LEFTIES SET TO STAR IN ASIAN GAMESStephanie Chan
WENG HONGYANG (Chn), men’s singles
Hongyang was dubbed the next Lin Dan thanks to the similarities in style in their game. Both are lefties and Hongyang idolises Lin Dan. The 24-year-old, who is currently ranked No. 20 in the world, first caught the eye when he captured the Korean Open last year. Hongyang also stunned India’s world No. 7 H.S Prannoy for the Australian Open title in Sydney last month. He has been named in the men’s team event but is likely to miss out on the individual event as he is behind world No. 6 Shi Yuqi and world No. 8 Li Shifeng in the pecking order.
SEO SEUNG-JAE (Kor), men’s doubles and mixed
Seung-jae has been hogging the limelight after completing a rare double in the World Championships in Copenhagen last month. He caused havoc with the right-handed Kang Min-hyuk in the men’s doubles and bamboozled his opponents in the mixed with Chae Yu-jung to become the first male player since fellow countryman Kim Dong-moon (in 1999) to win a double at the worlds. The 26-year-old’s deceptive shots and energy on court have been giving top pairs a huge headache. Seung-jae will be out for another glorious double at the Asiad.
HE BINGJIAO (Chn), women’s singles
Bingjiao might sometimes be overlooked behind her more illustrious compatriot and reigning Olympic champion Chen Yufei but the former will not lack motivation at home. The world No. 5 had enjoyed an outstanding 2022 where she captured four World Tour titles including the back-to-back Denmark and French Opens. The 26-year-old has not been as consistent this year but did finish runner-up twice behind the dominant An Se-young of South Korea at the Thailand and Japan Opens. The two-time World Championships bronze medallist (2018 and 2021) will be out to impress in team and individual events.
Forms a successful left- and right-handed combination with Chen Qingchen and will start as favourites to defend the gold won in Jakarta in 2018. Captured her fourth world title with Qingchen last month. The only major title missing from Yifan and Qingchen’s impressive collection is the Olympic gold which they will be all out to win next year in Paris.
YUTA WATANABE (Jpn), mixed doubles
Watanabe is known as one of the best mixed doubles players in the current game. A joy to watch and known for his killer drop shots. Injuries have hampered his year a bit but still managed to win two titles with Arisa Higashino at the Indian and Japan Opens. Japan will be banking on him to deliver a medal.