PETALING JAYA: It will be almost impossible for world No. 16 Liew Daren to defend his French Open title after being handed an incredibly tough draw for the badminton tournament, which will be held in Paris from Oct 22-27.
Daren enjoyed an amazing run last year, beating higher ranked players like Japan’s Sho Sasaki, Hong Kong’s Hu Yun and Danish duo Jan O Jorgensen and Viktor Axelsen en route to winning his maiden career title.
But the 26-year-old’s form has dipped since and just last week was dumped in the quarter-finals of the KL Open by back-up shuttler Tan Kian Meng.
It doesn’t look like things will get any better for Daren as he has been drawn in the same half as world No. 1 and compatriot Lee Chong Wei.
In fact the KL-born shuttler who faces India’s P. Kashyap in the first round of the Denmark Open from Oct 15-20, will start off against sixth seed and world No. 8 Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand in Paris.
Daren has beaten Boonsak in both their previous meetings and, should he get past the Thai for a third time, will probably face Hong Kong’s Wong Wing Ki in the second round.
It is in the quarter-finals that he will be up against Chong Wei.
A third Malaysian, KL Open winner Chong Wei Feng, will face the experienced Sasaki in the first round. A win will pit him against another Japanese – third seed Kenichi Tago – in the second round.
The French Open, which several top players skipped last year, could well feature another clash between Chong Wei and world No. 2 Chen Long, who is seeking to bounce back from his Japan Open first round loss last month.
In men’s doubles, world No. 5 Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong will face Japan’s Hirokatsu Hashimoto-Noriyasu Hirata in the first round in Paris.
A win for the fourth seeds will see them face either Germany’s Michael Fuchs-Johannes Schoettler or England’s Chris Langridge-Peter Mills in the second round.
Kien Keat-Boon Heong's run, however, should come to an end in the quarter-finals as they should be up against South Korea’s Kim Ki-jung-Kim Sa-rang. The Koreans have beaten the Malaysians four times over the past year.
The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) have issued Kien Keat-Boon Heong an ultimatum – either deliver the goods at the back-to-back Denmark Open and French Open or be split up.
The second Malaysian pair in the fray – Hoon Thien How-Tan Wee Kiong – will open their French Open campaign against Poland’s Adam Cwalina-Przemyslaw Wacha.
But their journey should come to an abrupt end in the next round as they will be up against top seeds Mohd Ahsan-Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia.
Top mixed doubles pair Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying are seeded fifth in Paris and will start against Japan’s Hashimoto-Miyuki Maeda.