SINGAPORE - Singapore's shuttlers are under no illusions about their chances at the Uber Cup, despite their appearance in the May 18-25 tournament in New Delhi for just the second time in history.
But, while the team are unlikely to contend for top honours, exposure at the prestigious world team championship for women will give the players precious experience in team events.
That could prove crucial at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in July and the Incheon Asian Games in September, both of which will feature team events in the badminton competition.
"It's very different when you play in a team compared to when you're playing in an individual event," Singapore Badminton Association national team director Chew Keet Hou told The Straits Times yesterday.
"The pressure is much greater, and all these competitions will be additional experience for our players and will help them in major Games."
Singapore met the mark for the biennial event under a new qualifying process.
It was changed this year and takes into account the total ranking points of each team's top three singles players and two doubles pairs. The Uber Cup now accommodates 16 teams, four more than the usual 12.
Singapore are ranked 11th, joining powerhouses like China, Japan and Thailand in the mix.
Teams had to go through continental preliminary rounds previously.
Singapore first qualified in 2006, fielding a side who included 2002 Commonwealth Games singles champion Li Li, Xing Aiying and Jiang Yanmei. They lost 0-3 to China then.
Singapore's final team list for the event has yet to be finalised but recently-retired Xing is unlikely to feature even though her world ranking (No. 86) played a part in earning them a berth at the event.
Up and coming starlet Liang Xiaoyu, the world No. 5 junior, is set to take her place in the singles.
National head coach Liu Qingdong said the training programmes for the team will largely stay unchanged but more work could be put into the strategy behind the doubles partnerships.
There could even be a chance for 2011 SEA Games champion Fu Mingtian, now a doubles player, to play a part in the singles.
"Mingtian has not been playing singles for almost two years and her ranking in the doubles is on the rise," he said. "But there is a chance and it could happen, depending on our opponent."
Added doubles player Vanessa Neo, who will be competing in the finals of the Uber Cup for the first time: "It'll be a good chance for the team to bond, get closer and prepare not just for this year's major Games but also the SEA Games next year."
The draw for the tournament will be conducted at the end of the month. Twelve-time winners China are the defending champions.
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