Stiff challenges await shuttlers at China Open

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian shuttlers had better be prepared for some stiff challenges if they hope to nail a career first China Open title in Shanghai next week.

The 12-leg Super Series draws to a close with the city of Shanghai hosting the China Open for the first time.

Top seed Lee Chong Wei, who is seeking to repeat last year’s final appearance, faces an early test to his title credentials in the quarter-finals as he will be up against either top Dane Peter-Gade Christensen (pic) or Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana.

If Chong Wei clears the hurdle, he will probably play China’s fourth seed Chen Jin or Indonesia’s Sony Dwi Kuncoro for a place in the final.

Olympic champion Lin Dan has an easier route to the final as he seeks to retain the title.

Only sixth seed Park Sung-hwan of South Korea looks capable of posing some trouble to Lin Dan in the last four.

But, having skipped the Hong Kong Open, Lin Dan should come out on top. Malaysia’s other two singles shuttlers Mohd Hafiz Hashim and Wong Choong Hann face an uphill task right from the start as they are up against Chen Long of China and Hu Yun of Hong Kong respectively.

Top men’s doubles pair Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong also have a potentially tricky first round encounter against China’s Liu Xiaolong-Qiu Zihan.

If Kien Keat-Boon Heong clear the Chinese hurdle, they will have to beat team-mates Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari-Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif to book a place in the last four.

If that’s not bad enough, Kien Keat-Boon Heong will have to overcome Olympic champions Markis Kido-Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia if they hope to make it to their first China Open final.

World champions Fu Haifeng-Cai Yun and South Korea’s top pair of Lee Yong-dae-Jung Jae-sung could clash for the first time since their thrilling encounter in the final in Hyderabad in August if both reach the last eight as expected.

Wong Mew Choo, the only one among the current crop of national shuttlers to have bagged the China Open title when she won the women’s singles crown in 2007, also has her work cut out.

Mew Choo, whose form has dipped because of injuries, is slated for a probable second round meeting against top seed and world No. 1 Wang Yihan.

Top women’s doubles pair Chin Eei Hui-Wong Pei Tty, who were finalists last year, will have to deal with China’s top seeds Cheng Shu-Zhao Yunlei or Zhang Yawen-Qing Tian in the semi-finals.

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