Jam packed tournament with interesting sub plot
This week’s FZ FORZA Prague Open, the second year of its existence since moving from Brno last year, has a jam packed schedule with a marked increase in level in the main draw itself as well as an interesting sub plot with qualification being a serious tournament within the main event.
It is not often on the circuit that we see a full qualification across all the five disciplines but that is exactly what we have this week in Prague. Within that qualification draw there are many matches between individuals and pairs that would not go amiss on finals day of the main event.
The men’s doubles qualification draw is a prime example with French newbie pair Labar and Mittelheisser likely to play a qualification final round match against Moren and Szkudlarsczyk, the Polish pair who after a year out have to battle their way back to the top.
Also and due to their lowly world ranking at the time of the draw Lu & Yang, who have won the last two tournaments on the circuit, must also face a qualification mini tournament as they attempt a hat trick after wins in Belgium and Poland.
In the men’s doubles main draw pairs such as Cwalina/Bochat (POL), Bay-Smidt/Sogaard (DEN), Eidestedt/Ruponen (SWE main picture) and Kersaudy/Maio (FRA) await the qualifying pairs but don’t bet against a pair from qualification winning the tournament as that is a distinct possibility given the quality of the men’s doubles qualification draw.
Singles cranked up a notch after summer break
The singles events also crank it up a notch this week with the re-emergence of many of Europe’s top circuit players after the summer break. In the women’s singles we see the new season circuit debuts for Spain’s Beatriz Corrales (pictured above), Natalia Perminova (RUS), Natalia Koch Rohde (DEN) and Germany’s Olga Konon.
Konon has been busy on the domestic scene with her club the past few weeks and her form and condition will be known very early with an opening round match against Belgian finalist Sofie Holmboe Dahl of Denmark.
The men’s singles also witness’s the return of some Olympians and past circuit winners. Top seed is Pablo Abain. The ageless Spaniard just keeps going and going and will look to another successful season on the circuit. Abain is scheduled to meet Belgian winner Lucas Corvee as early as the quarter finals that is of course the Frenchman gets by talented players such as Kim Bruun of Denmark.
A clear indication of the level of this 2016 edition of the Prague Open is the sight of last week’s Polish winner, Viktor Svendsen of Denmark buried in the depths of a 64 draw in qualification, a draw that the Dane will have to battle to come through.
You will also remember England’s Sam Parsons from just 2 weeks ago in Belgium. A superb run to the semi-final in Leuven for the former English national champion. Like Svendsen, Parsons to will have to endure the torture of qualification day in Prague.
Back down to earth for Labar & Fontaine
Just as they did in Belgium two weeks ago, new French pair Ronan Labar and Audrey Fontaine will have to struggle it out in qualification to try and replicate their Belgian success. The French look the real deal as a unit but will need their feet firmly on the ground to even get through qualification let alone win this coming week.
It is also going to be a very unfamiliar situation for those in the women’s doubles draw. It is often normal to see bye’s through to a quarter final but that is certainly not the case this week. Pairs such as Madsen/Surrow (DEN), Jakobsen/Hansen (DEN) and Birch and Brown from England all have an uphill battle just to make the main draw while a likely second round match between Lauren Smith/Sarah Walker and Julie Finne-Ipsen/Rikke Soby Hansen, three of the players that played the women’s doubles final in Belgium two weeks ago, gives a sharp indication of the increase in competition this week in Prague.
In addition to the circuit action this week Czech great and three time Olympian Petr Koukal (pictured above)will play for the last time in front of his home crowd in an exhibition match on finals day. Koukal will be sure to draw a big crowd and his fans are sure to give him a fitting send off.
Badminton Europe will be on hand this week streaming all the action starting with qualification on Wednesday. To watch via our YouTube channel, click HERE.
For all the draws for this week Prague Open click HERE
Article and Images by Mark Phelan for Badminton Europe