SINGAPORE - Singapore shuttlers' mission to redeem themselves at next month's OUE Singapore Open, following a poor showing last year, will be a challenging one after the draw for the April 8-13 tournament was conducted.
Top women's singles player Gu Juan could meet reigning world champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand as early as the second round, barely a month after losing to the world No. 4 at the All England Championships.
Gu, ranked 20th in the world, has beaten Ratchanok only once in four previous meetings, when Intanon retired at the 2012 India Open.
Said Gu: "Every opponent I face has her own strengths and it also depends on the player's form at that point of time.
"It's been a three-game match for each of the past three times I've played Ratchanok.
"I will get myself prepared and aim to do well at home."
In the men's singles, Singapore's players will have to negotiate the qualifiers to earn a place in the main draw, with top-ranked shuttler Derek Wong facing the toughest draw of the lot.
The world No. 45 will need to get past Simon Santoso, whom he could meet in the second and final round of qualifiers.
The Indonesian, a former world No. 3 and two-time SEA Games champion, is now ranked No. 59 after seeing his ranking slip due to injury and illness.
"I think my recent form has been quite good," said Wong, who recently beat Indonesia's world No. 19 Dionysius Rumbaka in straight games at the German Open.
"Simon is not an easy opponent but I will definitely go all out against him."
Women's doubles world No. 20 Yao Lei and Shinta Mulia Sari, winners of the 2010 edition, will open their campaign against world No. 5 duo Jang Ye Na and Kim So Young of South Korea.
Mixed doubles pair Vanessa Neo and Danny Bawa Chrisnanta (No. 17), quarter-finalists at the AllEngland earlier this month, will play India's Tarun Kona and Ashwini Ponnappa (No. 37) in their opening match.
The Singapore team are under pressure to do better this year after none of the players reached the quarter-finals of the tournament last year, despite fielding 23 shuttlers.
The poor results from the home event as well as over the course of the year triggered an internal review, with chief singles coach Luan Ching and chief doubles coach Yoo Yong Sung replaced by new head coach Liu Qingdong.
Said Liu: "We want to perform better this year and pressure is inevitable. I'm aiming for our singles and mixed doubles players to at least reach the last 16."
The tournament at the Singapore Indoor Stadium will feature men's world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, who is taking part for the first time since 2010.
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