PETALING JAYA: The absence of Chong Wei Feng will see the battle for the men’s singles title in the Maybank National Circuit Finals to be one of the most competitive in years.
The four-day competition will commence with the group stage matches at the Negri Stadium in Kuala Terengganu on Saturday.
Wei Feng has not qualified after missing the Perak Open in October and Sabah Open earlier this month due to injury.
Wei Feng’s absence has thrown the competition wide open and Perak Open champion Liew Daren could take this opportunity to nail his maiden national title.
However, third seed Daren has been handed a tricky draw. He will have to face national back-up duo Tan Kian Meng and Nur Azryn Mohd Ayub. The other shuttler in his Group D is Malacca’s Bong Guang Yik.
“I’m aware that with Wei Feng’s absence the expectation will be on me to win,” said the world No. 87.
“I believe it’s my best chance too and I would love to end the year on a high note.
“But I have to be realistic as I’m not in my best condition. I have just returned from a week’s break and had only two days of training. I also had some (heel) injury issues after the Axiata Cup (earlier this month).
“I have got myself a tough group too. It’s going to be difficult against Kian Meng and Azryin as I have lost to them before.”
In the fray are the likes of former world junior champion Zulfadli Zulkiffli, former internationals Mohd Arif Latif and recently crowned Sabah Open winner Goh Soon Huat who are equally capable of stealing the show.
Zulfadli is the man to beat. He is currently the nation’s third ranked shuttler at world No. 59.
Zulfadli is the top seed and has been drawn in Group A alongside Soo Teck Zhi, Chong Yee Han and Soh Wooi Yik.
World No. 64 Arif and world No. 95 Soon Huat are in Group B and Group C respectively.
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong are the hot favourites to lift the men’s doubles title.