PETALING JAYA: World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei, competing in his first tournament proper since losing in the final of the World Championships last month, should have no problem defending his Japan Open title when he takes to the court on Wednesday.
Chong Wei came close to winning Malaysia’s first world title in badminton in Guangzhou last month.
Unfortunately, the two-time Olympic silver medallist suffered cramps in the third game against nemesis Lin Dan and retired while trailing 17-20.
Although Chong Wei did participate in the Indian Badminton League (IBL) after the world meet, the Japan Open will be his first real test as he guns for his fourth title – after his victories in 2007, 2010 and 2012.
Chong Wei, who will turn 31 next month, will certainly have it easy in Tokyo as there’s a clear lack of major obstacles in his half of the draw.
He meets Taiwan’s Hsu Jen Hao in the first round and should progress to face Indonesia’s Sony Dwi Kuncoro next.
Awaiting him in the quarter-finals will be either eighth seed Hu Yun of Hong Kong or rising Indian youngsters B. Sai Praneeth or Sourabh Verma.
His first real challenge should be in the semi-finals, where he is drawn to meet either fourth seed Boonsak Ponsana or fifth seed Nguyen Tien Minh of Vietnam.
The surprise package could be China’s world No. 10 Wang Zhengming, who is riding high after bagging the China Masters last week. He should give Tien Minh a run for his money when they meet in the first round.
World No. 2 Chen Long is almost certain to march into the final too, with a relatively weak draw in his half.
Besides Chong Wei, defending champions Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying are also in the fray in the mixed doubles.
They are seeded fourth and meet Thailand’s Pakkawat Vilailak-Kunchala Voravichitchaikul in the first round, with China’s Zhang Nan-Zhao Yunlei potential semi-final opponents.
Peng Soon-Liu Ying have been below par in recent months and will be hard-pressed to retain their title.
The other Malaysians competing in Tokyo are the independent women’s pair of Ng Hui Lin-Ng Hui Ern.