China’s chances of winning five All-England Open badminton titles for only the second time will be enhanced if Tine Baun loses her fight to be ready to defend the women’s singles title here this week.
The tall Dane has been battling a persistent heel injury which is threatening her bid to win the world tour’s oldest tournament for a third time in four years. It is due to begin at Britain’s national indoor arena today.
The hard-hitting and often inspirational champion has recently been the only woman capable of resisting a Chinese hegemony, which has brought seven of the last 10 All-England women’s singles titles.
If there were a repeat of the clean sweep, which the world’s most powerful badminton nation managed two years ago, it would send a strong message with the start of the qualifying period for the London Olympics only a month away.
Baun has been struggling for the past three weeks and her preparations have been badly restricted by an injury, which worsened during last month’s European team championships in Amsterdam.
Baun will make a late decision on whether or not to try for another title in what this year has become one of the five tournaments in the new BWF Premier Series — badminton’s equivalent to tennis’ four Grand Slams.
She may try to feed off memories of Paris where she bravely reached the semi-finals despite carrying a similar injury.
Baun thinks the favorite for the title is probably Wang Yihuan, who is only seeded second, but who beat Baun, then Tine Rasmussen, in the final two years ago.
“I think they all have difference styles,” Baun said of the leading Chinese players.
“Wang Shixian is very precise and very good at moving around the court, but she doesn’t have the power that the other two girls have [Wang Yihuan and Wang Xin],” she said. “I think Wang Xin is also good at moving, but also at exploding and very good at reading the game.”
Baun is the fourth seed, but when physically fit is capable of beating anyone with her fierce and steep attacking game, especially when helped by the big support she often gets from English crowds.
Baun knows that making the best of an imperfect situation is crucial to give her momentum as she moves into what may be the last 18 months of her career.
The 31-year-old hopes to continue until next year’s Olympics, but may plan to play a few tournaments afterward so she doesn’t have to cope with the fear that her efforts at the Games might be her last match. China is top-seeded in three of this week’s events — the women’s singles and doubles, and the mixed doubles.
However Olympic champion Lin Dan and world champion Chen Jin should be serious contenders for the men’s singles title, which is held by Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, while world champions Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng may be capable of winning back the men’s doubles title they have won twice here before.