Will badminton become the new cricket in India?

While the faces of Virat Kohli and Co stare at us from billboards and television screens, endorsing everything from cars to deodorants, Indians will be hard-pressed to see players of any other sport as public heroes. That could change soon.

The country is slowly becoming a global power in badminton. Within the space of one week in June, Guntur-based Kidambi Srikanth beat the world’s top players to win the men’s singles titles in Indonesia and Australia Super Series tournaments. Earlier, his teammate Sai Praneeth wrested the Singapore Super Series, beating Srikanth in the finals. Three men’s shuttlers rank among the top 20 in the world. Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and Denmark now find another serious competitor in India.

Our previous triumphs in this sport date back to Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand winning the All England Open in 1980 and 2001, respectively. India’s women players actually started this new winning streak. Saina Nehwal won an Olympic bronze in 2012; P V Sindhu bagged a silver in 2016. Much of the credit goes to Gopichand, who insists on the most modern and demanding training to maximise speed, agility and endurance in his academy. It is rare to find a coach with his discipline, doggedness and eye for talent. Now, hockey, wrestling, women’s boxing, gymnastics and so on, where Indians show occasional sparks of brilliance, only to fade quickly, must be administered and supported by professionals, institutions and sponsors.

India’s 1983 World Cup cricket victory in England, its first, galvanised a nation. Sponsorships and other income is huge, training is top notch. With its current performances, badminton should get that sort of eyeballs and funding. This could be the beginning of a smash hit for Indian badminton.

Courtesy: ET Editorials

India is achieving greater heights in sports other than cricket, says Vijay Goel

Union Sports Minister Vijay Goel congratulated India on Sunday’s victory in hockey and badminton. He also gave financial figures of Sports Ministry’s support to the Men’s Indian Hockey team. K Srikanth won the Indonesian Open and Australian Open.

Union Sports Minister Vijay Goel congratulated India on respective victories in hockey and badminton. While India destroyed Pakistan 7-1 in London in the ongoing World Hockey League Semi-Final, Kidambi Srikanth created history by being the only Indian to win Super Series Premier, Super Series and Grand Prix Gold title in badminton.

In a video posted by Goel on his official Twitter account, he said, “By Beating Pakistan 7-1 in Hockey World League Semifinal, we have set a new record,” he said. “For the participation of Indian team in the Hockey World League, preparation camps were held at Sports Authority of India (SAI) Southern Centre, Bengaluru and the entire cost was borne by the Sports Ministry.”

Revealing the financial details of the support the Ministry gave to the hockey team, Goel said, “An amount of Rs.1.1 crore was also approved by the Ministry for the squad consisting of 18 players and 7 support staff members,” he added.

“Our players have done well. The way Kidambi Srikanth won the finals at Indonesia Open Super Series, I not only congratulate him but also the whole nation,” he said.

“Till date approx, Rs.3.20 crores have been spent on foreign exposure of the Indian Men’s Hockey Team during the year 2017-18.”

India, however, lost ICC Champions Trophy 2017 final against arch-rivals Pakistan. Goel looked at it as an achievement for other sports. “Our players have done well. So looking at these achievements, I feel not only in cricket in other sports too, India is achieving greater heights,” he said.

“I also congratulate the coaches and Sports Authority of India for their role in the success. We are committed towards the development of every game and our Sports Ministry along with SAI will provide complete support to all players and support staff.”

Vijender Singh against Zulpikar Maimaitiali on August 5

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Vijender Singh is WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight champion
  • Zulpikar Maimaitiali of China is WBO Oriental Super Middleweight champion
  • Three other Indian pugilists Akhil Kumar, Jitender Kumar and Neeraj Gayat will be seen in the ring

India’s star professional boxer and Olympic bronze medalist Vijender Singh will clash with China’s undefeated, left-handed fighter Zulpikar Maimaitiali for a double title fight here on August 5.

