January 9, 2023

The 2023 badminton season kicks off with two English doubles pairs in action at the Petronas Malaysia Open on Tuesday.

Ben Lane and Sean Vendy ended 2022 in their highest ever world ranking of 13th but face a tricky start to the new year after being drawn against world no.6-ranked pair Liu Yu Chen and Ou Xuan Yi of China in the men’s doubles first round.

Chloe Birch and Lauren Smith also face top opponents as they take on fifth seeds Jeong Na Eun and Kim Hye Jeong of South Korea in the women’s doubles.

Lane and Vendy are making their debut at the tournament having taken a number of notable scalps during 2022, including knocking out Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo en route to the World Championship quarter-finals.

The English duo are now preparing to meet Liu and Ou, who won the BWF Tour Finals just before Christmas, for the first time in Kuala Lumpur.

Victory could set up a second-round clash with home favourites and reigning world champions Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik, who Lane and Vendy memorably defeated in the Commonwealth Games semi-finals in Birmingham last summer.

Repeating the trick here could lead to a quarter-final with Indian pair, and world number sevens, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty.

Chloe Birch and Lauren Smith, meanwhile, faced a disrupted end to 2022 as the latter battled injury but ended on a high with a silver medal at the Welsh International Championships in December.

BirchSmith 1200x410 1

BirchSmith 1200×410 1

The two will look to enter 2023 fully fit and firing as they take on last year’s semi-finalists Jeong and Kim in the first round in Malaysia.

The South Korean pair ended the year ranked third in the world after winning the Japan Open and Korea Open titles during the 2022 season.

Victory for Smith and Birch could set up a match with Apriyani Rahayu and Siti Fadia Silva Ramadhanti of Indonesia, who are the defending champions and knocked out Kim and Jeong en route to the title last year.

Smith and Birch are returning to the tournament for the first time since 2019, when they were knocked out in the first round by eventual quarter-finalists and three-time World Championship silver medallists Yuka Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota.

Both them and Lane and Vendy will look to become the first English winners since Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms claimed the mixed doubles title in 2002.

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