PETALING JAYA: Lee Chong Wei tasted success in the Badminton Asia Championships in Wuhan three years back but a very tough draw for the 2019 edition makes it an uphill task for the Malaysian players to emulate his achievement.
Chong Wei has yet to get back to competitive badminton as he continues to seek treatment for nose cancer.
In his absence, Malaysia’s best chances to earn glory in Wuhan this year lie in the mixed doubles and men’s doubles.
Independents Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying will be out to reclaim the mixed doubles title they last won in New Delhi, India, in 2010 but they should cross paths with third seeds Yuta Watanabe-Arisa Higashino of Japan if they reach the last eight.
Watanabe-Higashino are the highest ranked Japanese pair and will be gunning to become the first from their country to claim the mixed doubles title in the history of the Asian championships.
Fifth seeded Peng Soon-Liu Ying will open their campaign with a match against Singaporeans Danny Bawa Chrisnanta-Tan Wei Han.
Eighth seeds Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie should reach the last eight where they will have to be at their best to counter fourth-seeded Thais Dechapol Puavaranukroh-Sapsiree Taerattanachai, who won the Singapore Open title by beating Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing last Sunday.
National No. 3 mixed doubles pair Kian Meng-Pei Jing will play world No. 1 Chinese pair Zheng Siwei-Huang Yaqiong for the first time and will have to raise their game to avoid becoming a first-round casualty.
Their bodies took a beating after playing back-to-back tournaments in the Malaysian Open and Singapore Open but the one-week rest will be a welcomed boost for them to aim for another strong run.
Kian Meng-Pei Jing were the only Malaysians to reach the semis in the Malaysian Open earlier this month.
Rio Olympics men’s doubles silver medallists Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong open their campaign against Taiwanese pair Lu Ching-yao-Yang Po-han but should progress to the last eight where top seeds Marcus Fernaldi Gideon-Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo of Indonesia will be waiting.
Up-and-coming men’s doubles pair Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik may get a chance to avenge their All-England final defeat as they could face Indonesian veterans Mohammad Ahsan-Hendra Setiawan in the second round.
National men’s doubles pair Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi will be hard-pressed to survive the second round as they will probably play defending champions Li Junhui-Liu Yuchen of China.
In the men’s singles, national No. 2 Liew Daren has drawn Malaysian Open champion Lin Dan of China in the first round.
Chong Wei Feng is the other Malaysian men’s singles player to earn a place in the main draw but may not progress past the second round with reigning Olympic champion Chen Long of China waiting.
Japan’s world No. 1 men’s singles shuttler Kento Momota will be favoured to secure a back-to-back title with fourth-seeded Chen Long and fifth-seeded K. Srikanth of India in the same half of the draw.
Youth Olympics champion Goh Jin Wei will have it tough from the first round of the women’s singles as she plays third seed Chen Yufei of China.