Vijender, who is WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight champion, will take on Zulpikar, the WBO Oriental Super Middleweight champion, at the NSCI Stadium in Worli, it was announced at a media conference on Tuesday, in the presence of the Indian boxing star.

Vijender, the Beijing Olympics bronze medallist, has been training in Manchester, England, with his trainer Lee Beard for the bout, the first ticket of which was presented to cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar at the latter’s house by the boxer himself.

In this fight, the two boxers will put their respective WBO titles at stake and whoever wins the bout will take home his defended title along with his opponent’s too, it was announced.

Three other Indian pugilists Akhil Kumar, Jitender Kumar and Neeraj Gayat will be seen in the ring, taking on international opponents, whose names will be declared later, on the fight day and it will be 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games gold medalist Akhil’s debut bout as a pro.

Apart from them, three other Indian boxers – Pardeep Kharera, Dharmender Grewal and Kuldeep Dhanda – will also take on international boxers, whose names will be announced on the fight day.

“I am all set for the August 5 bout. He (Zulpikar) is just a young kid, a southpaw. When he said that he will knock me out, I was laughing. We will show China that we are the best,” the 31-year-old Vijender said at the media conference.

“My training is in great shape. I will again go to Manchester tomorrow and start my training. I will come here (to Mumbai) a week before the fight,” the pugilist added.

Fight organisers, IOS Boxing Promotions, said they had initially planned the fight in March-April, but it did not happen. Zulpikar expressed confidence of winning against the Indian boxing star, saying he will knock Vijender down. He has eight bouts against his name, the same as Vijender.

Zulpikar has scored five knock-outs wins and has fought 24 rounds. His last bout was with African boxer Thomas Mashali after which he won his current title of WBO Oriental Super Middleweight Champion last year. He turned towards pro in April 2015.

Vijender, who has remained unbeaten since his debut in professional boxing in 2015, has fought eight bouts with the last one being against former world number 1 boxer Francis Cheka from Tanzania, whom he defended for his title.

Vijender clinched on to his first title, in July 2016, against Kerry Hope of Australia, becoming the WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight Champion. Overall, Vijender has fought eight bouts with seven of them being won by knock-out. He has 30 rounds under his belt, eight more than his opponent from China.

Sebastian Vettel crash ‘like a massive headbutt in football’, says Eddie Jordan

Sebastian Vettel’s swerve into title rival Lewis Hamilton at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was like an “instant red card” offence in football, according to former F1 team owner Eddie Jordan.

But Jordan says he is unsure whether the 29-year-old German Ferrari driver should face more action. Vettel was given a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for crashing his car into Hamilton’s Mercedes on Sunday. “It’s the equivalent of a massive headbutt in soccer,” Jordan said.

Four-time world champion Vettel was given three licence penalty points for his actions, taking him to nine. If he receives another three at the next race in Austria on 7-9 July, it would trigger an automatic ban for the British Grand Prix a week later. “With the penalty points he received after the race, the stewards clearly had footage that the driver turned into Hamilton,” Jordan told BBC Radio 5 live.

“This is never acceptable, whatever happened prior to that. You can never take the law into your own hands, certainly not in sport. “So he got a 10-second penalty but it was a stop-and-go, which we say is equivalent to a 40-second penalty.”

Asked if more punishment should follow, Jordan added: “That depends on your point of view.”

The Irishman, a former BBC F1 analyst, said the spat would be “good for the sport” in marketing terms, but he expects the pair to quickly make up. “There’s actually quite a bit of love between those two, or respect, they appreciate each other, so I don’t think there was any malice between them, what happened happened and they will move onto the next race,” he said. Following the crash, Vettel claimed he responded as he did because Hamilton had ‘brake-tested’ him – deliberately slowed down to cause him trouble.

Stewards examined data from Hamilton’s car and concluded he had done nothing wrong – he had merely not accelerated out of the corner as he prepared the restart, as is his right. Hamilton ended the race – won by Daniel Ricciardo – in fifth, a place behind Vettel, and is 14 points behind the German after eight of 20 races.

