The elevation of the Scottish Open to Grand Prix status has had the effect of attracting a star-studded line-up to the Championships at Glasgow's Emirates Arena next month.
Atotal of 272 players representing 31 nations and all five continents will converge on the Commonwealth Games badminton venue for five days of top-class action, starting on Wednesday 20 November and running till Sunday 24 November.
The Grand Prix has attracted a number of former champions back to Glasgow to top the entry list alongside Scotland's own stars like Yonex French Open quarter-finalist and London Grand Prix runner-up Kirsty Gilmour and their two former world doubles silver medallists Imogen Bankier and Robert Blair.
Leading the overseas challenge is Russia's current Olympic bronze medallist Nina Vislova, who is three times a women's doubles champion at the Scottish Open (2005, 2007 and 2009). Vislova partners Anastasia Chervaykova in a line-up where Bankier and Bulgaria’s Petya Nedelcheva will be the ones to beat after winning four titles so far this year.
But Scotland have another top pair in contention in Gilmour and Jillie Cooper while England’s Kate Robertshaw and Heather Olver and Malaysia’s 2011 Scottish open runners-up Hui Lin Ng and Hui Ern Ng will also be in contention.
Bankier is also likely to be second favourite in the mixed doubles with Blair behind England’s Chris Langridge and Heather Olver. Bankier has won the mixed title with both Blair (2007) and England’s Chris Adcock (2010) while Blair has won it three times in total, twice with England’s Natalie Munt before his win with Bankier. The Scottish pair have already won three titles this year.
At 20 Gilmour has yet to win the Scottish Open title but she has already reached her first Grand Prix Gold final this season in London and the quarter-finals of the Yonex French Superseries last week, and will be seeded to reach at least the semi-finals at the Emirates Arena.
Spain’s London winner Carolina Marin, who is also 20, Nedelcheva and Gilmour will be the players to beat in one of the strongest women’s singles line-ups in recent years.
Two former men’s singles champions are in the line-up - Finland's 2006 winner Ville Lang and Poland's 2005 champion Przemyslaw Wacha, who is now established as a top men's doubles player with team-mate Adam Cwalina.
Scotland No. 1 Kieran Merrilees will also spot Denmark’s Joachim Persson, Sweden’s Henri Hurskainen and France’s Brice Leverdez as danger men in the men’s singles along with Malaysia’s Misbun Ramdan Mohmed Misbun and Ukraine’s Dmytro Zavadsky, who beat the Glasgow man two weeks ago in the Yonex Dutch Open quarter-finals.
England's Marcus Ellis, who won the mixed doubles last year, is the only defending champion returning from last year's winners. But this year his target will be to recapture the men's doubles title he won in 2010 with Peter Mills when he partners Scotland's Paul Van Rietvelde.
They will be up against 2009 winners Mads Conrad-Petersen and Mads Pieler Kolding and their Danish team-mates Kim Astrup Sorensen and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen as well England’s Mills and Chris Langridge and two top Polish pairs in Wacha and Cwalina and Wojciech Szkudlarczyk and Lukasz Moren.
Anne Smillie, Chief Executive of BADMINTONscotland, said: “This is the strongest entry we have had for some years.
“It is marvellous to see so many past winners returning to Glasgow to compete for trophies. This is down to our new Grand Prix status and the increased prize money and ranking points that go with it.
“We have a new Arena for the players – the one which will be used for the Commonwealth Games badminton event next summer – and a higher-profile event offering TV coverage.
“None of these advances would have been possible without the backing of our key partners, Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Life and EventScotland, who are supporting our tournament with a £750,000 investment over the next four years.”
The Championships begin with qualifying on Wednesday, November 20 with the finals on the morning and afternoon of Sunday, November 24.