It was a year ago that the Minions – Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo – played their last international event. As they return to the YONEX All England Open 2021, fans will be curious about their form – can the two-time champions pick up from where they left off in March 2020?
Last year they were thwarted in a close final by Yuta Watanabe and Hiroyuki Endo, the Japanese pair that has beaten them six times in eight matches. Watanabe and Endo are also in contention here as they head the third quarter, but the Minions will have business to take care of before another possible final clash with the Japanese.
They will be enthused by the draw. Their toughest early test could be the quarterfinals, against either Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty or YONEX Swiss Open champions Kim Astrup/Anders Skaarup Rasmussen.
The Minions’ compatriots, Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan, did have a good start to the year at the Asian Leg, and have a tricky first round against Ben Lane/Sean Vendy. The local hopefuls found form at the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals, where they made the semifinals, and will be looking to upset the applecart of the 2019 champions.
Stars in Action: Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo; Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan; Hiroyuki Endo/Yuta Watanabe; Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda; Kim Astrup/Anders Skaarup Rasmussen
Keep an Eye On: Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty; Ben Lane/Sean Vendy; Joel Eipe/Rasmus Kjaer; Jeppe Bay/Lasse Moelhede
Japan Hold the Aces
With China and Korea having skipped the All England, there’s a higher element of predictability in women’s doubles. Japan, with four strong pairs, are favourites.
Defending champions Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota and world champions Mayu Matsumoto/Wakana Nagahara faced off in the final of their last international event – the DANISA Denmark Open, with Fukushima/Hirota prevailing.
Outside of the Japanese, the strongest contenders are Indonesia’s Greysia Polii/Apriyani Rahayu and Bulgaria’s Stefani Stoeva/Gabriela Stoeva. Polii/Rahayu had a fantastic start to the year, winning the YONEX Thailand Open and making the semifinals of the TOYOTA Thailand Open, while the Stoeva sisters were runners-up at the Swiss Open earlier this month.
The draw could well be a good opportunity for Malaysia’s Pearly Tan/Thinaah Muralitharan, surprise winners of the Swiss Open, to make an impact.
Stars in Action: Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota; Mayu Matsumoto/Wakana Nagahara; Greysia Polii/Apriyani Rahayu; Stefani Stoeva/Gabriela Stoeva
Keep an Eye On: Pearly Tan/Thinaah Muralitharan
History Beckons Gicquel/Delrue
Mixed doubles is perhaps the most open of the three paired categories, given the absence of China, Korea and in particular, Dechapol Puavaranukroh/Sapsiree Taerattanachai, who won all three Asian Leg tournaments.
The spotlight shifts to the French pair whose exploits have made everyone take notice – Thom Gicquel and Delphine Delrue. The French have gone toe-to-toe with the world’s best in recent times, and having won the Swiss Open, will head in to the All England on a high. No French player or pair has ever won the All England, and history could be in the making if Gicquel and Delrue play to potential.
Defending champions Praveen Jordan/Melati Daeva Oktavianti had a none-too-impressive show at the Asian Leg, and will want to redeem themselves at the stage where they played some of their best badminton. Second seeds Yuta Watanabe/Arisa Higashino and England’s Marcus Ellis/Lauren Smith are among the other principal contenders.
Stars to Watch: Praveen Jordan/Melati Daeva Oktavianti; Yuta Watanabe/Arisa Higashino; Thom Gicquel/Delphine Delrue; Marcus Ellis/Lauren Smith
Keep an Eye On: Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Ashwini Ponnappa; Hoo Pang Ron/Cheah Yee See; Mathias Christiansen/Alexandra Boje