ANDREW SMITH, one of England’s top two men’s singles players, has given the English National Badminton Championships a special boost by entering the event for the first time since it moved to Manchester seven years ago.
The world No 29 from Hampshire, a semi-finalist when the Championships were staged in West Sussex before moving to Manchester, will provide the main obstacle to Rajiv Ouseph’s bid for a singles hat-trick at the Championships, which take place at The Velodrome in SportCity from February 5-7.
Ouseph, who is ranked at No 24 in the world, is one of only two past winners entered in the men’s singles. The other is veteran Mark Constable, the Jersey player who won the title when playing for Warwickshire in 2002.
There are 50 entries for the men’s singles with last year’s runner-up Carl Baxter (Avon) and Harry Wright (Lancs) among the other leading contenders.
Jersey’s Elizabeth Cann will again be bidding for a fourth women’s singles title after being edged out in last year’s final by Jill Pittard (Warks), who announced her retirement last month.
Cann is the only past winner in the 30-strong line-up and her main challengers will be Cheshire’s Helen Davies, Hertfordshire’s Rachel Howard and the emerging Hampshire teenager Panuga Riou.
In the men’s doubles Anthony Clark will bid for an amazing ninth consecutive title. He and seven-times champion Nathan Robertson (both Notts), the holders and 2009 Singapore Open winners, will be aiming for a sixth title together. Chris Adcock(Notts) and Robert Blair (Leics), last year’s runners-up, Andrew Ellis (Yorks) and Dean George (Herts), Chris Langridge (Surrey) and Robin Middleton (Yorks), and Marcus Ellis (Yorks) and Peter Mills (Notts) will be the four other main pairs in a 27-strong entry.
In the women’s doubles there will be a new name on the list of winners following the retirement of Donna Kellogg (Derbyshire), who has dominated the event for the last five years.
Leeds pair Gabby White and Jenny Wallwork, last year’s runners-up, head the entry with the main challenge expected to come from Jersey-born Avon player Mariana Agathangelou and Heather Olver of Sussex.
The mixed doubles is the most fascinating of the five events as Robertson and Wallwork try to get the better of Clark and new partner Olver. Clark has dominated the mixed with Kellogg for the last three years but the new pairing will only have the Proton Malaysian Open is a competitive warm-up for their English National title bid.
Adcock and White, the highest ranked current pair at No. 21 in the world, will be a big danger while Middleton and Agathangelou (Avon) and Dean George and Sam Ward (Surrey) will also be in contention.
A total of 134 players from 26 counties as far apart as Jersey and Northumberland have entered the English National Championships with Yorkshire boasting the largest entry.
The English National Championships are brought to the Velodrome for the seventh time thanks to the special partnership between Manchester City Council, BADMINTON England, racket and equipment brand Carlton, sports retailer www.discount.com and Imperial Consultants with support from the Manchester Evening News.
Councillor Mike Amesbury, Executive Member for Arts & Leisure Manchester City Council, said: “Manchester is delighted to be hosting the English National Badminton Championships once again at Manchester Velodrome for the seventh time.
“The Championships is a great opportunity to showcase the best of English badminton at the start of another great year for sport in Manchester, with more major events to look forward to such as the Yonex European Badminton Championships in April. I am sure we will see a great weekend of action and I hope that all visitors have a memorable and enjoyable stay in Manchester."
Tickets for the Championships are now on sale and are available from www.theticketfactory.com or by calling the ticket hotline on 0844 5811424.
For further information contact William Kings on 07787 51 53 53 or email [email protected].