PETALING JAYA: Fans should savour every moment of this year’s All-England badminton championships in Birmingham starting today.
This could be the last All-England to use the three-set 21-point rally scoring. And it could also be the last appearance for several old-timers, including defending champion Lee Chong Wei.
There are new beginnings too. A new service rule is expected to add a twist to the game and the introduction of the total US$1mil (RM3.8mil) prize money is expected to spice up the oldest badminton tournament.
The Badminton World Federation (BWF) have agreed in principle to change the scoring format to 11 points for five sets after a council meeting in Jamaica last November, and it looks like three quarter of the members are set to endorse it during the world body’s annual general meeting during the Thomas-Uber Cup Finals in Thailand in May.
The current 21-point best-of-three-game scoring format was introduced 10 years ago before the 15-point game.
This could also be the last All-England for 35-year-old Chong Wei, who has graced the world of badminton for almost two decades.
The other old-timers are 35-year-old Lin Dan of China; Lee Hyun-il of South Korea (36); and Denmark’s Mathias Boe (37) and Joachim Fischer Nielsen (39).
Four-time All-England champion Chong Wei has put on his focus mode as soon as he arrived in Birmingham and says he will just enjoy the All-England as though it is his last.
“Everything is looking good for me here. I do not want to be distracted by anything ... I’ll just focus on one match at a time,” said the world No. 2.
Chong Wei will play Ygor Coelho of Brazil in the first round today before his probable second-round match against Jan O Jorgensen of Denmark.
National coach Hendrawan does not want Chong Wei to be worried about changes.
“All-England is special to him and he is just enjoying every moment. He is still fired up as before,” said Hendrawan.
“Chong Wei has experimented the new service rule during training. It does change the dynamics of the game.
“It’s not only about the service but one needs to be ready for the receiving serve as players are now able to return the serve with a flat drive. One needs to be prepared for eventualities.
“Changes are common and we just have to get used to it.
“Chong Wei is facing a Brazilian but it’ll be an important first round as it’ll give him opportunity to adjust and tweak his game if he needs too.”
In the absence of reigning world champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark, the title contenders besides Chong Wei are Lin Dan, Chen Long, Jorgensen, Hyun-il, K. Srikanth of India and several youngsters – Shi Yuqi of China, Angus Ng Ka Long of Hong Kong, Kenta Nishimoto of Japan and Jonatan Christie of Indonesia.