Badminton Life

HK's Zhou Leads NZ Open Line-Up

New Zealand has two reasons to celebrate when the country holds its national open tournament next month.

First, the fact that the New Zealand Open is taking place is a victory in itself. The tournament was in danger of being cancelled because of a lack of sponsorship.

However, with KLRC coming in to sponsor the US$50,000 tournament at the North Shre Events Centre, the Open can go ahead ad scheduled from November 11-15.

Organisers can also congratulate themselves on securing Hong Kong's world number three Zhou Mi for the women's singles event.

Zhou is the defending champion, having won the tournament last year as an unseeded player who was re-establishing herself on the international circuit after switching nationalities from Chinese to Hong Kong.

Zhou has had a successful year on the circuit, winning the recent Macau Open and China Masters as well as triumphing in India and Korea.

The men's singles competition will be led by Malaysia's world number 19 Sairul Amar Ayob and Taiwan's Lee Tsuen-seng, ranked 30.

Sairul won the tournament in 2005 but will face a hard time trying to win it back, with Indonesia sending a strong squad led by world number 38 Tommy Sugiarto and Lee, who won the event in 2006.

The New Zealand Open, which is a Grand Prix tournament, will be broadcast live to Malaysia, China and Indonesia.

Tournament director Julie Carrel was quoted as saying in the New Zealand media: "We are very happy with the standard of the players we have attracted to the 2008 KLRC New Zealand Open.

"Having players the calibre of Zhou Mi, Ayob and Lee returning is great coup for the tournament and a reflection on New Zealand that they want to win another title here.

"It's also a huge bonus having live television coverage into nations such as China, Indonesia and Malaysia, something which is not achieved very often for a New Zealand sporting event."

The tournament is indebted to Malaysia's ambitious Kuala Lumpur Rackets Club, owned by entrepreneur Dato' Andrew Kam, who has contributed much to badminton in Malaysia in recent times.

The club as well as the North Shore centre joined forces to make sure the event went ahead.

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