Analysis

Andrew Benson, chief F1 writer

Potentially there is retrospective punishment available but I think it’s unlikely. In the old days of Max Mosley, the previous president of F1’s governing body the FIA, that sort of thing might have happened. They can call Vettel to a hearing, say they have new evidence and take it further forward from there.

But Jean Todt, the current president, does not like to interfere in that way. The feeling is that they can let it lie – Vettel’s been punished. Obviously the intent was something they considered before they made the decision. There are some in F1 who think he should have been disqualified. Two senior members from other teams – who weren’t involved in the incident – told me they felt that way after the race.

But it wasn’t very high speed, it was wheel to wheel, there was no damage to Hamilton’s car from the side swipe, so you can see it both ways. You cant rule out further action but I don’t think it’s very likely.

Kidambi Srikanth credits Pullela Gopichand for recent success

Kidambi Srikanth, who won two Superseries titles on the trot — Indonesia Open and Australian Open within a week’s time — credited chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand for all the success.

Ace Indian shuttler Kidambi Srikanth, who clinched back to back titles, has credited his success to current national coach Pullela Gopichand, saying the latter has been behind all the success of badminton in India.

Srikanth, who gave in the best performances of his career, won Indonesian Open Series and Australian Open Series within a week’s time and made the entire nation proud.The Indian shuttler defeated reigning Olympic champion Chen Long 22-20, 21-16 in the final of the Australia Open Super Series to win his second title in two weeks.

He had earlier won the Indonesia Open Super Series title on June 18.

“I think he is the man behind all the success of badminton today here what we have. If he wouldn’t have become a coach after he quit his playing career, all this wouldn’t have been possible. So whatever we have today and whatever we will have in the next generations, it will be all because of him,” said Srikanth on Tuesday while addressing the media here. “He was the one who really started coaching seriously in India, who always thought India has the potential to be a world beater in badminton.His role would be very important in the coming years as well.”

“Thanks to Gopi sir, it was not possible to make it without him, I couldn’t have been where I am now,” he added.

Srikanth has been in sensational form and has also improved his ranking. He jumped 11 places to reach the 11th spot after Indonesia Open Super Series victory. He, however, has achieved a career high ranking of number three. In 2014, he won his biggest title as he defeated home favourite Lin Dan to win his maiden Superseries title at the China Open. But after that Srikanth took two years to win the premier tournaments in men’s badminton.

His dream run, however, began in April this year as he reached the final of the Singapore Open.

Srikanth, who was awarded Rs.3 lakh by Gopichand Badminton Academy on the occasion, further asserted that the last two months have been fantastic for him. “It has been fantastic for me in the last two months. After the injuries, I really didn’t want to push myself too much and just wanted to train first, get better and start tournaments. And it really happened with the help of new coach and Gopi Sir,” he said.

The badminton ace, who will be playing next in World Championships scheduled in August, said he would try to train hard and perform his best there. “It’s good to be back in top ten for sure. But I didn’t play these tournaments just to come back in top 10 but to win them and even in World Championship’s I will look to perform well and win. That’s the only thing that I am thinking about and not the rankings,” he said.

When asked about the biggest challenge in the last three weeks, Srikanth said, “Every match was tough for me.”

“I think we are actually training very well now. In the last couple of months, I have been playing really well and up to my potential. I really want to continue training hard in the coming months because that’s the only way to be consistent.”

“I think every win was important for me. I don’t really want to compare those wins and I will definitely say that this is one of my biggest win,” he added. With his latest wins, the 24-year-old is now the second most successful Indian badminton player in Super Series with four titles after ace women shuttler Saina Nehwal (10) and two ahead of Olympic medallist PV Sindhu (2). He is also number six on the list of men’s Superseries titles winners.

2017 season: F1 looks back for its future with faster, wider cars

Formula 1 will look very different when it emerges from its winter hibernation in 2017 – and not just because for the first time in 23 years the reigning world champion will not be racing.

