Back to Brno
After two successful years in capital as the Prague Open, the Czech Republic’s premier international tournament makes a return to Brno this coming week for the International Challenge rated Czech Open. Mixed pair Basova and Bitman head the home challenge, while BEC Centre of Excellence player Milan Ludic will look to progress through the men’s singles draw.
Ludik finds himself in the tough bottom section of the draw and an opening round tie against a qualifier will be his easiest match if he is to progress through the rounds. A second round tie against the winner of the match between second seed Malaysian Iskandar Zulkarnain or Dane Viktor Svendsen will be a big ask for the Holbaek based player.
Should Ludik succeed through to the quarter final a possible match up against fellow COE player Zvonimir Durkinjak is on the cards. Durkinjak has been struggling a little with a back injury but the memory of his run to the final two years ago should spur the Croat on.
Pablo Abian returns to circuit competition after missing the opening pair of International Challenge tournaments in Ukraine and Belgium. The Spaniard will be fresh and if he can get by a tricky opening round tie against Lucas Claerbout of France, Abian might be in the frame of mind to go the whole way just as he did in 2016.
Mixed doubles circuit titles have been hard come by this new season. High quality fields have appeared in both Ukraine and Belgium and this week in Brno things are no different. Alzbeta Basova and Jacob Bitman (pictured above) will look to make home court advantage count but will be fully aware of the quality of the pairs around them.
The Czech pair showed some signs of form getting to the last 16 in Belgium two weeks ago but will need to produce another gear to get by last year’s pair of the year on the Badminton Europe circuit, Mikkel Mikkelsen and Mai Surrow of Denmark.
Labar and Fontaine travel as top seeds and a measure of the quality of the field assembled in Brno is their possible second round tie against Bay-Smidt and Boje of Denmark. The Danes, you will remember, lifted the title in Prague last year coming from qualification and the match against the French will give an early indication of their form.
England’s Lauren Smith and Sarah Walker (pictured below) return to Czech this week with good memories from 12 months ago. The English pair lifted their first title as a pair in Prague and have since climbed to number 26 in the world rankings. A poor performance two weeks ago in Belgium will be a big motivation for the English pair as they look to kick start their season.
We can also expect a rematch from Leuven in the men’s doubles. Briggs and Wolfenden lost out to Fladberg and Colberg in Belgium and both pairs travel to Brno as the top seeded pairs.
The French pair of Gicquel and Labar also catch the eye in the top half of the draw while Dunn and Hall might have something to say about the destination of the medals come the podium on Saturday evening.
In the women’s singles Beatriz Corrales stands out as the player to beat. 4000 world ranking points were easy come by in Belgium two weeks ago and Corrales looks to be in the shape and form to go back to back with circuit International Challenge success.
For all the draws for the 2017 Li-Ning Czech Open click HERE
For all historical winners in Czech Republic click HERE
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Article and archive images by Mark Phelan for Badminton Europe