SINGAPORE: World number one Chen Hong and All-England champion Zhou Mi will return to defend their titles in the Singapore Open Badminton Championships, which will be held at National Indoor Stadium here from Aug 19-24.
The duo will spearhead a 28-member Chinese team for the five-star championships, which offer a total prize of US$170,000.
Last year, the 23-year-old Chen Hong won the All-England in February and went on to win the Open tournaments in Singapore and Denmark.
The 24-year-old Zhou Mi claimed four titles last year – the Open tournaments in Japan and Singapore; the Asian Games; and the Asian Championships.
Chen Hong, who took only 28 minutes to beat Singapore’s Ronald Susilo 15-4, 15-1 in last year's final, is looking forward to competing in Singapore again.
“I had many supporters cheering for me even though I was up against the hometown hero. Singapore is like a second home for me. Competition on the international circuit is extremely keen and it will be a big challenge for me to retain the title,” said Chen Hong.
For Zhou Mi, the victory last year also held fond memories.
“The win boosted my confidence and I went on to win three of my next four tournaments,” she said.
“The Singapore Open is a very important tournament for the Chinese team because we have many fans there. I am looking forward to defending the title.”
Among the other Chinese top players in the team are women's world number two and Swiss Open champion Zhang Ning and men’s world number five and Japan Open winner Xia Xuanze.
The Singapore Open is set to attract the top players of the other countries as well.
It is the first tournament on the world Grand Prix circuit to offer qualifying points for the Olympics after the World Championships, which will be played in Birmingham from July 28-Aug 3.
The Singapore BA deputy president, Sam Goi, said: “The Singapore Open will be the first major GP event after a four-month break on the international circuit. I am sure that all the best players in the world will be here to resume competitive action on the circuit.”
THE CHINESE TEAM
Men's singles: Chen Hong, Xia Xuanze, Lin Dan, Bao Chunlai, Chen Yu, Wu Yunyong, Chen Jin.
Men's doubles: Zhang Wei-Wang Wei, Chen Qiqiu-Cheng Rui, Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng, Sang Yang-Zheng Bo, Zhang Jun.
Women's singles: Zhang Ning, Zhou Mi, Gong Ruina, Xie Xingfang, Liu Jian, Zhu Lin.
Women's doubles: Gao Ling-Huang Sui, Wei Yili-Zhao Ting Ting, Yang Wei-Zhang Jiewen.