After a trip to Portugal last week the circuit moves on to Timisoara for the Romanian International which will see a repeat of the Europe V Asia battle from Caldas Da Rainha where Asia came away with three of the five titles.
After receiving a wildcard invitation to the European Champions at the end of April Jess Pugh and Ben Lane (pictured below) will lead the European attack in the mixed doubles with the English pair looking to find a vein of form before their debut in La-Roche-Sur-Yon next month.
The English, who have a bye in round 1, will need to be on their toes from the very outset as waiting for them in the second round will most likely be last week’s winners Mikkel Mikkelsen and Mai Surrow of Denmark. The Danes were impressive last week in Portugal and should comfortably come through their opening round against Israeli pair Chislov and Kugel.
Europe will also hope that top seeds Anton Kaisti (FIN) and his partner Cheryl Seinen (NED) can show some form but with last week’s runners up from Vietnam in the top half of the draw it will be a tough ask for the Finnish/Dutch combo.
Lurking will also be Alexander Bond and Ditte Soby Hansen who a reigning European Junior champions in doubles. The pair now team up in mixed doubles and will be sure to feature at the medal end of the tournament this week in Romania.
Bond also teams up with his Euro winning partner Joel Eipe in the men’s doubles and will be one of the favourites if they can match some Asian opposition in the early rounds.
Durkinjak’s double edged attack
Croatia Zvonimir Durkinjak (main headline pictured) travels to Timisoara with an outside shot of Olympic qualification on his mind in singles. At this late stage in the race to Rio the Croat needs wins to get himself within reach of the tail end of automatic qualification. A tall order this week seeded 8 and with both Dinuka & Niluka Karunarantne also chasing Rio glory Durkinjak will need to find the form that took him to the Czech final back in September to have a chance.
If it goes ‘pear shaped’ in singles for Durkinjak he as always has doubles to fall back on and his tried and tested partnership with Zvonimir Hoelbling has the potential to blow the rest out of the water this coming week.
Rhys Walker and Sam Parsons will lead the English challenge while Steffan Rasmussen will be one of the players to watch in the bottom half of the draw.
Laura Sarosi leads the European challenge as top seed in the women’s singles and with only singles on her mind will have a huge advantage over most of her competition who look for glory in two disciplines.
To view all the draws for the 2016 Romanian International click HERE
Article and Images by Mark Phelan for Badminton Europe