Malvinne “Poca” Alcala, perhaps the best player to come out of the ranks since Weena Lim and Kennie Asuncion, has confirmed her participation in the Bingo Bonanza National Open badminton tournament, further boosting the field competing in the P1.5 million event firing off on Thursday at the Rizal Memorial Badminton Center.
A former Singapore and Australian Juniors champion, Alcala is tipped to crowd the top-ranked bets in the women’s singles, owing to her form, power and class, guaranteeing a slam-bang action in the centerpiece event of the four-day championship which features the country’s cream of the crop.
But since she’s been busy campaigning abroad seeking ranking points for a crack at the Olympics, Alcala has not been seeded in the women’s singles headed by young Aira Nicole Albo, Sarah Joy Barredo, Pauline Tan and Monica Rivera.
Gelita Castilo, another veteran campaigner and Alcala’s teammate a Allied Victor, is also in the fold, along with Samantha Ramos of Golden Shuttle Foundation, Allysa Geverjuan and Mariya Sevilla of Smash Pilipinas, Ateneo’s Cassandra Lim, Janelle de Vera and Dia Magno, Kristina Tan of GSF and Samantha Santos of Ateneo.
Many-time champion Toby Gadi, meanwhile, banners the full-packed 64-player field in the men’s singles with the Smash Pilipinas mainstay expected to be crowded by No. 2 Kevin Cudiamat, third ranked Jayson Oba-ob, No. 4 Ros Pedrosa and fifth seed R-Jay Ormilla.
But focus will also be on the young Mark Alcala, also of Allied Victor, who will be coming into the event oozing with confidence following his victory in the Singapore Youth International last month. Also vying in the event are Kenneth Monterubio, Kevin Dalisay and Wilson Lopez 2nd.
Swiss International champions Peter Magnaye and Paul Vivas, meanwhile, lead the men’s doubles cast in the event sponsored by Bingo Bonanza and organized by EventKing Corp. although the Joper Escueta-Ronel Estanislao pair gets the top seeding in the group.
Malvinne Alcala and Castilo are also teaming up for the women’s doubles, bannered by the tandems of Jessie Francisco and Eleanor Inlayo, and Aires Montilla and Kristelle Salatan while the Ronel Estanislao-Joella de Vera and Paul Pantig-Thea Poma tandems head the 32-pair mixed doubles field.
The National Open marks the return of the country’s premier gaming and amusement center as badminton’s chief backer. Bingo Bonanza used to stage big-time badminton tournaments, including the Philippine Open in 2009 that lured some of the world’s premier players.
Benitez, however, said the PBA is now focusing on putting up bigger national tournaments and has temporarily shelved plans of staging the more expensive international events to upgrade and develop local players until they can really compete with the foreign aces.