Singapore's shuttlers are hoping to feed off the recent success of Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Chayut Triyachart at this year's OUE Singapore Open.
The Republic's contingent of 23 had a tournament to forget last year, as only the mixed doubles pair of Yao Lei and Terry Yeo managed to negotiate the first round, only to crash out in the second.
While they know that an improvement is a must, Chrisnanta and Chayut's men's doubles win at the Malaysian Grand Prix Gold last month has provided an added boost ahead of the Singapore Open, which will be held from April 8 to 13 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
The duo, who recently reunited after Chayut's return to the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) fold, beat Malaysian world No. 15 pair Goh V Shem and Lim Khim Wah in straight sets on their home patch in Pasir Gudang.
Yao, who won the Singapore Open women's doubles with Shinta Mulia Sari in 2010, said: "I am confident we will all do better this year. Everyone has a stronger desire to win.
"Danny and Vanessa (Neo) got into the quarter-finals of the All England Open while Chayut and Danny won in Malaysia, so the whole team are feeling a lot more confident."
Yao, who will face South Korea's world No. 5 pairing of Jang Ye Na and Kim So Young in her opening match with Shinta, was speaking on the sidelines of a press conference announcing the renewal of Li-Ning's sponsorship of SBA.
The new deal, which is worth $4.5 million in cash and equipment, will run for four years, covering the senior and intermediate national squads as well as the SBA's coaches and sparring partners.
Li-Ning will also support this year's Singapore Open with $100,000 worth of equipment as the tournament's official equipment and apparel sponsor.
On top of that, Li-Ning will set aside additional cash incentives for national players who attain success at international level.
Chayut, who along with Chrisnanta were the first to receive this cash incentive, believes the sponsorship will spur Singapore's shuttlers to greater heights.
"It is a big sponsorship, so this will help send us to more tournaments and get more chances to win," said the 24-year-old.
"It will help us in terms of our ranking because our ranking is quite low and we've used Li-Ning equipment for so many years, so we're used to it."
While he did not want to reveal any targets, Chayut was adamant that Singapore's shuttlers will go all out to do the nation proud at the Singapore Open.
He said: "Winning the Malaysian Grand Prix Gold has helped us a lot in terms of confidence.
"For the OUE, there are a lot of top players coming down, so we will take each match step by step, even though we want to be champions.
"While I enjoyed the challenge of playing in Malaysia against their players, having the home crowd behind us will be make things a lot better."
This article was published on April 5 in The New Paper.
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