BUKIT JALIL: Does Malaysia have the talent in the men’s singles department to replace world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei?
Based on last year’s results and current form, there are eight potential shuttlers. Sadly, all of them are still under the radar in the international scene.
Six of them are Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) players – Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin, Goh Soon Huat, Choong Yee Han, Tan Kian Meng, Soong Joo Ven and Soo Teck Zhi – and two independent players – Misbun Ramdan Misbun and Zulfadli Zulkifli.
Except for Joo Ven, Yee Han and Kian Meng, the rest took part in the ongoing Maybank Malaysian Open but none cleared the qualifying tournament at the Putra Stadium on Tuesday.
All of them put up fighting displays but still were not good enough to pull off a breakthrough.
How much longer will it take for them to join the big league?
China are already leaps and bounds ahead of Malaysia. So are countries like Indonesia, South Korea and even Japan, Thailand and India.
Malaysia's top-ranked badminton star Lee Chong Wei is determined to bounce back on home turf this week after a weekend loss in Korea to hard-charging world number two Chen Long of China.
The Malaysian Open kicks off Wednesday with the 31-year-old hometown hero smarting from his loss to Chen on Sunday in the singles final of the Korean Open.
The top two seeds are expected to cruise through their respective halves of the draw in Malaysia and could clash again in the final in Kuala Lumpur.
Lee has dominated world badminton, holding the top ranking nearly uninterrupted since 2008 and winning seven titles last year.
BUKIT JALIL: World No. 5 Kenichi Tago of Japan believes that he is his greatest enemy.
The industrious yet stylish Tago came close to winning his first Super Series title last year but fell in the final of the French Open to Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen.
The Chiba native’s confidence took a blow and he ended the year on a low – twice losing to Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto and failing to make the final of the Super Series Finals last month.
But after exacting revenge on world No. 3 Jorgensen in the quarter-finals of the Korean Open last week, Tago believes that the morale boosting semi-final finish is a good start to the year.
BUKIT JALIL: Comebacks are easier said than done.
This is the reality that India’s Saina Nehwal is facing as she looks to rediscover her form that won her country’s first badminton bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics Games.
The 24-year-old skipped the season-opening Korean Open due to fitness issues and will begin her campaign in the main draw of the Maybank Malaysian Open on Wednesday.
BUKIT JALIL: Let's be real, it will be tough for world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei to win his 10th home title in the Maybank Malaysian Open when the action starts Wednesday with the first round at Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
He is getting older. His younger opponents are getting bolder and stronger. And he is starting to feel the burden of responsibility on his tired shoulders.
But the 31-year-old intends to let the magic of playing at home do the talking once again this week.
His nine-month-old baby boy Kingston will be cheering his “papa” on every day from the stands. His devoted wife Wong Mew Choo, family and friends will be there. And thousands of his loyal and patriotic fans will be rooting for him.
BUKIT JALIL: Misbun Sidek could very well be making more appearances in tournaments held in Malaysia in the future.
The former national singles coach made his first official appearance in a tournament for the first time in three years since quitting his post from the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM).
Misbun, to the surprise of many, took one of the coaches’ seats during his son Misbun Ramdan’s second qualifying match against China’s Gao Huan.
Fuelled by his father’s presence, world No. 44 Ramdan mounted a furious comeback against the 24-year-old Gao Huan.
Unfortunately it was not enough as Ramdan went down fighting 9-21, 21-12, 17-21 in 57 minutes.
“I started too slow because this is a Super Series premier event and I was nervous,” said Ramdan.
NEW ERA: Chen Long set to rule after latest master class
THE Korea Open signalled the changing of the guard at the world stage as it has become evident Lee Chong Wei is powerless to stop China's Chen Long from taking over as the leading men's singles player.
No player, not even China legend Lin Dan, has managed to beat Chong Wei in straight games four times in a row but Chen Long has done exactly that.
Chen Long, in prime physical condition at 25 and armed with sound tactics and skills, will be the player China will depend on to win honours in the main events this year.
BUKIT JALIL: If there is one person to break Lee Chong Wei’s more than five-year reign as the world No. 1 player, it has to be Chen Long of China this year.
That’s the belief of Denmark’s top player Jan O Jorgensen, who is here for the Maybank Malaysian Open starting on Wednesday at Putra Stadium.
“I may be currently ranked third in the world but I do not see myself breaking Chong Wei’s reign in the near future,” said the 26-year-old Jorgensen, who has won only two Super Series titles - the 2010 Denmark Open and last year’s French Open.
“For now, Chong Wei and Chen Long are in a different league all together. They are able to raise the level of badminton to a different level when they face-off.”
