PETALING JAYA: Badminton legend Lee Chong Wei believes the much anticipated men’s singles competition of the Yonex Thailand Open from Jan 12-17 – the first stop of the three-event World Tour series – is anybody’s game.
The three-time Olympics silver medallist thinks that it is premature to say that Japan’s world No. 1 Kento Momota will start as the overwhelming favourite after he made a remarkable return to competition last week by winning his third successive crown in the All Japan National Championships.
Playing his first tournament since he was injured in a fatal road accident in Malaysia on Jan 13, Momota performed as if he had never left the court.
He won five matches including beating world No. 11 Kanta Tsuneyama 18-21,21-12,21-17 in the final.
That prompted many to believe Momota is set to pick up where he left off after winning the Malaysian Masters on the eve of the mishap.
However, Chong Wei said that it may not be the case with all the best shuttlers in attendance and eager to impress as well.
Except for reigning Olympics champion Chen Long, the singles contest will line up nine world’s top 10 players including No. 2 Chou Tien-chen of Taiwan, No. 3 Anders Antonsen, who won the Denmark Open in October and No. 4 Viktor Axelsen, the All-England winner in March just before the Covid-19 pandemic brought the season to a halt.
There is also Malaysia’s very own world No. 10 Lee Zii Jia, who is looking to build on his impressive semi-final outing at the All-England.
“Despite the pandemic, most players have continued with their training regime, ” he said.
“So it’s really hard to predict because it’s been such a long time since they last competed. I don’t think it’s right to say who’s better than the other, there’s no clear favourite.
“Let’s wait until the first tournament is completed as by then it should give us a clearer picture.”
The other two meets lined up are the Toyota Thailand Open (Jan 19-24) and the season finale World Tour Finals (Jan 27-31).
Expect Momota to battle hard as he still stand a mathematical chance of making the top-eight cut for the Finals.
Currently ranked 35th in the points standings, Momota could still earn his place if he sweeps both the Thailand Open titles.