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Top things to know ahead of the 2021 European Badminton Championships

Carolina Marin could create history as the Spaniard and Viktor Axelsen from Denmark headline the tournament to decide the champions of Europe.
By Sanjeev Palar

The best badminton players in Europe will converge in Kyiv for the 2021 European Badminton Championships from 27 April to 2 May.

Four of the five reigning champions will be in Ukraine aiming to defend their crowns, with Spain's Carolina Marin looking for an unprecedented fifth women's singes title in a row.

The tournament is held annually, with the exception of years when the European Games take place, the last being in 2019. With last year's event cancelled due to the pandemic, it means that there has been a three-year gap since the last European championships took place in 2018.

It's also a good gauge on how players are performing just three months ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics that also take place this year following the Covid pandemic delay.

Here are some of the top things to know ahead of the event.

Denmark dominate men's singles line-up at 2021 European Badminton Championships

The top four seeds in the men's singles draw are from Denmark.

World number two Viktor Axelsen tops the list, ahead of Anders Antonsen, Rasmus Gemke, and Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus.

Reigning champion Axelsen is in search of his third European title, having also won the tournament in 2016. Compatriot Antonsen, who won gold at the 2019 European Games, is at the other end of the draw, setting up a potential final between the top two seeds.

Antonsen and Axelsen played each other twice in the opening months of 2021, with Antonsen taking victory to clinch the World Tour Final crown in January and Axelsen winning their semi-final encounter at the All England Open.

Meanwhile, Vittinghus who reached the second Thailand Open final earlier this year should not be taken lightly.

Apart from the Danes, The 2019 European Games silver medallist, Brice Leverdez from France should not be forgotten as well as his younger compatriot Toma Junior Popov who will be brimming with confidence after winning the New Orleans Masters title in March.

Here are a few facts that you may not know about Axelsen.

Viktor Axelsen of Denmark will be looking to defend his European Championship title in Kyiv
Picture by GETTY IMAGES

Historic fifth title in a row on the cards for Marin

Olympic champion Carolina Marin has the opportunity to make European badminton history.

The reigning champion, with four titles in a row, has the opportunity to become the first player in the tournament's history to win five titles in a row. The only other singles player with five titles is Denmark's Peter Gade, who accomplished it over the span of seven tournaments.

Marin has been on form, winning the two Super 1000 events in Thailand earlier this year and then the Swiss Open in March. She pulled out of the All England Open due to an injury. This tournament will reveal if the Spaniard has fully recovered and if she is able to play at her usual best, she could be in for an historic outing.

Denmark's 2019 European Games gold medallist Mia Blichfeldt had to withdraw at the last moment as her knee is causing her trouble again.

Two-time European silver medallist Kirsty Gilmour from Scotland could also be in the mix. However the 27-year-old does lack match experience since the pandemic, having only played in the All England Open this year where she lost her opening match to third seed Yvonne Li. But if she's shaken off her tournament cobwebs, the 2019 European Games silver medallist does know how to rise for the big occasions.

In-form Danes looking to defend title

Reigning men's doubles champions, Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen, will be looking to continue their strong showing after a very poor start to the year by their standards.

They suffered first round defeats in both the Thailand Open events in January but bounced back to help Denmark secure gold in the European Mixed Team Championships in February and then went on to clinch the Swiss Open title in March. They made the semi-finals of the All England Open but will need to be at their best to defend their title with the stiff competition here in Kyiv.

Rio 2016 bronze medallists Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge from England are seeded second with 2014 champions Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov from Russia third.

Perhaps the pair that could most likely surprise is Ben Lane and Sean Vendy. The Brits were surprise semi-finallist at the World Tour Finals in Thailand and are currently in form as they proved by winning the New Orleans Masters in March. The last English pair to clinch the men's double crown was Simon Archer and Chris Hunt in 1998

Sisters looking to sew up a second title

On paper the Bulgarian Stoeva sisters are the favourites to retain their crown. Gabriela and Stefani are the top seeds of the tournament and made the final of the New Orleans Master in March.

Their toughest opponents will be in the form of Lauren Smith and Chloe Birch who are seeded second. The English pair have played the sisters twice and have yet to find a way to beat them.

Mixed doubles free for all

As usual, Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith will be working twice as hard as most other players during the tournament, as they compete in not only in their respective doubles but also in mixed doubles.

The English pair are ranked first in the seedings and looking to fill the shoes of compatriots Chris and Gabby Adcock who are not in Kyiv to defend their crown.

Ellis and Smith lost in the semi-final of the previous edition and will no doubt be looking to cement their position and England's top mixed doubles pair having won gold at the European Games in 2019.

It is a very competitive field that includes Swiss Open winners Thom Gicquel and Delphine Delrue from France as well as Germany's Mark Lamfuss and Isabel Herttrich, all of whom have been showing very promising form of late.