Intriguing first-round badminton matchups
Play gets underway tomorrow at the Auckland Badminton International with some intriguing clashes in the early rounds of the tournament, which features several Olympians and a former Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
A key first round contest is in the women's singles where former Commonwealth Games singles gold medallist and two-time British Olympic representative, Tracey Hallam, takes on New Zealand national champion Lilian Shih from Auckland.
Whoever wins that clash won't have it easy in the second round as they will play Angie Leung, the recent winner of the New Zealand under-23 Championship.
Aside from her Commonwealth Games success, Hallam reached a career-high world ranking of seven and made the quarterfinals of singles at the Athens Olympics currently resides in the Waikato and works in schools in the region.
Top women's seed and Australian Olympic representative is Victoria Na, with Southland's Anna Rankin second seed, both have byes into the second round.
The pick of the men's first round singles is Canterbury-raised Asher Richardson taking on Taipei's Yu-Hsian Chiu who is an unknown quantity. Men's top seed, Southland's James Eunson, has a bye to the second round and will play either Fiji's Burty Mola or Kiwi Man Chung Tong late on Thursday night.
Also underway early in the tournament is the mixed doubles competition where Hallam is combined with another British-born Kiwi resident, Tom Armstrong a coach for Auckland Badminton. They take on the North Harbour-Auckland pair of Brock Matheson and Emma Rodgers in the first round.
Top seeds in the mixed are Australians Luke Chong and Victoria Na but there are also combinations from badminton strongholds such as Taipei and India as well as nations such as Wales and the Maldives represented.
The men's doubles featuring top seeds Oliver Leydon-Davis(Waikato) and Kevin Dennerly-Minturn(Auckland) who have been living and training in the badminton stronghold of Denmark for much of the past year gets underway on Friday.
The duo won a crucial match in the Thomas Cup Oceania final against Australia earlier this year to help New Zealand qualify against the odds for the Thomas Cup world finals.
An Indonesian pair of Nurvita Hanadia Keshya and Devi Tika Permatasari are the women's doubles top seeds.
The tournament which runs from Thursday 21 - Sunday 24 June at the Auckland Badminton Stadium at Gillies Ave has close to 100 players from 11 nations taking part
Play starts from 4pm Thursday, 3pm on Friday with the quarterfinals on Saturday from 10am and semis 5pm. The finals will be held from 10.30am on Sunday.