UAE's Bharath Latheesh continued his impressive form by making it to the main round of Badminton Asia Championships. Image Credit: James Varghese/Badminton Photo

DUBAI: UAE shuttlers Bharath Latheesh and the doubles pair of Dev Ayyappan and Dhiren Ayyappan won their respective qualifying matches as the Dubai 2023 Badminton Asia Championships kicked off at Al Nasr Club on Tuesday.

Latheesh, fresh from his three titles at the Spain, Uganda and Cyprus junior international events, continued the winning momentum to pull off both his qualifying matches — against Iraq’s Yousif Alhumairi and Salar Bayat from Iran to top Group C and advance into the men’s singles main draw.

“I am happy to make the main draw of the prestigious meet. This is an important event in my career; and I am hoping to give my best and learn from these top players here. The recent title wins have given me a lot of confidence and I will go out tomorrow with that confidence,” said a motivated Latheesh, who faces the fourth seed from Japan Kodai Naraoka in the men’s singles Round of 32.

Latheesh also added that the past few months he has worked a lot on his strokes and fitness and it’s paying off now. A Lee Chong Wei fan, the 15-year-old next year aims to do well at the World Junior Championships.

UAE players gained a huge experience on the big stage that will help them realise their Olympic dreams.

Twin brothers advance

Before Latheesh’s amazing display of smashes and deft drops, the Ayyappan twin brothers had advanced into the main draw of the men’s doubles event.

“This has been a very important event in our career, and we are just thrilled to watch and play our idols here. We even got goosebumps when we learnt our opponents in the Round of 32,” said the New Vision Badminton Academy trainees, who dream to represent UAE at the Olympics one day.

The 17-year-olds have recently won the doubles title at the Cyprus International and U-19 National Championships in India.

Olympic dreams

The Ayyappan brothers, who rallied from a game down to defeat Bangladesh’s Mohammad Abdul Hamid Lukman and Gourab Singha 16-21, 21-15, 21-19 in their qualifiers, will play the third-seeded Indonesia pair of Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan on Wednesday.

UAE Badminton Federation President Noura Aljasmi was happy about the young players’ show and hoped that this experience will add wings to their Olympics dreams.

Among other UAE shuttlers, the mixed doubles duo of Dev Vishnu and Taabia Khan impressed in their game against India’s Rohan Kapoor and Sikki Reddy but it wasn’t enough in the end.

Myanmar's Thet Htar Thuzar qualifies and will play defending champion China’s Wang Zhiyi (seeded 6) in the women's singles Round of 32.

Real battle begins

On Wednesday, the real battle for the crown begins as all the top players will be in action. Defending men’s singles champion and No 3 Lee Zii Jia from Malaysia will face Hong Kong’s NG Ka Long Angus while sixth-seeded Chinese Wang Zhiyi faces qualifier from Myanmar Thet Htar Thuzar in the women’s singles Round of 32 match.

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

The Dubai 2023 Badminton Asia Championships, which runs until April 30, has around 300 shuttlers from 28 nations in action, with Sobha Realty as the Platinum sponsor.