Nico Rosberg’s decision to retire after winning his first world title not only left Mercedes with an awkward hole to fill alongside Lewis Hamilton, it means the German will not get the chance to drive new cars that are aimed at reinvigorating the sport.

Teams are faced with a radically revamped set of rules that will lead to faster, more dramatic-looking machinery.

Cars will be wider, with big, fat tyres, and reshaped front and rear wings. In theory, drivers will be tested physically in a way they have not been for nearly a decade.

The idea is to inject a bit of edge and rawness that some feel F1 has lost in the past few years – and hopefully end three years of Mercedes domination.

So, will it work?

Faster cars

The plan with the new rules is to make cars up to five seconds a lap faster and test the drivers physically more than they have been since Pirelli tyres entered F1 in 2011.

A number of changes have been made:

  • The total width of the cars – the ‘track’ – has been increased from 1,800mm to 2,000mm, returning them to pre-1998 dimensions.
  • The bodywork has been widened from 1,400mm to 1,600mm – wider than ever before.
  • The area under the car with which teams can produce downforce has been significantly increased.
  • The front wing has been widened and will now be a delta-shape, while the rear wing has been made lower and wider.
  • Tyres are bigger – up from 245mm wide to 305mm at the front and from 325mm to 405mm at the rear.
    The result could be dramatic. In October, governing body the FIA compiled information about the downforce gains made by all the teams. The average gain was 15%; the most was 31%.

And senior insiders say downforce gains could reach 40% by the end of the year.

The effect of this will be vastly increased cornering speeds, especially in high-speed bends. Engineers talk about 130mph corners becoming 150mph; some bends that were not flat-out on the throttle will be. Cornering forces will be going up – perhaps by as much as 1G in fast corners.

But will the racing be better?

The FIA’s target was to make overtaking no more difficult than it already was, and the combination of increases to aerodynamic and mechanical grip was calculated on that basis.

But the fear in some quarters is that the new cars could reduce overtaking.

The wider cars and tyres mean the cars will produce more drag, so be slower in a straight line, and cornering speeds will be higher. So braking distances will inevitably be reduced – which automatically makes overtaking harder.

Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff, who was opposed to the rule changes, says: “I hope that overtaking is not going to be too difficult because of the width of the car and the dirty air behind it – but let’s see.”
Racier tyres… hopefully

Most of the attention on the new tyres has been focused on their increased size. But far more important is the fact that supplier Pirelli has been asked to change the way they behave.

For the past six years, F1 tyres have had high ‘thermal degradation’ – they over-heat when drivers push hard and never recover their grip. So drivers had to lap at least a second, and sometimes much more, under the limit to coax out optimum stint lengths.

But producing much faster cars aimed at stretching the drivers is largely pointless if the drivers cannot race them on the limit.

As McLaren’s Fernando Alonso says: “We know they will be four or five seconds quicker. But if it is four or five seconds quicker on the first lap and then two seconds quicker the second lap, it is not fun anymore.”

As a result, Pirelli has been given a specific set of requirements for the new tyres.

These are contained in a ‘target letter’ and are: tyres must not overheat irrecoverably when a driver is following another car; degradation must be proportional to performance.

The FIA believes these stipulations will ensure that the need for management by driving under the limit to control thermal degradation is greatly reduced, and drivers can therefore push hard throughout a race.

In return, Pirelli asked for a series of test days through last season to develop the tyres.

Has it worked? The jury remains out. Pirelli did more than 12,000km of testing with ‘mule’ cars provided by Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull aimed at simulating the increased downforce levels of the 2017 cars.

The teams were only partially successful with the cars – they had only about 10% more downforce, were much heavier than they will be, and the engines considerably less powerful. But Pirelli said it was “encouraged” by the progress it was able to make.

So that’s OK then? Well, maybe

After a final tyre test in Abu Dhabi following the last race of the 2016 season, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo were asked how the new tyres felt.

Hamilton said: “They are just pretty much the same tyre, just more grip. I didn’t really get a massive feel for it. More grip is always a good thing but I only did about eight laps. Daniel will have a much better read to give you.”

