ALOR STAR: Veteran national singles shuttler Wong Choong Hann has described the Proton Kedah Open, which begins today at the Kedah Badminton Association (KBA) Hall here, as an interesting distraction.
He felt that the Open had come at the right time for the national players to recover from the effects of the high-pressured World Championships in Kuala Lumpur last month.
And he believes that the almost full turnout by the senior players would be a welcome respite before the shuttlers turn to more important international assignments.
“It has been a very long time since I’ve seen such a strong turnout for a local circuit tournament. The postponement of the Indian Open has turned out to be a blessing for the Kedah Open,” he said yesterday.
“After the disappointment in the World Championships, it would be a welcome change to compete against each other and evaluate the juniors’ progress this week. Although there is less pressure to win here, the seniors still need to be on their toes or risk being embarrassed by juniors out to prove a point.”
Despite coming into the tournament on the back of a fine run that saw him make the China Masters final in July, Choong Hann played down his chances of breaking the Lee Chong Wei-Mohd Hafiz Hashim domination in the local circuit.
Choong Hann has been drawn in the bottom half and is expected to take on Hafiz in the semi-finals.
“I will use this competition to prepare for the Japan Open and I have not set any target for myself. It will be a week of hard work but also fun for all as we have all the badminton players in the country, both seniors and juniors, coming together here.
“On the other hand, it has been ages since I last won a local tournament. So it would be good if I can win something in Kedah.”
Choong Hann opens his challenge against Penang’s Ooi Swee Khoon. Chong Wei takes on national back-up shuttler Lok Chong Chieh while Hafiz faces his namesake Mohd Hafiz Shaharuddin of Selangor.
The only notable absentee in the men’s singles competition is Kuan Beng Hong, who is in Alor Star as a spectator in his hometown as he recuperates from a recent surgery.
In the men’s doubles, all the national men’s top pairs are competing with the exception of the third ranked Tan Bin Shen-Ong Soon Hock.
However, Bin Shen will see action in the men’s doubles following the withdrawal of Soon Hock on Monday. Ng Kean Kok, who used to partner Bin Shen during their junior days, will replace Soon Hock.