National badminton ace Lee Chong Wei in action at the Malaysian Masters in Penang last month. - The STAR Filepic
PETALING JAYA: World No. 2 Lee Chong Wei can thank his lucky stars after getting what looks, on paper at least, like an easy draw in the All-England badminton championships.
Chong Wei, who bagged the Malaysian Masters last month, will be gunning for his fourth All-England title when the tournament is held in Birmingham from March 8-13.
The Penangite, who won the All-England title in 2010, 2011 and 2014 is seeded second and has avoided his two nemeses from China – Lin Dan and Chen Long.
The 33-year-old Chong Wei, a two-time Olympic silver medallist, has a first-round match against India’s P. Kashyap.
Chong Wei is expected to progress to the quarter-finals where he should meet seventh seed Chou Tien-chen of Taiwan. World No. 4 Kento Momota is a potential semi-final opponent.
Five-time All-England champion Lin Dan is seeded fifth and is in the same half as compatriot and world No. 1 Chen Long and Danish duo Jan O Jorgensen and Viktor Axelsen.
It’s a relief to see Chong Wei in the main draw of the men’s singles event of the All-England after last year’s embarrassment of not having a single Malaysian representative.
With Chong Wei ruled out after being suspended for failing a dope test, that was the first time since 1970 that Malaysia did not have a men’s singles shuttler in the tournament proper.
Chong Wei has shown that he has put the doping issue behind him by winning the French Open, China Open and Hong Kong Open last year.
The other two Malaysian men’s singles shuttlers in the All-England fray – Chong Wei Feng and Zulfadli Zulkiffli – are slated to start from the qualifying rounds.
In men’s doubles, top pair Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong, who are still fighting to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August, have a tricky task on their hands.
The world No. 16 are up against Thailand’s Bodin Issara-Nipitphon Puangpuapech in the first round, with fifth seeds Chai Biao-Hong Wei of China waiting for them in the second round.
Independent pair Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong also have it tough as they face India’s Manu Attri-B. Sumeeth Reddy in the first round. Indonesia’s Mohd Ahsan-Hendra Setiawan await them in the next round.
The other Malaysians bound for Birmingham are women’s singles shuttler Tee Jing Yi, women’s pair Vivian Hoo-Woon Khe Wei and mixed pair Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying.