Defending champion Angus Ng must prove he belongs with badminton’s big guns at Hong Kong Open
The home favourite made history by lifting the trophy last year in a weakened field but all the top players are in town this time
Defending champion Angus Ng Ka-long must rise to the occasion at the Hong Kong Open if he wants to prove himself among the elite class of badminton.
The home favourite became the first Hong Kong player to lift the men’s singles trophy for the Super Series tournament at the Coliseum in Hung Hom last year when he defeated little known Sameer Verma of India in the final.
However, his victory came in the absence of big guns such as Olympic champion Chen Long of China, Viktor Axelsen of Denmark, Son Wan-ho of South Korea, Kidambi Srikanth of India, Chou Tien Chen of Taiwan as well as the two famous veterans, Lin Dan of China and Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia.
And 12 months after Ng’s success, all the top players have gathered in Hong Kong vying for the US$400,000 prize cheque which kicks off in Hung Hom again on Tuesday.
“This is the strongest men’s singles line-up in recent years, just at the same level of the Olympic Games,” said Hong Kong head coach Tim He Yiming.
“But this is also the opportunity for Ng to prove himself. If he can win the title again, he can call himself one of the best in the world, and I think he has a chance.”
The 23-year-old former world doubles junior champion showed glimpses of genius when he defeated Lee Chong-wei to reach the China Open semi-finals in Fuzhou last week, before losing to eventual champion Axelsen, the world number one, to settle for a bronze medal.
“Axelsen, Son and Srikanth are hitting top form this year and are difficult to beat, while the others are all with quality,” said He.
“But we can never under estimate Ng as he is still young with plenty of room for improvement. If he can apply his speed on court, he should not be overlooked.”
Ng is set to meet two-time Olympic champion Lin in the second round, having beaten him 2-0 in 2015 at the same stage before going on the lose in the semi-finals to Lee.
“I did not come here last year [to Hong Kong], and I lost to Ng the year before,” said Lin, who denied he has revenge on his mind. “At such an age, I only want to approach the tournament match by match.”
Other home players to watch out for are Tang Chun-man and Tse Ying-suet, the mixed doubles champions of last month’s Denmark Open Super Series.
The pair surged to prominence when they reached the semi-finals in the home tournament last year and have since gone from strength to strength.
“They have strong potential and we have expectations for them, especially with the support of the fans,” said coach He.
“Although they only formed as a team last year, they have already become very stable at the top level and the Hong Kong Open will be another opportunity for them to prove themselves.”