Ricciardo added: “The tyres felt a bit stronger. The rear mainly – you can push a bit harder on traction. We were running the cars quite heavy and I don’t think it is going to be that representative. I think [the cars] will be a step quicker. Some people talked four or five seconds. I’m sure they will be at least two seconds but four or five would be impressive.”

The target letter is part of Pirelli’s new deal with F1 until 2019. So if the tyres do not behave as specified, the company would technically be in breach of contract. That could potentially lead to some difficulties.

No more power gap?

The chassis and tyre rules are not the only things changing – restrictions on engine development have also been relaxed.

The complicated ‘token’ system that limited the amount of changes allowed to engines in a season has been dropped. Now, the only restrictions are that any developments can be introduced only with a new engine – and teams are still limited to four engines in a season.

The hope is that removing restrictions on development will allow other manufacturers to close up on Mercedes, who still led the field in 2016.

Over Ferrari, Mercedes’ advantage was small – no more than 10bhp, perhaps much less. But Renault, who supply Red Bull, were 40-50bhp behind and Honda somewhere in the region of 60-100bhp.

Both Honda and Renault are producing pretty much all-new engines for 2017 and are targeting matching Mercedes. But development is also freed up for Mercedes – so it’s not impossible they could maintain or even extend their advantage.

Closer racing?

The rule changes were pushed through, against opposition by Mercedes, because rivals felt it would give them the chance to close up on the world champions, who have dominated F1 since the start of the hybrid engine formula in 2014.

Mercedes argued in vain that the best way to close up the field was to leave the rules alone because, as Wolff puts it, “it’s clear that when regulations stay stable that eventually performance is going to converge”.

Rivals saw this as Mercedes protecting their competitive position – and the new rules as an opportunity to close the gap by providing a reset for everyone.

Red Bull were particularly vocal about this, team boss Christian Horner arguing that F1 needed to make the cars faster and harder to drive to stem a perceived drop in interest.

Horner said: “It will make the cars more dramatic, and more challenging for the drivers to drive.

“It is not a totally clean sheet of paper but it is a significant change, and that will maybe shuffle the order up a bit.”

The fact that audience figures were dropping largely because of the shift to pay TV was quietly ignored by many, or dismissed with claims that the sport needed to be made more obviously dramatic anyway.

But there is one big risk. Mercedes have produced the best car of the past three years, as well as the most powerful and efficient engine.

Some argue that the new rules actually enhance the importance of engine power because the wider cars produce so much more drag. And if you give the best team of the past three years, with the most powerful engine, a set of new rules of this ilk, then there is a real risk their advantage will increase, not decrease.

If that happens, some very serious questions will be asked about the decisions that were made, forcing teams into spending millions developing and building a new type of car only to make F1 worse.

“We weren’t big supporters of a regulation change,” Wolff says. “Not because we wanted to freeze the current situation but because we weren’t sure that it is the right way for Formula 1.

“But we are where we are and the cars, certainly in the wind tunnel, look very spectacular, very wide with the big tyres, and I am personally very excited to see them on track for the first time.

“For the drivers it will be much harder; the cars will be pulling more G-force through the corners.

“The simulations that we have seen are very exciting. Corners will be flat that are far from flat today – and we will be breaking records in terms of lap time.

“So, I guess, an exciting season will be ahead of us.

“Now that we are where we are, we have to make the best of it.”

Nehwal and Sindhu ensure Indian success in YONEX All England second round

India’s golden girls Saina Nehwal and P.V Sindhu made light work of their second round clashes as both progressed through to the YONEX All England quarter-finals with ease.

Olympic silver medallist Sindhu kicked off proceedings on court one against Dinar Dyah Ayustine, having sailed through her opening tie at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena on Wednesday.

Sindhu, who was eliminated in the first round in 2016, dominated throughout the opening game, eventually prevailing 21-12 with little reply from her Indonesian opponent.

