February 21, 2005

International Badminton Federation

For immediate release

Monday 21 February 2005

A new venue, new dates, and an increased prize pot have attracted some of the biggest names in the game to the Yonex German Open, which gets underway at Mulheim an der Ruhr in a week’s time (28 February-5 March).

China’s Olympic champions Zhang Ning, Yang Wei-Zhang Jiewen, Zhang Jun-Gao Ling and world number one Lin Dan are the headline acts at this US$80,000 event, which has switched from its regular October slot at Duisberg, to new dates at Mulheim in March, at the beginning of the World Grand Prix season. And with 3* status, the Yonex German Open now boasts its highest star rating since 1997.

Men’s singles top seed and reigning champion Lin Dan is back on German soil to defend the title he won back at Duisberg in October – although 2004 runner-up Xia Xuanze will be out to stop his teammate at the quarter-finals stage. The fifth-seeded world champion is due to meet his teammate for a place in the semi-finals, although Indonesia’s Simon Santoso and Malaysia’s twelfth-seeded veteran Roslin Hashim are in his path.

Lin Dan opens his campaign against Czech youngster Petr Koukal, and faces a likely last 16 bout with the host’s best hope, European bronze medallist Bjoern Joppien, seeded ninth.

Germany’s second highest ranked player, Marc Zwiebler, has had an unlucky draw – he’s up against China’s number two seed Chen Hong in the first round, with the winner set to meet two-time world junior champion Chen Jin in the second round.

Third seed Bao Chunlai – empty-handed from the Grand Prix circuit in 2004 – will be looking to impress in his first GP of the year. He starts against Denmark’s Joachim Persson in the first round and faces a likely last 16 match with Olympic silver medallist Shon Seung Mo, while Malaysia’s fourth seed Lee Chong Wei has drawn a qualifier for his first match.

Former All England champion Pullela Gopichand is back in action, playing only his third tournament since the 2003 German Open. After winning the Indian Asian Satellite in October and losing to Peter Gade at the Singapore Open in November, the 31-year-old Gopichand will have to battle through the qualifying rounds in Germany. He’ll face Malaysia’s Lee Tsuen Seng if he’s successful.

Zhang Ning, the World and Olympic champion and world number one, will take to the competition courts for the first time in three months when she heads to Mulheim, having not played internationally since her Singapore Open victory in November. The 29-year-old is up against a qualifier in her opening match before taking on either one of two tricky youngsters – Seo Yoon Hee of Korea, or Salakjit Ponsana of Thailand – in the last 16.

As the tournament’s second seed, world number two Pi Hongyan of France will be looking to break her semi-finals curse from recent events. Of her six events since winning the Dutch Open in September, Pi has reached five semi-finals, so will no doubt be eager to get at least one step further in Germany.

Olympic silver medallist Mia Audina, and reigning champion and third seed Xie Xingfang will be out to stop Pi at the quarter and semi-final stages – while local hopeful Xu Huaiwen will be aiming to prevent Mia Audina from even reaching that far, as the German national champion is due to meet the Dutch in the second round.

World number one duo Jens Eriksen and Martin Lundgaard Hansen will be looking to keep the men’s doubles title in Danish hands, following on from Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen who took the German crown back in October. Eriksen and Lundgaard have some tricky contenders in their way, however – including Thailand’s Prapakamol-Ngernsrisuk, Korea’s fifth seeds Ha Tae Kwon-Yim Bang Eun and China’s third seeds Sang Yang-Zheng Bo.

Second seeds Fu Haifeng-Cai Yun are up against a qualifying pair in their first match.

China look set to dominate the women’s doubles category once again – of their four pairs in the main draw, two of them were on the top two steps of the Olympic podium, with a third finishing in fourth place in Athens. Olympic champions Yang Wei-Zhang Jiewen are the favourites for the title with Wei Yili-Zhao Tingting, as second seeds, drawn to meet them in the final. China’s Gao Ling-Huang Sui and Sathinee Chankrachangwong-Saralee Thungthongkam of Thailand complete the top four seeded berths.

In the mixed event, Olympic silver medallists Nathan Robertson-Gail Emms will be hoping to convert their top seeded status into some silverware after a disappointing start to 2005 when the pair lost in the first round of the Korea Open. They’re up against local contenders Bjoern Joppien and Karin Schnaase in their opening match before a likely showdown with Olympic champions Zhang Jun and Gao Ling in the semi-finals.

Chen Qiqiu and Zhao Tingting are the second seeds for the mixed doubles, and face a probable semi-final against third favourites Prapakamol-Thungthongkam of Thailand.