PETALING JAYA: A favourable draw coupled with the absence of Olympic and world champion Lin Dan from the Korean Open has put Lee Chong Wei in a good position to secure a great start to the year.
The season-opening Super Series championships from Jan 12-17 in Seoul marks the return of the world No. 1 to competition after pulling out of the Laos SEA Games last month because of a knee injury.
For Lin Dan, he will make his first appearance for the year in the Malaysian Open, which will be held the week after the Korean Open.
However, China will still have a strong singles cast in the Korean Open with Chen Jin, Bao Chunlai and Chen Long in the fray.
Chong Wei is in the same half of the draw as third seed Chen Jin and he starts his campaign in Seoul against Andrew Smith of England. In the same quarter are Marc Zwiebler of Germany and Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand.
The other half of the draw has Chunlai, Chen Long, South Korean Park Sung-hwan and top Dane Peter-Gade Christensen.
It was Christensen who denied Chong Wei his first Korean Open title last year.
Chong Wei bagged a total of six titles last year, including a successful defence of the Super Series Masters Finals in Johor Baru last month and singles chief coach Rashid Sidek hopes the shuttler can continue from where he left off.
“It has not been easy for any player to achieve what he did last year even though he missed the major titles, including the world championship,” he said.
“Even in the absence of Lin Dan, the pressure is still on him as everyone is out to beat the world No. 1. Chong Wei had ample time to recover and should be ready for the challenges.”
Rashid also hoped that the back-up shuttlers would be able to make the most of the opportunities given to them.
Besides Chong Wei, Kuan Beng Hong and Chong Wei Feng are also in the main draw but they are staring at early exits.
Wei Feng has a first-round match against Christensen while Beng Hong meets a qualifier, who is likely to be Liew Daren, and has Sung-hwan in his path in the second round.
Tan Chun Seang and Mohd Arif Abdul Latif are likely to slug it out for a place in the main draw.
Super Series Masters Finals winner Wong Mew Choo is the only Malaysian in the women’s singles competition and she has a tough opening match against second seed Zhou Mi of Hong Kong. In the same half of the draw are upcoming Chinese talent Wang Shixian and world champion Lu Lan.
Malaysia are not represented in the men’s, women’s and mixed doubles events.