Lin Dan seen here training during the Thomas Cup finals in New Delhi last month. He will start his Japan Open campaign in the qualifying rounds. - AZHAR MAHFOF/ The Star
KUALA LUMPUR: China’s five-time world champion Lin Dan is lurking dangerously to burst the bubbles of two Malaysian men’s singles shuttlers – Liew Daren and Chong Wei Feng – in the early rounds of the Japan Open in Tokyo from June 10-15.
Daren and Wei Feng are still on a high after helping Malaysia reach the final of the Thomas Cup Finals in New Delhi recently.
Lin Dan, still hurting from his team’s shock semi-final loss to eventual champions Japan, is expected to restore some pride for the powerhouse when he begins his campaign from the qualifying round of the Japan Open.
The unseeded Lin Dan should have no problem overcoming Japan’s Kazumasa Sakai in the first round and face Daren for a place in the main draw.
In the main draw, world No. 35 Lin Dan is expected to meet Hans-Kristian Vittinghus of Denmark in the opening round, with the winner going on to face Wei Feng.
Daren said that he is ready to move on after letting slip a golden chance to become the hero in his second Thomas Cup outing recently.
He flopped in the group stages but earned some raises for putting up a gallant fight before losing in a crucial match against Takuma Euda in the Thomas Cup final.
With Daren’s narrow defeat to Euda, Malaysia lost 3-2 to Japan and the 22-year wait for the Cup continues.
“The first few days after the Thomas Cup was difficult for me ... I couldn’t bear reliving the disappointment of losing so narrowly and letting the team down. I know I could’ve won it but I didn’t take my chances.
“It has been almost two weeks now and I’m ready to start all over again. I’m not troubled by any injuries right now and I’ve regained some confidence to get my game going again,” said Daren, who was plagued with inconsistency prior to the Thomas Cup Finals due to several injuries.
Although he has been handed a tough Japan Open draw, Daren said he is ready to give it a go.
“It’s unfortunate that I’ll probably meet Lin Dan in the second round of the qualifying tournament. I last played against him at the Thomas Cup Finals in Wuhan two years ago and I managed to steal a game from him.
“I hope to give him a good fight again and, hopefully, the unexpected can happen ...,” he said with a smile.
The others in Lin Dan’s half are second seed Chen Long, Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen, sixth seed Son Wan-ho of South Korea and Japan’s Kento Momota.
Should Daren and Wei Feng bite the dust, Malaysia can – as always – count on world No. 1, top seed and defending champion Lee Chong Wei to keep the flag flying high.
Four-time Japan Open champion Chong Wei, who kept a clean record by winning all his matches at the Thomas Cup Finals, is in the top half with fourth seed Kenichi Tago of Japan, India’s Srikanth and Indonesian Sony Dwi Kuncoro.
If everything goes according to form, it should be a Chong Wei-Lin Dan showdown – and what an exciting final that will be!