PETALING JAYA: It’s freezing cold in Seoul but world No 1 Lee Chong Wei will be out to keep up a hot run at the US$1.2mil South Korea Open beginning tomorrow.
With the biggest-ever prize money at stake in the history of world badminton, Chong Wei is prepared to deal with the weather, the absence of his coach Misbun Sidek, a very tough draw and tremendous pressure to become the first Malaysian to win three back-to-back titles in a month.
Chong Wei has bagged the 2010 Super Series Masters Finals (Jan 9) and Malaysia Open (Jan 23) titles to give early warning of another season of dominance in the BWF World Super Series.
He is breaking all kinds of barriers and based on his strong determination, more is expected to come from him as he seeks to become the first Malaysian to become the world and Olympic champion.
Chong Wei, who arrived in Seoul yesterday, said that he was determined to overcome an array of Chinese players, including Lin Dan, to get his hands on the US$90,000 (RM275,000) purse for the men’s singles champion.
“Even as a top seed, I have to go through a tough draw from the first round. It speaks of the quality in this tournament,” said the defending champion.
“There will be stiff competition because everyone is eyeing to create history as the champion of this most lucrative tournament.
“Hopefully, I will be able to retain the title. It will not be easy to raise my game to a very high level again (after the victories in the Masters Finals and Malaysia Open) but I will try.”
Chong Wei will take on Jan O Jorgensen in the first round tomorrow. The Dane has beaten the Malaysian once and it will be interesting to see if he can pull it off again.
Victory for Choong We will give him a match against probably Park Sung-hwan and it is not easy to break the resolve of the South Korean in his own backyard.
In the same half of the draw are China’s Chen Jin, Bao Chunlai, Chen Long and Du Pengyu; Indonesia’s Sony Dwi Kuncoro and Japan’s Kenichi Tago.
The other half of the draw has second seeded Indonesian Taufik Hidayat, China’s Lin Dan, Denmark’s Peter-Gade Christensen, another Indonesian, Simon Santoso, and Malaysia’s Mohd Hafiz Hashim.
An early highlight of the tournament is a possible quarter-final showdown between Taufik and Lin Dan.
But it will very much depend on whether Lin Dan will keep up his trend of withdrawing at the quarter-final stage, always citing back injury.
The three-time world champion and Asian Games gold medallist did so in the last three Open tournaments – in China, Hong Kong and Malaysia – after showing excellent form in his early round matches.
With so much money and glamour at stake, will Lin Dan again pour cold water on a tournament played in a city experiencing one of its worst winter seasons?