For badminton-loving Belgium it is high time to prepare for one of the sports highlights of the year: as from Wednesday 11 September, the Yonex Belgian International will get in full swing. For this jubilee edition (the 15th already!) the organisers have managed to garner a very attractive line-up. Who will be capable of treading in the footsteps of the likes of Momota, Antonsen and Goh Jin Wei, to name just a few? Connoisseurs amongst the audience at Leuven’s Sportoase will look forward anxiously to enjoying the performance of top-class players like the Stoeva sisters and living legend Carsten Mogensen…

Men’s singles

The number one favourite for this edition is undoubtedly first seed Mark Caljouw from Holland. His track record of the past season is impressive. Caljouw will open the competition against Alex Lane from England. We expect this brexit to be slightly less problematic… The absolute highlight of the first round will be the battle between second seeded Victor Svendsen, last year’s runner-up, and Nhat Nguyen, the extremely talented Irishman. 

There is a match that will generate a lot of excitement! Fireworks guaranteed ! Defending champion Toby Penty benefits from an easier draw, as his first opponent will come out of the qualifiers. The same goes for pan-American champ Ygor Coelho. Ygor will surely seek revenge for his pale performance last year (due partly to an injury).

Maxime Moreels, Belgium’s highest-ranking player, is in for a reexamination: like last year he will have to get past an opponent from India (Manjunath) to reach the second round. If he manages to round this cliff, he will have to look the winner of the battle between Svendsen and Nguyen in the eyes. If that is not inspiring ….

During the qualifiers we will get the opportunity to see the best Belgians in action: Jurgen Voet, Tijl Dewit, Dylan Rosius, Julien Carraggi, Marijn Put, Sander De Decker, Stijn Lekens, Adrien Slegers, Robby Bronselaer, Senne Houthoofd and Elias Bracke. The Belgians come to Leuven in numbers. In particular the possible confrontation between Carraggi and Put in the second round of the qualifiers should be interesting.

Women’s singles

As to the ladies’ singles, Sportoase has high hopes! Will a Belgian player at long last manage to get far again? Lianne Tan has managed to secure the position of third seed after several impressive recent wins. There is a lot at stake for her, as she is very keen on participating in the Tokyo Olympics.  That would be the third time for her! The first hurdle on the road to Tokyo is Mariya Mitsova, a 22-year old leftie from Bulgaria.

Top seed in Leuven is Neslihan Yigit from Turkey, number 38 of the world ranking. Her first opponent will come out of the qualifiers. Second-seeded Tam from Canada will start against Andersen from Denmark, number 81 of the world ranking.

As to the qualifiers we are looking forward to observing the performance of Luisa Pagliara, Ine Van Wouwe, Presence Beelen and Clara Lassaux (who will anyway play a playoff duel to reach the main table, possibly against Pagliara if the latter manages to get past a French girl). It is nice to see so many Belgian ladies in the women’s singles this year!

Men’s doubles

Sometimes you come across things that make you happy. A rainbow on a wet day, a colleague you dislike who stumbles over a step or your favourite football team scoring the winning goal during the last minute of the game. Well, the bright idea to ensure participation of Carsten Mogensen at YBI 2019, also belongs in that category.

The silver medalist of the London Olympics will not play alongside good old Mathias Boe (their cooperation stopped after the Danish federation decided to link Boe to Conrad), but at David Daugaard’s side. And although they are unseeded, we expect that it will be hard to keep them from final victory. During the first round they can get used to each other a bit, as fortune is on their side. In the first round they will play against two qualifiers.

Obviously, everybody is anxious to see how Belgian number 1 Freek Golinski will perform. We expect the powerhouse from Herent near Leuven to put up a fantastic performance at the side of the strong German Pistorius! A bye in round 1 will give them the opportunity to scout their second round opponents at ease… They will have to battle it out either with two players from the qualifiers, or with the German couple Hammes-Klauer.

Canadian top seeds Ho-Shue/Yakura are also free during the first round to see which way the wind blows. However, in the second round solid opponents await them: Scottish youngsters Christopher and Matthew Grimley or the Danes Lundgaard/Thyrri. The English Lane and Vendy, seeded second, may have to face some Belgian opposition in the second round: Jona Van Nieuwkerke and the Frenchman Briot. Before they get there, the latter have to get past the Danes Lauritzen and Muurholm (who are not likely to give up easily).

In the qualifiers we have last year’s surprise package again: Stijn Lenaerts and Lawrence De Pauw! They will have to beat two Ivory Coast players first. Floris Oleffe, their fellow club member from W&L celebrates his comeback from a lengthy stay abroad at the side of the other Lenaerts, Maarten. They will battle it out with French super talent Christo Popov and Kenji Lovang. Dylan Rosius and Marijn Put, both members of Hebad, will try their luck against a Dutch pair.

Women’s doubles

Looking at the draw for the ladies’ doubles, I get the feeling that most participants will have to play for second place. The Bulgarian top combo Stoeva-Stoeva are building up an impressive track record at the European level and even world-wide! They currently occupy tenth position on the world ranking! Moreover, they have an outstanding account to settle, as they lost the 2013 final. In the second round they will be confronted with either a pair from the qualifiers, or the Estonian couple Marran-Rüütel.

The Canadian duo Honderich-Tsai, who are seeded second, have been in a good flow for some time now. Earlier this year they even took the gold medal at the pan-American Games in Peru. The ladies currently occupy 32nd position in the world ranking. In round 2 they will take on the winners of the English-French encounter Hopton-Warner vs. Moinard-Vallet.

Mixed doubles

Being good patriots, and as regards this last discipline, we are looking forward to the fire baptism of the newly formed pair Jona Van Nieuwkerke-Lise Jaques. The tournament organisers have given them a wildcard. In the light of their potential, that sounds like a logical move. In round 1 they will have to confront the Danish pair Lauritzen-Bergstein. As Jona Van Nieuwkerke has to play Lauritzen in the men’s doubles also, the pair’s tactical plan will no doubt be well fine-tuned…

Ben Pugh and Jessica Lane are in the world top 30. It looks like they hold the best trump cards for finishing this tournament successfully. They are more than likely to play the Danes Knudsen-Melgaard in the second round. We also expect a solid performance from the second seeded pair Bay-Smidt – Søby. If the French pair Delrue-Heriau manage to beat a pair from the qualifiers in the first round, they will no doubt try to give them a hard time in the second round. We also expect exciting fireworks from Ruben Jille (who won last year’s doubles’ title) and Alyssa Tirtosentono. I am curious to see how far this Dutch duo will get in this competition. Their conquest starts with a derby against Völker-Janssens from Germany.

Having said all that, I believe you all have good reasons to book a family ticket for this magnificent event.

Helger Van Werde

Having said all that, I believe you all have good reasons to book a family ticket for this magnificent event. Don’t forget granny (although it may be a wee bit too much excitement for her heart), cancel your weekend away at the seaside and start looking for a babysitter, because no true badminton lover will want to miss out on the action! Not only will you be able to admire top-level badminton in Sportoase, but there is also a fantastic photo exhibition featuring really phenomenal badminton pictures to celebrate 15 years of Yonex Belgian International, taken by Fons Van der Vorst, our regular photographer. Moreover, you can enjoy a nice drink and a bite in the very cosy bar as well ….

See you all in Sportoase Leuven!

 

 

                                                                                Helger Van Werde