PETALING JAYA: Shuttler Lee Chong Wei's bid to regain the Malaysian Open crown have received a boost with the surprise absence of world number one Lin Dan from the tournament in Kuala Lumpur from Jan 15-20.
The Chinese is the only top men's singles player to give the season-opening Super Series event a miss. Lin Dan has never won a Malaysian Open title but he successfully in Kuala Lumpur in retained the world title last August.
He lost to Park Sung-hwan of South Korea in the second round of the Malaysian Open last January.
With Lin Dan opting out, Chong Wei has been given top billing in the Malaysian Open for the first time ahead of Chinese shuttlers Bao Chunlai and Chen Jin. Defending champion Peter-Gade Christensen is the fourth seed.
Chong Wei, ranked second in the world, was surprised to learn that Lin Dan was skipping the Malaysian Open.
“Everyone wants to pick up points in the Olympic year ... he has also not won the Malaysian Open before. Maybe he is tired and can take a break because he has enough ranking points to protect his lead,” said Chong Wei.
The absence of his strongest rival will surely install Chong Wei as the favourite to win the title. But the 24-year-old Penangite is wary of being too over-confident of his chances.
“There are still many players capable of challenging for the title. But I will try my best not to disappoint the home fans. Like everyone else, I am looking for a good start to the year,” said Chong Wei, who won the title thrice before lost to Chunlai in the quarter-finals last January.
Chong Wei was in a slump in the early part of the year. He reunited with coach Misbun Sidek and won the Indonesian Open title. Chong Wei also bagged the Philippines Open and went on to bag two more Super Series titles in Japan and France.
A right knee injury returned to haunt him in the China and Hong Kong Opens but he still managed to reach the final on both occasions.
“I am not fully fit yet but I am getting good care and should be ready in two weeks' time,” he said.
The dynamic men's doubles pair of Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong will be defending the title as top seeds. Joining Kien Keat-Boon Heong in the top eight seedings are veterans Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah, who are the fifth seeds.
Wong Mew Choo, who lifted the China Open title last month, has been seeded for the first time in the Malaysian Open at number eight. And she will be hoping to produce a performance that helped her reach the final last January before losing to Zhu Lin.