Hong Kong’s top shuttler Angus Ng Ka-long returns to the All England Open this week hoping to regain his form after a disappointing start of the season. The Super 1000 tournament, which begins in Birmingham on Wednesday, offers the highest prize money on the world tour, with a hefty US$1 million winning purse. With a full draw, the event is the first major tournament to feature all the world’s best in the post-Covid-19 era, with the calibre of players taking part reminiscent of the world before the pandemic struck. The All England Open two years ago was the last time there was a full draw on the tour, and with the pandemic just starting hit Europe then, Ng and his teammates raced back to Hong Kong immediately after they finished. There no more badminton tournaments that year, with the exception of the Denmark Open, which took place with a limited number of entries in October 2020. “The pandemic has massively changed the outlook of the world tour and many players are struggling to adapt to it,” Tim He Yiming, the badminton head coach, said. “These days the players have to spend a certain period of time in a specific area so that they can take part in a number of tournaments to avoid air travel restrictions and quarantine. Hong Kong badminton pair Angus Ng and Lee Cheuk-yiu feature at German Open “Ng and his teammates left Hong Kong in early February for training and competitions and it seems he has been struggling to reach his best form again. The All England Open is an iconic event and Ng reached the semi-finals in 2019. We hope he can do so again.” The 27-year-old only played one match in February’s Asia Team Championship in Malaysia, when he lost to Jeon Hyeok-jin of South Korea in the group stage. At last week’s German Open, he was eliminated after his first round defeat by HS Prannoy of India. As a result of his struggles on the court, Ng has dropped to 10th in the world rankings, and he may drop out of the top 10, a position he has maintained since 2019, if he fails to perform in Birmingham this week. The eighth seed, Ng faces Kanta Tsuneyama of Japan in the first round. The world No 14 has proved a difficult opponent for Ng in the past, and his coach expects another close match between the two. Hong Kong’s Lee Cheuk-yiu is also in action, and will take on Heo Kwang-hee of South Korea in the first round. “Lee has some advantages on paper, but these days any player in the main round is not easy to handle,” He said. “The shuttlecock is a little bit slow in the tour and there are bound to be more rallies in a match with the stringent requirement on the physical side of players and unfortunately this is the area where Lee needs to improve.” Hong Kong badminton players told to stay in bubble in Malaysia The men’s singles draw always hums with possibilities, with the likelihood of a Viktor Axelsen-Kento Momota final, although both players failed to live up to expectations at last week’s German Open. Axelsen was beaten in the semi-finals by his training partner Lakshya Sen of India, while Momota lost to Japanese compatriot Kenta Nishimoto in the first round. Meanwhile Hong Kong’s Ng Tsz-yau needed a PCR test before rejoining her teammates for next week’s Polish Open, an international challenge series. Ng Tsz-yau tested positive for Covid-19 after reaching both semi-finals in the women’s doubles and mixed doubles in the Slovak Open two weeks ago and could not join the team for last week’s Portugal International Championships. “She received two negative results through rapid test kit and will do a PCR to clear everything,” He said. The second string Hong Kong team claimed one gold, one silver and two bronze medals at the international series. Women’s doubles pair of Yeung Nga-ting and Yeung Pui-lam captured the gold after defeating their French opponents 21-14, 21-8 in the final.