PETALING JAYA: History is not on Chinese ace Chen Hong's side when he battles for the men's singles crown in the World Badminton Championships in Birmingham from July 28 - Aug 3.
By virtue of being the world number one, the 24-year-old Chen Hong is likely to be the top seed when the International Badminton Federation (IBF) announce the seedings for the prestigious competition on Thursday. The draw for the championships will be made the next day.
For Chen Hong, the hardest part is to live up to the expectations as the number one seed.
Since the tournament's inception in 1977, the biennial championships have seldom favoured the top seeds.
Only two players have managed to live up to their top billings in the history of the championships.
Yang Yang was the first to break the “the top seed jinx” in Jakarta in 1989 while Indonesian Hariyanto Arbi, renowned for his jumping smashes, achieved it in Lausanne in 1995. Two years earlier in Birmingham, Hariyanto failed in his first attempt to win the title as the number one seed.
Seven other players - Dane Sven Pri (Malmo '77), India's Prakash Padukone (Jakarta '80), Dane Morten Frost (Copenhagen '83 and Beijing '87), Zhou Jianhua of China (Calgary '85), Indonesian Ardy Wiranata (Copenhagen '91), Chinese Dong Jiong ('97) and Dane Peter Gade-Christensen ('99) – all failed to live up to their number one seedings.
Roslin Hashim was the first Malaysian to be seeded number one in Seville two years ago. It proved to be an embarrassing moment for him as he lost in the second round to Hong Kong's Tam Kai Chuen.
National singles head coach Misbun Sidek believes the battle for the title is going to be a wide open affair.
“I believe a number of top players are not going to be seeded like Peter Rasmussen of Denmark, the 1997 winner, and his teammate Peter-Gade Christensen, Indonesian Marleve Mainaky, Chinese youngsters Bao Chunlai and Lin Dan,” said Misbun.
The closest Chen Hong came to winning the title was in Seville. He reached the semi-finals only to lose 14-17, 2-15 to Christensen. Indonesian Hendrawan won the title when he defeated Christensen in the final.
Misbun believes Chen Hong is strongly motivated to win the world title.
“He has not won any title in the Grand Prix Circuit this year. Although he has not won this year, he has managed to reach the last-eight every time. That makes him a very consistent and dangerous player. He is surely a very strong contender,” said Misbun.
Chen Hong won three of the biggest Grand Prix titles last year - the All-England, Singapore and Danish Opens.
Two Malaysians – Mohd Hafiz Hashim and Wong Choong Hann – have a good final record against the Chinese player over the past few months.
Choong Hann edged Chen Hong to win the China Open in November while Hafiz's turn came at the All-England this year. Hafiz ended a 37-year-old Malaysian title drought in the All-England by beating Chen Hong 17-14, 15-10.