friday).
The Middlesex man, top seed for the seventh year in a row, has been drawn to face young prospect Aaron Cheng in the first round with eighth seed Sam Phillips probably lying in wait in Saturday’s quarter-finals.
If the draw goes according to seeding then fourth seed Ben Beckman will meet Commonwealth silver medallist Ouseph in a repeat of last year’s semi-finals while second seed Toby Penty should face him in Sunday’s final, although the highest-ranked of the Surrey quartet may have to overcome Kent’s four-times runner-up Carl Baxter in the quarter-finals.
Jersey’s Elizabeth Cann, the Commonwealth bronze medallist, is also chasing a sixth title in the women’s singles. She will begin her quest against Lexi Gilders of Buckinghamshire but the first big test should come in the last eight when she looks sure to face Yorkshire’s seventh seed Fontaine Chapman.
In the bottom half of the draw second seed and 2011 champion Nicola Cerfontyne has been forced to withdraw so 2011 runner-up and third seed Sarah Walker of Essex or Yorkshire fifth seed Sarah Milne are on course to meet in the semi-finals.
Chris Adcock and Gabby White defend their mixed doubles title as second seeds. They start with a second-round contest against James Lauder and Zoe Hallam. Top seeds Chris Langridge and Heather Olver face Harley Towler and Helena Lewczynska in their opening match.
There will be new pairs on top of the podium in both the men’s and women’s doubles.
Top men’s doubles seeds Adcock and Andrew Ellis are unable to defend their title together as Ellis has not recovered from a knee injury. But Adcock has recruited an able replacement in another Yorkshireman, Marcus Ellis. Worcestershire’s Lauder is the unlucky one as, just like in the mixed, he has been drawn to face Adcock with partner Andrew Wainwright.
Second seeds and 2012 runners-up Langridge and Peter Mills take on Middlesex pair Daryl and Steven Jacobs in the second round.
In the women’s doubles White, who has won the title three years in a row with Jenny Wallwork, is the second seed with new partner Lauren Smith.
But the withdrawal through injury of Kate Robertshaw left top seed Olver, who has been runner-up for the last three years, looking for a last-minute partner. Who better than former partner Mariana Agathangelou, who is returning to action for another tilt at the title.
The big danger in the bottom half will come from Wallwork and Alex Langley. Wallwork is back to fitness after a lengthy injury lay-off and will be eager to make up for lost time, especially as the former mixed doubles champion misses out in that event through partner Ellis’s injury.
Wallwork and Langley are on course to meet fourth seeds Chloe Birch and Samantha Ward in the quarter-finals with White and Smith the likely semi-final opponents.
A total of 156 players from 30 counties have entered the Championships, which starts at 10am tomorrow.
The English National Championships are part of BADMINTON England’s National Championship series across the age groups and returns to the National Cycling Centre for the ninth time in 10 years thanks to the special partnership between BADMINTON England, Manchester City Council and top racket and equipment company Carlton with support from major retailers Central Sports.
Cllr Rosa Battle, Manchester City Council executive member for culture and leisure, said “Manchester has established itself as the home of the England National Badminton Championships and the event shows that we really do boast world-class sporting facilities.
“It’s fantastic to see the competition’s involvement with the city’s young people. I’m sure the master-class, combined with the number of children attending, will inspire a whole new generation to take up badminton and maybe even unearth a future shuttlecock star.”
2012 English National Finals:
Men’s singles: Rajiv Ouseph bt Carl Baxter 21-18 21-14
Women’s singles: Elizabeth Cann bt Kate Robertshaw 21-19 21-17
Men’s doubles: Chris Adcock & Andrew Ellis bt Chris Langridge & Peter Mills 24-22 21-12
Women’s doubles: Gabby White & Jenny Wallwork bt Mariana Agathangelou & Heather Olver 21-16 18-21 21-16
Mixed doubles: Chris Adcock & Gabby White bt Nathan Robertson & Jenny Wallwork 21-18 17-21 21-14
The full draw can be viewed on the Championships website along with ticket details and general tournament information. Check out www.nationalbadmintonchamps.com