by Mike Grossman

December 11, 1996 (New Shuttlenws) - The World Cup of badminton, an invitational event featuring top exponents of the sport from various countries, starts today at the Istorya Senayan stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The tournament is similiar in format to the recently concluded World Grand Prix Finals - the competition starts with a round-robin phase, followed by semifinals and finals.

16 top men's singles players headed by Olympic champion Poul-Erik Hoyer-Larsen of Denmark and Grand Prix Finals champion Fung Permadi of Chinese Taipei will be taking part, as will 12 top women's singles players, 8 top men's doubles pairs, 6 top women's doubles teams and 6 top mixed doubles combinations.

The men's singles players are divided into 4 groups of 4 for the first stage. Seeded players in each group are Hoyer, Permadi, Dong Jiong of China, and Ong Ewe Hock of Malaysia.

Current world number one Joko Suprianto of Indonesia, Olympic bronze medalist Rashid Sidek of Malaysia and Grand Prix Finals runner-up Sun Jun of China are not competing. Suprianto and Sun were injured during the Grand Prix Finals while Sidek has begged off in order to rest.

The women's singles players are pooled into 4 groups of 3. Group seeds are Susi Susanti and Mia Audina of Indonesia, and Ye Zhaoying and Wang Chen of China.

The men's doubles players are split into 2 groups of 4 teams each. Seeds in the men's doubles are Kantono and Antonius of Indonesia, Cheah and Yap of Malaysia. Olympic and Grand Prix Finals champions Subagja and Mainaky of Indonesia are also competing.

The women's and mixed doubles teams are pooled into two groups of 3 in each of the two disciplines. Top women's doubles seeds are Isoliana and Lomban of Indonesia, and Eliza and Zelin, also of Indonesia. Heading the mixed doubles entries are Kusheryanto and Timur of Indonesia and Sogaard and Rikke Olsen of Denmark.

The World Cup has historically been the richest badminton competition, but its 185,000 U.S. dollar purse has been surpassed this year by the U.S. Open and the World Grand Prix Finals.

The World Cup is also usually held earlier in the year before the World Grand Prix Finals. But with the Olympics impacting the competition calendar this year, it is being held only this week.

Because of the crowding on the tournament schedule and the advent of richer tournaments, this year's World Cup may be one of the last to be held as the International Badminton Federation reviews its calendar.

In this year's competition, the sport federation is also trying out some rule changes. The score at which setting or deuce may be selected in a 15-point game is being simplified to 14-all instead of 13-all and 14-all. If the first player or team to reach 14 chooses to set, there first player or pair to score 3 points wins. (In women's singles which is only played to 11 points, the setting score is 10-all and the tiebreak or setting will be 3 points).

A 90-second interval between the first and second games of a match is also being tried at this World Cup. Normally, there is no break between the first and second games, and the second game starts as soon as the two players or pairs have changed sides.