“I do not dare put myself in that league to threaten Chong Wei’s reign - just yet. For now, it is Chen Long’s role.”
MILTON Keynes badminton star Chris Adcock failed in his bid to become the first English player to appear in two Superseries finals when he and Andy Ellis fell in the men’s doubles semi-finals of the Victor Korea Open in Seoul.
Ellis and Adcock, who won the Yonex Sunrise Open mixed doubles title with wife Gabby in November, were beaten 21-11 21-9 by four-times world champion and London 2012 winner Fu Haifeng and current partner Hong Wei.
The Chinese pair got off to a flying start by opening up a 7-0 lead and, although Adcock and Ellis recovered to within three points at 9-6, Fu and Hong finished the game with a five-point burst from 16-11.
KUALA LUMPUR: South Korea have been a rising force in women’s doubles in recent years.
They have three pairs in the world top 10 - Jang Ye-na-Kim So-young, Ko A-ra-Yoo Hae-won and Jung Kyung-eun-Kim Ha-na, although the latter are no longer playing together.
In terms of junior ranks, the Koreans have been equally superb with Shin Seung-chan-Lee So-hee bagging the world junior title in 2011 and 2012 before Chae Yoo-jung-Kim Ji-won added their names to the list last year.
The 19-year-old Ji-won, who is the new starlet of the team, is eager for the opportunity to make her mark at the senior stage along with partner Yoo-jung.
BUKIT JALIL: It is a rare sight to see a woman coaching her husband in any sport, but that doesn’t bother singles shuttler Eric Pang,
With his wife Yao Jie as his coach, veteran Eric of Holland is hoping to get off to a great start in the Maybank Malaysian Open at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Wednesday.
And perhaps with the husband-wife power combination, the 31-year-old Eric will be able to produce an upset in the tournament after having been involved in the game for 13 years.
KUALA LUMPUR: It was confirmed after the team manager’s meeting on Monday that women’s singles shuttler Tee Jing Yi has been withdrawn from competing in women’s doubles alongside Sannatasah Saniru.
Top seed Wang Xiaoli (left) and Yu Yang of China have withdrawn from the Malaysian Open badminton championships which begins on Wednesday.
Jing Yi who left the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) stable in November last year only to rejoin them after a few weeks, had to withdraw because Sannatasah is not a BAM player.
BUKIT JALIL: National doubles shuttler Hoon Thien How is rallying his team-mates to lift the gloom in the men’s doubles department by ending a four-year rut at the Maybank Malaysian Open.
The men’s doubles have failed to win any Super Series titles for the past four years since Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong nailed the home title in 2010.
This year, Malaysia will be represented by Thien How-Tan Wee Kiong, Kien Keat-Boon Heong, Lim Khim Wah-Goh V Shem and independent shuttlers Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazri-Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif and all four will start from the main draw on Wednesday.
The others - Tan Yip Jiun-Yew Hong Kheng, Tan Chee Tean-Yin Wong Fai, Chooi Kah Ming-Teo Ee Yi, Mohd Razif Abdul Latif-Hafiz Hashim, Gan Teik Chai-Ong Soon Hock and Jagdish Singh-Roni Tan Wee Long are aiming to come through the qualifying round starting on Tuesday.
BUKIT JALIL: Top singles back-up shuttler Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin is ready to soak in the experience of playing in his first Maybank Malaysian Open at Putra Stadium on Tuesday.
After missing out on the opportunity to play at home last year due to a freak motorcycle accident, Iskandar is ready to shine at home.
National back-up player Iskandar Zulkarnain, who missed last year's Malaysian Open due to a motorcycle accident, hopes to make an impact in this year's edition from the qualifying round on Tuesday.
He will take on his younger compatriot - Asian junior champion Soo Teck Zhi in the opening round of the qualifying tournament.
KUALA LUMPUR: The year’s first badminton tournament – the Korean Open – is set for a red-hot finale in chilly Seoul.
World No. 1 and top seed Lee Chong Wei and second seed Chen Long of China were in sizzling form en route to overcoming their semi-final opponents on Saturday.
Chong Wei stood solid in the face of Kenichi Tago’s constant battering to prevail 21-17, 21-17 in 51 minutes while the lanky Chen Long packed off Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana 21-15, 21-9 in 41 minutes.
The opener saw Chong Wei losing his focus momentarily before making a comeback to nick it. The second game was nail-biting with both trading blow for blow before the 31-year-old Malaysian claimed his 15th win over the Japanese in 16 meetings.
But Chong Wei had better be wary of the lanky Chen Long, who is shaping up well for their first duel this year.