Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena will be graced by badminton’s best this week at the 2013 All England Open Championships, one of the oldest and most prestigious open badminton tournaments in the world.
Lee Chong Wei (pictured), twice the former men’s singles champion, aims to regain the venerable title from the legendary Lin Dan, who won just about everything he wanted until he disappeared from view after last year’s 2012 Games.
Sky Sports has live coverage of the closing four days featuring the key encounters from the men’s and women’s singles tournaments, plus action from the doubles competitions.
Listed as a Badminton World Federation (BWF) Superseries Premier event, its significance is proven with only four other events being given this status.
The last four championships have produced just two winners in the men’s singles division, Lin Dan of China and Malaysia’s Chong Wei.
The two men have contested three of the past four finals and few would bet against them writing yet another chapter in their storied rivalry this time around.
Chong Wei came into last year’s title decider looking to secure his third successive All England crown, a feat no men’s singles player had achieved since Indonesian icon Rudy Hartono in 1970.
Standing in his way was four-time world champion Dan, the man who had beaten him to Olympic gold in 2008.
What promised to be an epic battle was unfortunately cut short due to a shoulder injury for Chong Wei, but it wasn’t the last that Dan would see of his Malaysian rival in 2012.
The two men met again in London in a repeat of their Olympic showdown from four years prior, and this time they went the distance.
A fiercely close contest was eventually decided in Dan’s favour and Chong Wei had to settle for second best once more.
His form this season suggests that the agony of those defeats has left a lasting impression, though.
He began 2013 by taking top honours at the Korea Open – the first of the five Superseries Premier events – and then followed that up by winning a record ninth title at the Malaysia Open.
Despite the domination of the far eastern contingent, there will be strong British interest in this years Championships.
Chris Adcock and Andy Ellis will have to be at their brilliant best when they start their men’s doubles challenge as they have been drawn against the second seeds and 2007 winners Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong in the first round.
Adcock and Ellis have met the Malaysians three times, all last year, and have yet to take a game off them although the first two matches were close and the most recent ended prematurely through injury.
The draw has been unkind to the England players because if Adcock and Ellis win against the Malaysian pair, they could meet English pairing Chris Langridge and Peter Mills in the second round – if the English National champions defeat Thailand’s Maneepong Jongjit and Nipitphon Puangpuapech in their opening contest.
England’s top two men’s doubles pairs are the only home players through to the main draw.
But six-times English National champion and Commonwealth silver medallist Rajiv Ouseph is the top seed in the qualifying rounds, and if he makes it through he will be also in the same quarter as world number one and Commonwealth champion Lee Chong Wei.
England have four pairs tackling the women’s doubles qualification where the pick of the qualifying matches will see Heather Olver and Kate Robertshaw take on Scotland’s Imogen Bankier and Bulgaria’s Petya Nedelcheva.
If they win that contest they could face team-mates Ben Stawski and White’s women’s doubles partner Lauren Smith for a place in the main draw.
The world’s best players come together to battle it out under the National Indoor Arena roof from March 5-10 with high intensity, electric crowds and the fast-paced badminton action set to thrill badminton fans across the world.
This year’s Championship also marks the 30th successive year of Yonex title sponsorship of the All England.
Sky Sports has extensive action of the closing stages from the 2013 All England Open Championships.
Alec Wilkinson presents daily coverage on Sky Sports 4, with studio analysis from Gail Emms and Simon Archer.
Thursday 7th March Men’s & Women’s Second Round (Singles & Doubles) LIVE: 2.00pm-7.00pm – Sky Sports 4 Friday 8th March Men’s & Women’s Quarter-Finals (Singles & Doubles) LIVE: 5.00pm-8.00pm – Sky Sports 4 Saturday 9th March Men’s & Women’s Semi-Finals (Singles & Doubles) LIVE: 12.00pm-6.00pm – Sky Sports 4 Sunday 10th March Men’s & Women’s Finals (Singles & Doubles) LIVE: 12.00pm-6.00pm – Sky Sports 4