PETALING JAYA: Lee Chong Wei’s three-year reign as the top ranked player in the BWF World Super Series is under serious threat at the All-England, which begins today in Birmingham.
The Malaysian is at the risk of dropping one rung to the No. 2 spot in the Super Series ranking if he fails in the defence of the title and China’s Lin Dan takes the crown.
And with his status and pride at stake, expect a determined Chong Wei to go the extra mile in the championships.
The prestigious All-England is a Premier Super Series event and offers US$350,000 in prize money for the first time.
The rivalry has grown very close between Chong Wei and Lin Dan in the World Super Series with the Malaysian winning the season-opening event at home with Lin Dan closing in by defeating the world No. 1 in the final of the South Korea Open a week later.
In the past, Lin Dan had chosen to skip many of the Super Series tournaments but with BWF making it compulsory for all the top 10 players to compete, the badminton stage has suddenly become more competitive and exciting for the fans.
Barring any upsets, top seed Chong Wei and Lin Dan are expected to clash in the All-England final.
Chong Wei said that he had not lost the fire to win the All-England title for a second time but he would tread with caution on the way he approached his matches.
“Of course, I would like to retain the title but the journey will not be easy.
“I have made mistakes in the past by putting too much pressure on myself from the start,” he said.
“I want to take it one day at a time. It’s getting tougher and tougher every year.”
Following the withdrawal of Japan’s Sho Sasaki, Chong Wei will take on qualifier Brice Leverdez of France in the first round today.
The others in his half of the draw include Indonesians Sony Dwi Kuncoro and Simon Santoso, China’s Bao Chunlai and Chen Long and Denmark’s Peter-Gade Christensen.
Third seed and four-time All-England champion Lin Dan meets veteran Malaysian Wong Choong Hann in the opening round and others in the half of the draw are second seed Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia, Chinese Chen Jin, Wang Zhengming and Du Pengyu, and South Korean Park Sung-hwan.
While hopes are high on Chong Wei to keep the flag flying high for Malaysia in the men’s singles, things are looking unpredictable in the men’s doubles.
National back-up coach Tan Kim Her, however, chose to be optimistic – at least with the chances of his charges, Mak Hee Chun-Tan Wee Kiong.
“It has not been rosy for Mak and Tan. But I will be happy if they can reach the quarter-finals.
“They still have time to prove themselves,” he said.
“They are ranked 33rd in the world. They can break into the top 24 before the qualification period for the world championships ends in April if they believe in themselves.”
The duo will play against Hiroyuki Endo-Kenichi Hayakawa in the first round today and they are in the same quarter as top seeds Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen and seventh seeds Fang Chieh-min-Lee Sheng-mu of Taiwan.
The other Malaysian men’s pairs in the fray are Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong, Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif-Hoon Thien How, Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari-Ong Soon Hock, Gan Teik Chai-Tan Bin Shen and Chan Peng Soon-Lim Khim Wah.
The elite shuttlers performed below expectations at the preceding German Open and there is hope for them to redeem their pride in Birmingham.
It can be an early exit for Wong Mew Choo as she is down to play against third seed Wang Xin of China in the opening round today. - theStarOnline