KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian shuttlers have been handed a tough draw for the All-England badminton championships, which will be held in Birmingham from March 4-9.
According to the draw released Tuesday, world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei has a tricky first round match against Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk, who has a knack for rising to the occasion.
The others in top seed Chong Wei’s top half of the draw are Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen, China’s Du Pengyu, Malaysia’s Wei Feng and Japan’s Kenichi Tago and Kento Momota.
If Chong Wei wins the opener, he will meet either Wei Feng or Marc Zwiebler of Germany before either Pengyu or Momota awaits him in the quarter-finals.
Two-time All-England champion Chong Wei should meet either Jorgensen or Kenichi in the last four.
Second seed and defending champion Chen Long of China has an easier path to the final from the bottom half of the draw.
His main challengers are third seed Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia and two old-timers – Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana (sixth seed) and Vietnam’s Nguyen Tien Minh (eighth seed).
Chen Long’s opening round match will be interesting as he has been pitted with former world junior champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark.
If everything goes according to plan, fans can expect a repeat of last year’s final between Chen Long and Chong Wei. Chen Long put up a solid show to beat the Malaysian last year.
Three other Malaysians – Liew Daren, Zulfadli Zulkiffli and Misbun Ramdan Misbun – will start from the qualifying tournament.
The draw is worse for the men’s doubles – especially for reigning Malaysian Open champions Lim Khim Wah-Goh V Shem. The unseeded Malaysians have been drawn to meet third seeds Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen of Denmark in the first round again.
Last month, the Malaysians were beaten by the Danes in the first round of the Korean Open, although they gained revenge on the Danes in the opening round of the Malaysian Open a week later.
If Khim Wah-V Shem win this time, they are set to take on the winner of the match between former internationals Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif-Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari of Malaysia and Gideon Markus Fernaldi-Markis Kido of Indonesia.
Should they make the quarter-finals, they may meet compatriots and fifth seeds Hoon Thien How-Tan Wee Kiong.
It is unfortunate that Malaysia have three men’s doubles pairs in the same quarter, but national coach Pang Cheh Chang is not too bothered about it.
“That’s how it is with the draw ... In the past, Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong used to meet Lee Yong-dae-Chung Jae-sung all the time and, now, Khim Wah-V Shem are bumping into Mathias-Carsten all the time,” said Cheh Chang.
In women’s doubles, there is a possibility of reigning SEA Games champions Woon Khe Wei-Vivian Hoo and the Ng sisters – Hui Lin-Hui Ern – facing off as early as the second round.
Khe Wei-Vivian have a first round match against England’s Heather Olver-Kate Robertshaw while Hui Lin-Hui Ern have a tougher task against third seeds Misaki Matsutomoto-Ayaka Takahashi of Japan.
Malaysia’s sole mixed doubles representatives – Chan Peng Soon-Lai Pei Jing – have a first round meeting against reigning world champions and second seed Ahmad Tontowi-Lilyana Natsir of Indonesia.
So, it could all be down to Chong Wei again.