All England 2017

It followed much the same from then on, as Sindhu cruised to take the overall victory, dropping just four points in the second game.

A tie with top seed Tai Tzu Ying lies in wait in Friday’s last eight contest, but Sindhu is confident she can continue her fine run of form.

“It was a good match and I didn’t take it easy. I took the lead from the start and in the second game, I didn’t give her a chance,” she said.

“I was very comfortable from the start, but for maybe the first five or six points, it was equal.

“But then I took the lead and I was pretty sure and confident that I could win the match.

“I think the quarter-final is going to be a good match, I will have to prepare and give my best.”

20170309_1403_AllEngland2017_BPYN8398

Compatriot Nehwal soon followed in Sindhu’s footsteps through to the quarter-final, finding her feet in the second game after a nervy opening exchange with qualifier Fabienne Deprez.

The first game was an almighty battle for the points as Deprez came flying out of the blocks, but Nehwal’s class shone bright as she eventually triumphed 21-18 21-10.

But while Nehwal is keen to continue her run at the YONEX All England for as long as possible, she’s relishing every second of being back on court after injury.

“I think Fabienne has improved a lot since the last time I played her, which was at the Thomas Uber Cup last year,” she said. “It was quite a tough match with her.

“I was focused enough having a good enough lead at 12-7 in the first game. I gave her a couple of points to make it 13-all, and when it is neck-and-neck with an opponent, you tend to get a bit nervous.

“I played ok, not the best, but I’m happy with the result.

“It’s a difficult journey for me after the knee surgery, so I’m trying my best to do well at All England, but I know it’s not going to be easy.

“I just want to stay fit, that’s important. I’ve had a lot of issues over the last two years with my form and injuries, so I just want to be fit and get good results.”

Sindhu working ‘day and night’ for All England glory

Olympic silver medalist PV Sindhu insists she is ‘not bothered’ about being at a career high fifth in the world but really wants to get her hands on the YONEX All England trophy.

The Indian sensation reached a new milestone in her career last week when she broke into the world’s top five, jumping ahead of the likes of Ratchanok Intanon and rising star Akane Yamaguchi, both of whom are expected to be contenders at the Barclaycard Arena come Sunday 12 March.

And significantly, barring some startling results at the German Open, she will head into a YONEX All England week ahead of compatriot Saina Nehwal and also reigning champion Nozomi Okuhara, who will be making her season debut.

20161126_2100_HongKongOpen2016_BPRS5976

But it appears such a lofty position on the world standing does not faze Sindhu – she is only after one thing: to repeat the success of coach Pullela Gopichand and win the YONEX All England.

Speaking ahead of the sport’s most prestigious tournament, she said:  “I am not much bothered about the ranking at the moment. I believe I should move up gradually.

“So far ranking is concerned I feel my progress should be slow but steady. Now my target is to earn the number three ranking in the World.”

And the 21 year old, who opens her YONEX All England title challenge against Denmark’s Mette Poulsen, added: “I want to touch the achievement of Prakash (Padukone) and Gopichand Sir by winning All England Badminton championship.

“I have been training hard day and night to achieve the goal.”

She has thrown everything into her preparation as well, choosing to withdraw from India’s squad for the Asian Mixed Team championship earlier this month so not to disturb her ‘intensive preparation for the tournament’.

But  don’t be fooled. Sindhu well knows that a big success in Birmingham will propel her further up the world rankings and then her ranking will matter.

Se added: “Last year, I had earned success. Still my ranking did not get a lift. It means I have not yet been able to deliver my best in the international circuit.

So, I have set focus in this year that I will have to deliver at such a level which can steer me towards third in the world.”

All England 2017: A look at women’s singles

Less than two weeks remain until the 107th YONEX All England Open Badminton Championships get underway, and excitement has reached fever pitch after the draw was announced on Valentine’s Day.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be previewing each and every event ahead of the first Superseries of the year kicking off.

Next up, it’s the women’s singles, and here are some of the key first round clashes you can look forward to.

