After a week’s break the Badminton Europe circuit jolts back into action this coming week with a trip to Caldas Da Rainha for the 51st edition of the Portuguese International. The starters gun has been raised for the final sprint in the Olympic qualification campaign and the top seeded European players in both men’s and women’s singles are looking to get out of the blocks quickly in the final push towards Rio in the summer.
Ireland’s Chloe Magee (main picture) leads the line in the women’s singles and will hope to kick-start her Olympic campaign after a frustrating year trying to qualify in both the singles and mixed doubles alongside brother Sam.
Magee lurks just outside the automatic qualification spots for Rio but some confidence building performances on her run through qualification at the German Open Grand Prix Gold last week are sure serve as a shot in the arm for the Irish number one who is looking for a hat trick of Olympic appearances this summer in Rio.
Magee should have enough in her locker to see of the spirited challenge of Ayla Huser in round one with a potential quarter final shoot out against Mia Blichfeldt of Denmark a likely benchmark of the form of Ireland's top player. Magee has the luxury this week of being in the position to focus only on singles which will be of huge benefit in the recovery period between matches.
Denmark indeed sends a strong team to Portugal in the women’s singles with Julie Finne-Ipsen and one of the finds of this circuit season, Sofie Holmboe Dahl, likely to feature during this coming week.
Just as Magee is chasing points in the women’s singles so too is top seed in the men’s singles, Marius Myhre of Norway. After a decent 2015 the Norwegian number 1 has had a poor start to 2016 losing in the first round of Sweden, Iceland and Austria two weeks ago.
It is getting towards 'now or never' for Myhre and if he is to collect a decent haul of world ranking points this coming week in Portugal he will have to do it the hard way with likely early round matches against Jacob Nielsen (SWE), Anton Kaisti (FIN) or Sam Parsons (ENG).
Lurking also in the Norwegians half of the draw is Dinuka Karunaratna of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan has the game to beat any player in the field on his day and like Myhre is chasing Olympic qualification from a very slow start due to an internal political situation.
Toby Penty is seeded two for the tournament and has matured into a steady performer. His performances in Kazan proved his development and Penty as a result now becomes a fancied player on the circuit as will be one of the ones to beat this week in Portugal.
Interesting battles expected in Women’s Doubles
The women’s doubles draw is full of intrigue this coming week in Portugal. Top seeds and justifiable favourites are the French pair Tran and Fontaine (pictured) of France. Scattered amongst the draw are a handful of Malaysian pairs with a few European pairings also out to make a point.
MacPherson and O Donnell (SCO) are only going to get better and better with each passing tournament as they settle into senior life while Finland’s Lindholm and Nystrom are overdue some success as a long standing pair.
Add into the mix Kuuba and Ruutel of Estonia, Birch and Walker of England and probable finalists from Denmark Julie Finne-Ipsen and Rikke Soby Hansen it becomes apparent that the women’s doubles in Portugal is going to be a difficult tournament to win.
The men’s doubles will likely feature at least one Polish pair on the podium. Will it be Moren/Bochat and/or Pietryja/Szkudlarczyk or can French pair Corvee and Maio upset the Polish surge to Portuguese success.
Pietryja partners Aneta Wojtkowska as top seeds in the mixed doubles but returning Finnish partnership Lindholm/Kaisti will have a lot to say about who makes the final in the top half of the draw.
The action kicks off in Caldas Da Rainha on Thursday and to view all draws for the 2016 Portuguese International click HERE
Article and Image by Mark Phelan for Badminton Europe