THE Badminton World Federations (BWF) decision to do away with the nationality separation policy for the Super Series proved costly for Malaysia as all six mens doubles pairs were drawn in the same half for the Malaysia Open which begins in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.
WHEN the draw for next weeks Malaysia Open was made yesterday, Lee Chong Wei found the Great Wall of China in his way.
Chong Wei, the defending champion, is scripted to face three great barriers in the form of Bao Chunlai, Chen Hong and Lin Dan.
The Malaysian No 1 is drawn to meet Chunlai in the quarterfinals, Chen Hong in the semis and, possibly, Lin Dan in the final.
As for Malaysias Asian Games doubles gold medallists Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong, the enemies, at least in the early rounds, are from within.
As all six Malaysian pairs have been drawn in the same half, they may well end up destroying one anothers chances.
Kien Keat-Boon Heong have to come through the qualifiers and awaiting them in the first round are teammates Chan Chong Ming-Hoon Thien How. A win for either pair will see a second-round match against veterans Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah.
On another front, Lin Dan and Indonesias Taufik Hidayat will have a
chance to kill each other early as they are meeting in the first round of the mens singles.
Malaysias No 1 singles player Lee Chong Weis hopes of winning his fourth consecutive title will face a stiff challenge after he was drawn with the possibility of meeting Chinas Bao Chunlai, Chen Hong and Lin Dan in the quarter-final, semi-final and final respectively.
But for the neutrals, the draw also pitted reigning Asian Games and Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia against world champion Lin Dan in the very first round.
In the mens doubles, Malaysias chances already suffered a setback when Asian Games champions Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong were forced to play in the qualifying round, but after yesterdays draw, the damage could be even worse.
Kien Keat-Boon Heong, who should have little problem beating Vitaly Durkin-Alexandr Nikolaenko of Russia and compatriots Chew Choon Eng-Hong Chien Hun in the qualifying rounds, will meet teammates Chan Chong Ming-Hoon Thien How in the first round of the main draw.
If Kien Keat-Boon Heong secure victory, they have veterans Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah, the joint third seeds, awaiting them in the second round. And if they progress, will most likely come up against joint fifth seeds Lin Woon Fui-Fairuzizuan Tazari in the last eight.
Woon Fui-Fairuzizuan have a tough first round match themselves where they play Chinas No 2 Guo Zhendong-Xie Zhongbo.
Gan Teik Chai-Zakry Latif are also in the same half of the draw but they play Thailands Sudket Prapakamol-Patapol Ngernsrisuk in the first round before an uphill task against second seeds Jens Eriksen-Martin Lundgaard Hansen of Denmark in the next round.
National mens doubles coach Rexy Mainaky was not amused with the situation and said that the tournament does not look like a Super Series event at all.
"The Super Series was supposed to involve all the best players but this is not the case this time. I just cant rationalise how all our pairs ended up in the bottom half," said Rexy.
"I dont think the national ranking (players who are ranked higher with previous partners will still receive favourable seedings) should have been used for the tournament.
" Im sure I will not be the only person to raise this matter and I expect the other coaches will feel the same way.
"It also makes it difficult for us to gain ranking points if we keep meeting each other in every tournament. If this continues, it is going to be extremely difficult qualifying for the World Championships and the Olympics (in 2008).
"Even the mens singles is affected as the qualifying tournament looks as tough as the main draw now."
In the mens singles, second seed Chong Wei should clear the first round against Bjoern Joppein of Germany and has an equally easy second round match against Japans Shoji Sato.
However, he is expected to meet Bao Chunlai in the last eight and either Chen Hong or Chen Jin, also from China, in the semis.
Chong Wei may well be hoping for a favour from Taufik to eliminate Lin Dan in the first round.
Taufik had branded Lin Dan "arrogant" during the Asian Games and the latter would be going all out for revenge in the Malaysia Open.
If Lin Dan beats Taufik, he should meet Park Sung Hwan of South Korea in the second round with Peter Gade Christensen of Denmark his likely opponent in the last four.
Other Malaysians are not expected to go far in the tournament.
Hafiz Hashim could not have asked a for a tougher match as he opens against Chen Hong, while Wong Choong Hann must go through three matches in the qualifying rounds and the first round of the main draw against John Moody of New Zealand in the first two days of the tournament.
Chen Jin awaits Choong Hann in the second round.
Kuan Beng Hongs second round opponent will be Bao Chunlai while Yeoh Kay Bin is expected to take on Chen Yu of China in another second round match.