Singapore's national shuttlers are heading across the Causeway to compete in a professional badminton league, in a bid to get quality match exposure before the SEA Games are held on home soil in June.
A total of eight players, including Commonwealth Games singles silver medallist Derek Wong and world No. 15 mixed doubles pair Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Vanessa Neo are competing in the Purple League, which started this week in Kuala Lumpur.
The 12-team mixed team competition, which kicked off its inaugural season in November last year, will also feature top players like Danish world No. 3 Jan Jorgensen and Japanese world No. 8 Kenichi Tago and two-time world championships bronze medallist P.V. Sindhu of India.
For the players, it is the precious match experience that is valuable, especially given that the SEA Games, where the badminton competition is traditionally a world-class tussle, are a mere five months away.
Said world No. 50 Wong, who represents Klang United and has already played matches against Malaysia's Daren Liew and Chong Wei Feng and Indonesian Sony Dwi Kuncoro: "These are all good players to be up against. It's good sparring and good match experience.
"We might meet some of them at the SEA Games too."
The Purple League is expected to wrap up next month.
Added doubles player Neo, who plays for the Muar City team: "There are many world-class players participating, so in a way you get to know where you stand against them now and how much you have to prepare to gun for events like the SEA Games."
With all matches taking place in Kuala Lumpur, she also said that the trip is a short and easy one to make.
Singapore Badminton Association director of team performance Chua Yong Joo said that while the league will make for good practice, priority will still be placed on tournaments on the Badminton World Federation circuit, where ranking points are up for grabs.
"The Purple League is spread over a few months so as not to affect the competition schedule of the players who compete professionally," said Chua.
Purple League teams compete in a round-robin format, with each tie consisting of two men's singles, two men's doubles, a mixed doubles and a women's singles match. It offers a lucrative prize purse of RM2 million (S$753,140), with the champion team awarded half of that amount. That puts the competition in the same league as top professional tournaments like the Korea Open and Indonesia Open, both Superseries Premier events.
This article was first published on Jan 07, 2015. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.