Just three weeks remain until the 107th YONEX All England Open Badminton Championships get underway, and excitement has reached fever pitch after the draw was announced on Valentine’s Day.
Over the coming weeks, we’ll be previewing each and every event ahead of the first Superseries of the year kicking off.
Next up, it’s the women’s doubles, and here are some of the key first round clashes you can look forward to. Missed our preview of the men’s doubles? Find it here.
Last year’s YONEX All England saw Japanese duo Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi take away the title, before going on to clinch Olympic gold in Rio that summer.
With three further Superseries triumphs to their name from last season, the world number ones are in pole position to take a second consecutive trophy at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena.
First up, they face Indonesia’s Della Destiara Haris and Rosyita Eka Putri Sari, a pair against whom they have met just once, losing in three sets at the 2015 YONEX German Open.
However, Matsutomo and Takahashi’s record speaks for itself, with Haris and Putri Sari never having progressed past the second round at the YONEX All England.
Year of the Danes?
No Danish pair has won the women’s doubles at the YONEX All England since Ulla Strand and Karin Jorgensen in 1965, but Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl pose perhaps the best chance of rectifying that stat.
Last year saw them take European gold before having to settle for silver at the Rio Olympic Games, but the All England is one Superseries tournament to so far evade them, reaching the semi-finals in Birmingham in 2016.
This year, the second seeds start their campaign against Dutch duo Eefje Muskens and Selena Piek, against whom they are yet to drop a set following their three meetings.
European silver medallists Muskens and Piek reached the second round of the All England last year, before falling to Chang Ye Na and Lee So Hee.
Maiden title hunt
China has long dominated the women’s doubles scene, with 15 of the last 17 finals being won by the nation’s stars, and fifth seeds Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan will be hoping they can continue that run at this year’s YONEX All England.
Last season saw Chen amass six Superseries titles across women’s and mixed doubles, including the YONEX French Open and World Superseries Finals crowns alongside Jia, but can they walk away with the All England trophy on their debut in Birmingham?
In the first round, the world number six pair will play Japan’s Shiho Tanaka and Koharu Yonemoto, a duo they had never faced until last November.
They then played each other twice within the space of the week, Tanaka and Yonemoto taking first blood at the China Open before Chen and Jia restored parity at the YONEX Sunrise Hong Kong Open.
Champion in 2015 alongside Tang Yuanting, China’s Bao Yixin must this year battle through qualification before reaching the women’s doubles main draw.
Playing alongside Yu Xiaohan, Bao will face German duo Lisa Kaminski and Hannah Pohl in the first round of qualifying, and will take on their compatriots Johanna Goliszewski and Lara Kaepplein in the second should they prevail.
See the world’s best at the YONEX All England
For great value weekly season tickets or best priced day tickets, CLICK HERE.