Blend of youth & experience on show in Sofia
As the 2016 Olympic Games dominates the headlines the Badminton Europe circuit resumes with a trip to Sofia for the 2016 edition of the Eurasia Bulgaria International this coming week. The national sports academy in the south east quarter of Sofia will play host to the international series rated tournament the first of this new season on the circuit.
While the cream of Europe’s crop are away in Rio chasing their Olympic dream the Eurasia Bulgaria International will welcome a host of young players who have Tokyo 2020 on their minds. The youngsters will not have it all their own way with some seasoned veterans on hand bidding for glory as all aim to get the 2016/2017 season off to the best possible start.
Jakobsen leads young Danish charge
At the tender age of just 18 Julie Dawall Jakobsen has already established herself as a player to beat on the senior European circuit. After a runners up spot in the European junior of 2015 Jakobsen (main picture left) has gone from strength to strength at senior level. The Dane already has two wins under her belt in 2016 at the Slovenia and Iceland Internationals and is certainly one to watch this week in the women’s singles.
Jakobsen will be supported by fellow Dane Sofie Holmboe Dahl (main picture right), the 20-year-old who herself had a breakthrough season last year claiming a senior title and a host of final and semi-final appearances.
Trying to stop the Danes in the women’s singles will be top seed Neslihan Yigit, who won the last circuit tournament the White Nights, an international challenge tournament which is a notch above this week’s tournament in Bulgaria.
Mariya Mitsova will have the weight of home expectations on her shoulders and the Bulgarian beauty will have the confidence to match expectation after a good 2016 so far.
England’s Toby Penty in action during the European Champions in France
Penty with plenty still to prove
England’s Toby Penty (pictured above) will enter this week’s tournament as top seed in the men’s singles. The Englishman sits at number 99 in the world and with a fistful of senior years now behind him will probably feel that this season coming is a pivotal one in his development.
Penty will not only have to look at the main draw players as he sets his sights on success this week. With a full qualification draw the now experienced Englishman will have to contend with a fresh wave of youngsters coming through. French duo of Merkle and Rossi have impressed in recent months and add into the mix the presence of European U17 champion Nhat Nguyen the pressure begins to mount on the fancied main draw players.
Penty will also have Johnnie Torjussen in the field who is a huge talent for England moving forward. Torjussen, if successful in qualification, will meet Penty in the opening round so all in all there is a lot to think about for the English top seed this week.
Others who are likely to figure this week in Sofia are second seed Kalle Koljonen of Finland, England’s Sam Parsons and watch out for the unseeded Toma Junior Popov of France who might have a bearing on the destination of the medals this week.
Turkish duo Bengisu Ercetin/Nazlican Inci on Euro U17 podium earlier this year
Nedelcheva & Mitsova hot doubles favourites
Since coming together as a partnership the vastly experienced Petya Nedelcheva and Mariya Mitsova have looked unbeatable in the lower tiers of circuit competition. The Bulgarian pair won from an unseeded position at the Hellas International and it would be foolish to bet against them this week on home soil.
A potential second round tie against Turkish young guns Ercetin and Inci (pictured above) will test the Bulgarians to the limit but the senior experience should be enough to see them through.
Kuuba and Ruutel are the top seeds in the women’s doubles and after an intense summers training which saw them travel to the BEC certified centre in Dublin to train the Estonians will be ready for the start of this new season.
The men’s doubles is a very open book with any one of a handful of Turkish and Bulgarian pairs with genuine chances of winning. Young Irish duo Reynolds and Nguyen will look to toss the cat in amongst the pigeons as they embark on a senior journey after their run to bronze at the European U17 championships earlier this year.
In the mixed doubles the lack of an outright quality top European circuit pair leaves the door wide open to any one of 8 pairs. Don’t bet against another young pair coming through and a close eye should be kept on English pair Hemming and Liew while French power pair Gicquel and Heriau will cause problems to any senior pair this week in Sofia.
The action in Sofia kicks of this coming Monday and to view all the draws from the 2016 Eurasia Bulgaria International click HERE
Article and Images by Mark Phelan for Badminton Europe