Title defence

In what will be her first appearance on court this season, reigning champion Nozomi Okuhara kicks off her campaign in arguably the tie of the round, facing tough opposition in the form of eighth seed Saina Nehwal as she looks to retain the trophy.

All England 2016

The Japanese shuttler has faced her Indian opponent on six previous occasions, winning only once at the World Superseries Finals in 2015.

But with a YONEX All England title already under her belt, Okuhara will be brimming with confidence as she returns to familiar territory in Birmingham.

Progress past Nehwal and reach the quarter-finals, and a possible clash with third seed Sung Ji Hyun lies in wait, a player against whom she has fared well in previous ties.

Juniors reunite

Should Nehwal triumph over Okuhara, there could be an all-Indian tie on the cards in the semi-finals, with fellow superstar PV Sindhu mounting her title challenge against Mette Poulsen in the first round.

PVSindhu

Sixth seed Sindhu has faced her Danish opposition just once before, coming way back in 2010 at the World Junior Championships with Poulsen the victor on that occasion.

Times have certainly changed since then, with Sindhu now an Olympic silver medallist and ranked fifth in the world, but having never progressed past the second round at the YONEX All England, she has made no secret of her desire to lift the trophy come March 12.

Reach the quarter-final stage however, and she faces a tough hurdle in her path to the silverware in the form of top seed Tai Tzu Ying, before possibly facing her compatriot in the last four.

European battle

Two-time Olympic champion Carolina Marin clinched her first YONEX All England victory back in 2015, and since then, has gone on to add Olympic, World, European  and a whole host of Superseries crowns to her collection.

All England 2016

First up for the second seed Spaniard is fellow European Line Kjaersfeldt, a player she has defeated in all five of their previous meetings on court.

Make it a sixth victory and Marin could face young Chinese star He Bingjiao in the second round, before an all-seeded tie with Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon in the last eight.

Marin hasn’t won a Superseries title since 2015, but after reaching the semi-final stage in Birmingham last year, she will be hoping 2017 is the year she gets back to winning ways, starting at the Barclaycard Arena.

Elsewhere on court

A YONEX All England title has so far evaded top seed Tai Tzu Ying, who faces Thailand’s Nitchaon Jindapol in the first round.

The Taiwanese shuttler has prevailed on all five occasions these two have met previously, while Jindapol fell in the first round in Birmingham last year against eventual champion Okuhara.

First up for third seed Sung Ji Hyun is Indonesia’s Fitriani Fitriani, a player she has never faced on the international circuit, while seventh seed Akane Yamaguchi takes on Xiaoyu Liang in the opening round.

Welsh Open 2017: Stuart Bingham beats Judd Trump 9-8 in final

Stuart Bingham held his nerve in a tense final frame to beat Judd Trump 9-8 and win his first Welsh Open title.

The Englishman, 40, took the last two frames, sealing victory with a break of 55 to claim his first ranking title since the 2015 World Championship.

Bingham had led 4-0 in the early stages and came through a scrappy final session that saw a highest break of 63.

“Unbelievable,” said the world number two. “To get my hands on another trophy means everything.”

Compatriot Trump, 27, cut the early deficit to 5-3 by taking the last frame of the afternoon session and moved 7-6 and 8-7 ahead in the evening.

However, Bingham got back on level terms and, after Trump missed an early opportunity in the decider, it was the former world champion who prevailed with a clearance.

“I honestly felt that Judd outclassed me from the word go,” said Bingham. “The first two frames were massive but it was only from his mistake that I cleared up and won.

“I’ve been knocking on the door since October, playing pretty well. I thought it wasn’t going to happen here and hats off to Judd, from 4-0 down a lot of people would have crumbled and given up.”

Trump said: “It was tough. I missed a few chances early on. I kind of threw it away in the first four frames.

“I missed too many easy balls and even tonight when I was getting back into it, I missed another easy ball. On the whole I did well to get back into it, it was just the odd shot here and there that cost me.”