Germany & France take on Russia in Gatchina
A trip to Gatchina in Russia traditionally signals the start of a new season on the Badminton Europe circuit. Situated about 1-hour south from central St. Petersburg the White Nights tournament is an opportunity for some to measure their off season progression while for others it’s a chance to sharpen the court skills ahead of a trip to Rio in just 30 days.
This year’s White Nights sees team France & Germany send strong squads to Leningrad city to take on the local Russian athletes supported by teams from Finland, Ukraine and Austria. In the men’s singles Artem Pochtarev is top seed with the Ukrainian looking to step up his preparation for his maiden Olympic Games next month in Rio.
French trio Corvee, Clearbout and Rouxel will offer a big test to Pochtarev with Lucas Corvee (main picture) in patricular good form after his excellent display in Tours guiding his team Issy Les Moulineaux to European glory. Watch out for Finnish trio of Ikka & Eetu Heino and in particular Kasper Lehikoinen, the 24-year-old will be looking to build on excellent gold and silver medals from Lithuanian and Lativa just a month ago.
A tournament rivalry with no pressure
This week’s White Nights sees a resumption of the on court rivalry of German pair Karin Schnaase and Olga Konon. The Germans are seeded one and two for the tournament. Both played out possibly one of the matches of the year in the final of the Swedish Masters back in January (watch that match HERE) when Olympic pressure was at its greatest. Schnaase won on that occasion in a classic but this week the pressure is off both players with both having different goals with Olympic qualification now but a distant memory.
The German pair will be the players to beat for sure but with opposition such as Yigit & Bayrak from Turkey, Vainio and Mikkela from Finland, Ulitina from Ukraine and a host of Russian and a splattering of Japanese and Indian shuttlers, the German duo will be up against it to make the final this coming week.
Fuchs and Michels to be tested in Olympic preparation
Michael Fuchs and Birgit Michels (pictured above) will be the big draw in the mixed doubles as both prepare for their third Olympic Games this summer. The German duo will certainly not have things their own way in Gatchina. Second seeds are Durkin and Vislova, the Russian pair who narrowly missed out on Olympic qualification.
Throw into the mixed the experienced duo of Dimova and Dremin and the emerging pair of Zinchenko and Morozova, who both incidentally are in the same half of the draw as the Germans, the task for Michels and Fuchs becomes clear.
Waiting in the wings will be new French pair Mittelheisser and Lefel backed up by fourth seeds Lea Palermo and Bastian Kersaudy which all serves to give a tantalising flavour to the mixed doubles at this year’s White Nights.
Team Germany will also look to Olympians Nelte and Goliszewski to bring home the women’s doubles but like the mixed event it will not be an easy task for the world number 25 pair. Russian duo Morozova and Chervyakova have been one of the circuits most consistent pairs this past year and will be a big threat to the Germans.
French national champions Palermo and Delrue (pictured above) will ride the wave of their 2016 success as third seeds and with an additional three French pairs and a host of Japanese in the field the Germans will get a very good workout ahead of the Olympics next month.
The men’s doubles represents the home nations best chance of success and though unseeded the Russian pair of Durkin and Ashmarin might have an ace up their sleeve this week in Gatchina.
To view all the draws for this week’s White Nights 2016 which starts Wednesday with qualification click HERE
Article and archive images by Mark Phelan for Badminton Europe