Source: The Star Online
SHAH ALAM: The reigns of Lee Chong Wei and Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong as the men’s singles and doubles world No. 1 respectively will be put under test when they compete at the Malaysian Open badminton championships, which will be held at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil from Jan 19-24.
All the top 30 singles players, including Olympic and world champion Lin Dan, have confirmed participation as the championships serve the opportunity to test the conditions at a venue, which will also stage the Thomas Cup Finals in May.
And the presence of the top Chinese shuttlers, who were absent from the last two editions, will make it tough for Chong Wei to win a sixth Malaysian Open title. He can only expect an easy match against Rajiv Ouseph of England in the first round.
In the draw made yesterday for the second Super Series event of the year, Chong Wei is in the same quarter as South Korean Park Sung-hwan, whom he beat in the final last year, and fifth seed Chen Jin of China.
The other quarter in the same half has Indonesia’s former Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat, China’s Bao Chunlai and Copenhagen Masters winner Jan Jorgensen of Denmark.
The other half of the draw together with Lin Dan are top Dane Peter-Gade Christensen and Indonesians Sony Dwi Kuncoro and Simon Santoso.
“The return of the Chinese players makes it much tougher for Chong Wei to live up to the expectations of the home fans,” said national singles chief coach Rashid Sidek.
“However, the good news is he has fully recovered from a knee injury and he is coping well in training. He has always done well on home ground and I hope he can reach the final again.”
Wong Choong Hann and Mohd Hafiz Hashim are the two other Malaysians in the men’s singles main draw but they will be hard-pressed to get past the early rounds.
Choong Hann will play against Wacha Przemyslaw of Poland in the first round and the winner will get a probable second round match against Simon, who won the gold medal in the Laos SEA Games.
Hafiz has drawn Hsieh Yu-hsin of Taiwan in the opening round and a second-round match will likely be against 2007 champion Christensen.
National elite back-up shuttler Liew Daren, a quarter-finalist last year, will have to play in the qualifying rounds along with Kuan Beng Hong, Chong Wei Feng, Tan Chun Seang, Lee Tsuen Seng and Sairul Amar Ayob.
Top seeds Kien Keat-Boon Heong will find it tough to regain the Malaysian Open title they last won in 2007 as they have been drawn in the same half as Olympic champions Markis Kido-Hendra Setiawan. The Indonesians were the winners over Kien Keat-Boon Heong in the final of the SEA Games in Vientiane last month.
Kien Keat-Boon Heong open their campaign against another Indonesian pair, Yonathan Suryatama Dasuki-Rian Sukmawan.
“We normally play better in our second tournament back-to-back but we are skipping the Korea Open next week, so we have to see how things goes. We will aim to get into at least the semi-finals,” said Kien Keat.
National No. 2 Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif-Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari are heading for a second round battle with former top national pair Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah unless they lose to 2005 world champions Howard Bach-Tony Gunawan of the United States.
Super Series Masters Finals women’s singles champion Wong Mew Choo also has a tough draw as the unseeded Malaysian can expect to play against world champion Lu Lan of China in the second round.
Lydia Cheah opens against second seed Wang Lin of China while Julia Wong, making a return after a six-month layoff because of a torn knee ligament, has an opening match against SEA Games gold medallist Salakjit Ponsana of Thailand.