With the reigning champions, a pair ranked in the top ten in the world and the European silver medallists all in the field, the women’s doubles could prove to be the most fiercely-contested of all the events at the upcoming Scottish Open Badminton Championships.
Bulgarian sisters Stefani and Gabriela Stoeva are one of the most in-form pairings in world badminton, having reached the final of the YONEX French Open a fortnight ago and then winning the SaarLorLux Open in Germany last week.
The pair are now up to No.9 in the world – the highest-ranked duo in the competition – and clearly thriving in a season featuring more tournaments being held in Europe, something they have previously stated is playing to their advantage.
“I think that it is really good to have many tournaments in Europe because in the previous years, there were a lot more in Asia,” said Stefani. “I think for the Europeans, it is great to play more big tournaments in Europe.”
Gabriela added: “We are really excited that so many tournaments are in Europe so most of the people can come and watch and not only see the European players on the internet.
“I think our sport can become really popular now in Europe and in more countries – not only in Denmark, England and Germany. And I hope that in Bulgaria it can also become really popular.”
The Stoevas are No.1 seeds for the Scottish Open – and begin with a game against German pair Lisa Kaminski and Hannah Pohl – but this year’s second seeds know exactly what it takes to thrive in this competition.
As a new, unseeded duo 12 months ago, Dutch shuttlers Selena Piek and Cheryl Seinen blitzed their way through the competition without dropping a game to lift the women’s doubles trophy.
Their recent form has also been impressive, with a run to the final of last month’s YONEX Dutch Open – where they were beaten by the Stoevas – being followed a week later by an impressive triumph against reigning world champions Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara in the Danisa Denmark Open.
And concerningly for their opponents, Seinen is adamant there is still more to come as they gear up for a first-round clash with Alzbeta Basova and Michaela Fuchsova of the Czech Republic.
“It's going well lately,” she said of the pair, who are now in the world’s top 20. “The numbers speak for themselves, I think, but the feeling when we’re playing is also fantastic, so we can be proud of that.
“Selena and I are working together for just a second year and we can still do better. We learn from each other and we have patience with each other.
“I don’t think other players or coaches really see us differently [after recent results]. What other people think is not so important to me – I know where I want to go, I know how to get there and what I have to do."
The women’s doubles draw features the gold, silver and bronze medallists from this year’s European Championships, with the pair that picked up silver being the third seeds in Glasgow.
That is Emilie Lefel and Anne Tran of France – who currently lie 25th in the world rankings – and they face English pair Jenny Moore and Hope Warner in round one.
There is also home interest for the fans to cheer on in Glasgow as Eleanor O’Donnell and Ciara Torrance are potential second-round opponents for Piek and Seinen, if the Scots can overcome England’s Evie Burbidge and Zoe King in the first round.
Julie MacPherson and Holly Newall must win through qualifying to reach the main draw, where they would face eighth seeds Emma Karlsson and Johanna Magnusson of Sweden, while Brittany Ashton and Basia Grodynska, as well as Lauren Middleton and Sarah Sidebottom, will also be looking to qualify.
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The Scottish Open Badminton Championships are being staged at the Emirates Arena by Badminton Scotland with support from Glasgow Life, Glasgow City Council and EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.