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Wednesday January 9, 2013

Aging Chong Wei must overcome young guns in Seoul

KUALA LUMPUR: They are young – and restless. The season-opener Korean Open, which begins in Seoul today, could mark a transition in the world of badminton, with world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei the primary target.

The Malaysian is being viewed as easy prey due to his age and injuries.

The 30-year-old Chong Wei, who has just recovered from a thigh strain that led to him conceding a walkover in the Super Series Masters Finals in Shenzhen, China, last month, faces former world junior champion Wang Zhengming in today’s first round.

Zhengming has never beaten Chong Wei in their last five meetings. But don’t forget that Du Pengyu finally overcame Chong Wei at the seventh time of asking – in Shenzhen last month.

The other aspiring youngsters in the same half with top seed Chong Wei in Seoul are Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia; Viktor Axelsen of Denmark; and Wong Wing Ki of Hong Kong.

Chong Wei will also have to worry about second seed Chen Long, who be baying for the Malaysian’s blood with the likes of Du Pengyu, Chou Tien-chen of Taiwan and Kenichi Tago of Japan from the lower half.

Chen Long has beaten Chong Wei five times out of 12 meetings and has showed that he has the credential to be an able replacement for two-time Olympic Games champion Lin Dan.

National singles coach Tey Seu Bock agreed that it would be a challenging year for Chong Wei, whose goal this year is to become the world champion. The World Championships are in Guangzhou in August.

Chong Wei, who lost to Lin Dan in the final of the London Olympic Games, made eight other final appearances and won five of them. It will be a tall order to repeat that feat.

In the men’s doubles, all eyes will be on Malaysia’s Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong. Can they make a lasting impression this year by overcoming an array of new combinations and live up to the country’s expectations?

They’ll have to, don’t they. Afterall, they’ve been given a chance keep their partnership alive until this year’s World Championships.

They must prove themselves to be worthy opponents against South Koreans Lee Yong-dae-Ko Sung-hyun and Kim Ki-jung-Kim Sa-rang; China’s Hong Wei-Shen Ye and Chai Biao-Zhang Nan; and Indonesia’s Markis Kido-Alven Yulianto and Mohd Ahsan-Hendra Setiawan if they hope to stay together longer.

Kien Keat-Boon Heong will also have to contend with old rivals Cai Yun-Hai Feng of China and Denmark’s Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen, who have not shown any signs of slowing down.

In the mixed doubles, Malaysia’s hopes rest on Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying.

It, however, depends on the condition of Liu Ying, who is battling with a knee injury.

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