They tumbled out to Robin Tabeling/Selena Piek in straight games. The Dutch went on to lose to Seo Seungjae/Chae Yujung in the next round. Interestingly, all three pairs have been drawn in Group A at Tokyo 2020, along with Egypt’s Adham Hatem Elgamal/Doha Hany.
Zheng/Huang are an all-conquering duo, heavily favoured to add the Olympic gold to their glittering cabinet of major event victories. It will take an upset of mammoth proportions to stop them from progressing into the knockout rounds and claiming a medal.
Assuming no upsets, a shootout between the Dutch and Korean pairs could determine the second qualifier from Group A. Seo/Chae did have an excellent early season this year as runners-up in two of the three Asian Leg events, while Tabeling/Piek have had more modest returns. The two pairs have never faced each other, which should add an element of uncertainty to the outcome.
Zheng/Huang’s compatriots Wang Yi Lyu/Huang Dong Ping are in Group D with Olympic silver medallists Chan Peng Soon/Goh Liu Ying, Mark Lamsfuss/Isabel Herttrich and Tang Chun Man/Tse Ying Suet. Of these, there will be much speculation about Tang/Tse’s fitness and form. The Hong Kong China duo, at their best, are a maverick twosome, but injury problems have meant they’ve hardly made an impact on the Tour in recent months. If they are fully fit they could be the dark horses of the event.
German duo Lamsfuss/Herttrich will be pleased with recent form – they won the DANISA Denmark Open last October and were semifinalists at the European Championships in April-May.
The most unpredictable pair in the field is Praveen Jordan/Melati Daeva Oktavianti. Jordan in particular can be either breathtaking or ordinary; the Indonesians, for instance, were in sparkling form at last year’s All England, but scratchy at the Asian Leg this January.
They will have to be on their toes, for the prime threats in Group C are Yuta Watanabe/Arisa Higashino and Mathias Christiansen/Alexandra BØje. Dynamic duo Watanabe/Higashino head into Tokyo having won the All England in March, while Christiansen/Boje have steadily become more consistent.
Puavaranukroh/Taerattanachai achieved the stupendous feat of winning three titles in three weeks at the Asian Leg, and that performance was indicative of how far they’ve come as a pair. That makes them a good bet for a medal, but they will first have to avoid any stumbles in Group C, which has Thom Gicquel/Delphine Delrue, Marcus Ellis/Lauren Smith and Joshua Hurlburt-Yu/Josephine Wu.
Gicquel and Delrue are easily the most improved pair in recent times, and have a fearlessness about them that might make the difference in Tokyo. But Group B is a minefield, and with the experienced and crafty Ellis/Smith and young and forceful Hurlburt-Yu and Wu in the mix, there could be surprises in store.
Tonight’s Opening Ceremony begins at 8pm local time (11am GMT). Be sure to catch The Tokyo 2020 Show: