What is special about the All England Championships for a player?
It’s the next biggest tournament behind the Olympics and World Championships. It so well known for it’s prestige. For me, having the home crowd in such a big tournament made it so special. I remember the first time I played it, watching the crowd move to sit behind my court to watch a support. I had never experienced before, it gave me chills. Then the feeling of winning games in front of the crowd, it is amazing and something I will never forget.
Unfortunately fans will not be allowed at the 2021 version of the championships? What is a fan’s experience?
It is a fantastic experience being a fan at the All England. You get to watch the world’s best players competing each other, and also get to see young players emerging onto the world stage with nothing to lose. Walking around the stadium and the surroundings – you often walk past players and coaches who you have always looked up to. I remember walking past Peter Gade when I was younger and just being in complete shock that I was so close to him! It is just such a great event to be a part of.
What should we be looking out for at the All England Championships this year?
With the Olympics not too far away, qualification points are still up for grabs. So all the players will be wanting to win more than ever. I think we will see some amazing matches but could also see some nerves from players trying to qualify for the Olympics. With it being an Olympic year (with the 2020 games postponed until this year), do you think there will be a full complement of players from each country? I think we definitely will see a full complement of players from each country that deems it safe to travel and compete. The last few tournaments have seen some players withdrawing or not entering due to Covid Reasons. China will again not be sending a team. But with qualification points on the line, players who are allowed to travel and compete will definitely be there.
Who are the stand out players we should be looking out for at the All England Championships?
Viktor Axelsen and Carolina Marin come into this tournament in really good form, so they are ones to watch in the singles categories. But in the men’s singles – Kento Momota returns after and fairly long absence, he could be the one to stop Viktor. My two pairs to watch In men’s doubles are Kevin/Gideon (INA) the world number 1 pair, and Endo/Watanabe (JPN). We have yet to see either pair this year.
In women’s doubles some of the Japanese pairs return to action, 2nd seeds Matsumoto/Nagahara (JPN) are my pair to watch. I see the mixed doubles category being pretty open. With the Chinese pairs missing, I think the European players will do very well.
As a doubles’ player yourself , who will be the pair to watch at this years event?
Kevin/Gideon (INA) are definitely the pair to watch. The world number 1 pair and arguably the pair who plays the most exciting badminton for the fans. It always entertaining watching them.
Who are the key British players we should be keeping an eye out for?
For the English, Marcus Ellis/ Lauren Smith have got a great chance of progressing far in the mixed doubles. They played very well in this tournament last year so keep an eye for them. Lane/Vendy in the men’s doubles have had some great performances lately and play with no fear, they could cause an upset. In the men’s singles keep an eye out for Toby Penty, he can be very dangerous on his day. There are also some younger players in the All England for the first time, so it will be interesting to see how they perform. A few Scottish players are in the draws too – the Grimley Twins in the men’s doubles and Hall/Macpherson in mixed doubles being the ones to watch.