HYDERABAD, India: Chinese ace Lin Dan is poised to become the first player in World Badminton Championship history to win three successive men's singles titles.
Defending champion and Olympic gold medalist Lin, winner of the World Championship in 2006 and 2007, has held an edge over his Malaysian archrival Lee Chong Wei in major events and will hope to extend that in the event beginning Monday in Hyderabad.
His aggressive style, which earned Lin the nickname of 'Super Dan', was the feature of his triumphs over No.1-ranked Lee in the finals at last year's Beijing Olympics and at the All-England Open in Birmingham.
Lin will carry that confidence into the upcoming tournament, while Lee will be burdened by the unhappy memory of his last sojourn to this southern Indian city, where he made a first-round exit from the Indian Open five months ago, after a bout of food poisoning.
Lin and his top-seeded archrival Lee are both drawn in the top-half of the championship along with seasoned Danish star and former silver medalist Peter Gade, who is seeded No. 3.
In the other half, second-seeded Chinese Chen Jin and former world champion Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia, No. 4 seed this time, have a relatively easier draw.
Title holder Lin's low No. 5 seeding is because his world ranking dropped due to non-participation in several Super Series events.
A potential semifinal encounter between Lin and Lee could be the showpiece of the event, with Lee eager to clinch his maiden World Championship.
"I'm in my top form and this is my prime time to win the World title," says Lee.
"It's always tough to play against Lin Dan ... he's that sort of a player, but I've prepared hard for this challenge,
"He's always attacking, and one's got to produce his best game to contain him."
Lee did beat Lin in the Swiss Open in March, before the Chinese outsmashed the Malaysian in straight games in the All-England final.
"Earlier, I used to commit mistakes during crucial points and also succumb to pressure," says Lee, whose coach Misbun Sadek, a former world No. 2, has been working hard on ironing out these problems.
The World Championships, held every three years until 1983, then became a biennial event from 1985. The format was changed again when it became an annual tournament from 2005.
In the women's singles, another player chasing a record third title is Chinese player Xie Xingfang. Other fancied players are world No. 1 Zhou Mi of Hong Kong, the top seed, and No. 2 Wang Lin of China.
Xie, silver medalist in the Beijing Olympics last year, is hoping to surpass former Chinese stars Li Lingwie, Han Aiping and Ye Zhaoying, who all have two World championship women's singles titles to their credit.
India, subject to sporadic acts of terrorist violence, has devoted heavy security to the event, with 1,000 police officers making a five-cordon security ring around the venue and team hotels.