Barredo, Alcala still FDG Cup favorites

Sarah Barredo and Mark Alcala set out as top picks in their respective sides but face tougher challenges in their back-to-back title drives in the FDG Cup Badminton Championships, which gets going June 9 at Power Smash Badminton Center in Makati.

Barredo swept Gelita Castilo to capture the women's Open singles crown last year but the power-hitting ace braces for a fierce battle against a crack roster of veteran and young challengers, including fellow PBA Smash Pilipinas mainstays No. 2 Airah Albo and third seed Mariya Sevilla and No. 4 Monica Rivera of La Salle/ABR.

Malvinne Alcala, the country's former No. 1, and former national champion Bianca Carlos are also in the fold, both raring to prove their worth in the centerpiece division of the annual tournament held in honor of Robinsons Land Corp. president Frederick Go and sanctioned by the Philippine Badminton Association.

A down-the-wire finish is also seen in the men's Open category with Mark Alcala hard-pressed to score a repeat of his romp over R-Jay Ormilla last year against a full-packed 64-player field that includes fellow national pool stalwarts second seed Kevin Cudiamat, No. 3 Ros Pedrosa, fourth ranked Kenneth Monterubio, No. 5 Ormilla and sixth seed Frell Gabuelo.

Indonesians Dea Rangga, Viky Anindita, Ivano Hutabarat and Christofle Brians, and Malaysian Arif Latif spice up the men's premier competition that also features the top players from the country's leading badminton schools and clubs, including University of the Philippines, Ateneo, La Salle, Adamson, Team Prima, Tanauan Badminton House, Robinsons Land, Makisig Badminton Academy, Allied/JLTC, Ilocos Sur BC, National University, St. Benilde, Serrano Twins Training Camp, Far Eastern University, iShuttlers, Lyceum, United Metro BC and Escoses Training Camp.

A tight finish also looms in the men's Open doubles, which also drew a 64-team field, with Gerald Gonzales and Joshua Monterubio gaining the top seeding ahead of Mike Minuluan and Alem Palmares, Gabriel Magnaye and Alvin Morada, Miguel Leonardo and Joshua Malelang, Carlos Cayanan and Joper Escueta and Ronel Estanislao and Paul Vivas.

Estanislao and Escueta actually teamed up to win last year's crown but they have linked up with different partners this time in the four-day event, which also serves as one of the country's top ranking tournament sponsored by Babolat Philippines, which will provide the official shuttlecocks.

Source: Tribune