Badminton Asia Championships officials and players during the press conference to announce the details of the championships on Monday. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Defending champions Lee Zii Jia from Malaysia and China’s Wang Zhiyi will be aiming to keep their titles against top shuttlers from Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Singapore and India in the Dubai 2023 Badminton Asia Championships at the Rashid Bin Hamdan Hall in Al Nasr Club from April 25 to 30.

The first round starts on Wednesday with some of these big names starting their campaigns, while UAE players, led by Bharath Latheesh, begin with the qualifiers on the opening day (Tuesday). There will be 32 players (or pairings) in each main draw with 28 already placed and four coming through the qualifiers, due to take place on the opening day.

Exciting times ahead

Latheesh, fresh from his title wins at international junior events – Uganda Open and Spanish Open — will lead the home challenge, which also comprises Emirati players Mohammad Falamarzi, Ghadeer Ali Altahri, who are all excited to make their international debuts, in the 16-member UAE team.

“This is an amazing opportunity against the best players in the world. My target is to give my best at this championship. I got a lot of confidence from my campaign at the last two international junior events, besides my match against Lee Zii Jia at the Mixed Team Championships. And I want to build on that confidence going ahead and focus on my game,” said Latheesh.

Latheesh Bharath
UAE's Bharath Latheesh, buoyed by the recent success, will be eager to enter the main draw as he begins his campign in qualifiers on Tuesday. Image Credit: Supplied

Several top names

The championships, held under the patronage of Sheikh Nahayan Bin Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence and Honorary President of the UAE Badminton Federation, will witness around 300 players from 28 nations fighting for the continental crowns apart from the highest BWF world ranking points.

Among the other top names include top seed and last year’s beaten finalist Jonathan Christie (top seed) and Anthony Ginting (second seed) from Indonesia in men’s singles, while Japanese world No 1 Akane Yamaguchi, top seed, and last year’s beaten finalist and Korean An Se Young (second seed).

Besides Wang, China will also have Olympic champion Chen Yufei, the third seed, in their women’s singles line-up. Meanwhile, they will be represented strongly in doubles by the women’s doubles pair of Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan and mixed doubles duo of Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong, who will be aiming for a repeat of the title show.

Big challenge

India will have their best players with two-time Olympic medallist P.V. Sindhu and H.S. Prannoy, both seeded eighth, to lead the challenge.

Speaking at the pre-tournament conference held at the General Authority of Sports: Abdulaziz Al Hussan, Director of the Competitive Sports Department at the General Sports Authority, extended his best wishes to the players and visiting teams, besides the UAE national players.

Jassem Kanso, Continental Representative as Vice President in BWF and Treasurer of Badminton Asia, said: “We are very excited ahead of this prestigious meet, which will have the best shuttlers. It was a big challenge for Badminton Asia and UAE Badminton Federation to host this event, and we are thankful to the federation for their hard work and dedication to deliver the Asian badminton fraternity with this event.”

Eighth-seeded H.S. Prannoy will be leading India's challenge in men's singles. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Archives

Jassem also stressed that hosting the Championship in the UAE makes it a “unique event in the Arab world”, which will push towards the development and prosperity of badminton in the GCC region.

Proud moment

UAE badminton President Noura Aljasmi said: “This is a proud moment for us to host the prestigious Badminton Asia Championships in the UAE. After the success of the Mixed Team event, I am confident that this event is going to open doors to many Arab countries to compete at an international level.

“Our young players are quite excited and are eagerly looking forward to being part of the championships. To play alongside the world’s best players will be a big learning experience for them, something that will help them improve their game. I wish all the very best to UAE players and all the visiting shuttlers at the championships.”

Important role

She also acknowledged the support of the sponsors, the title sponsors, and Sobha Realty, the platinum sponsors, besides the strategic partners - The General Authority of Sport, Dubai Sports Council, Beyond Boundaries Sports Services, Al Nasr Club, The French School, Sheikh Manaa Bin Hasher Almaktoum Medical Center for their continuous support.

Francis Alfred, Managing Director of Sobha Realty, added: “There is no doubt that Sobha Realty’s participation in sponsoring the tournament is a belief in the importance of the private sector’s role in supporting sports in general and badminton in particular. This tournament will offer a great opportunity for cooperation with the UAE and Asian Badminton Federations besides watching great competition during the championship period.”