Japan Open: China’s Lin Dan is badminton’s man to beat in Japan


TOKYO: Fresh off a win at the world championships, Lin Dan hopes to defend his title at the Yonex Open Japan and continue China's badminton dominance with less than a year to go before the Beijing Olympics.

World No. 1 Lin defeated Indonesia's Sony Dwi Cuncoro in Kuala Lumpur last month to win his second consecutive men's singles title at the world championships.

Lin, the tournament's top-seeded player, is also the two-time defending champion at the Yonex Open, which starts Wednesday at Tokyo's Metropolitan Gymnasium.

The tournament favorite says he has no trouble getting motivated for the Yonex Open coming off his title in Malaysia.

"With the Beijing Olympics not too far away, it's not hard to motivate yourself," said Lin. "There are a lot of good players here, and all the tournaments from now to the Olympics are important."

At the worlds, Lin didn't drop a single game during the tournament.

China's Bao Chunlai and Chen Hong, seeded second and third respectively, will also be in the hunt for the Yonex men's title along with Demnark's Peter Gade and Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei.

"This tournament has a lot of tradition," said Gade. "I've won here twice before and I'd like to make it a third time to show I can still keep up with the young guys like Lin Dan."

In the women's event, China's Zhu Lin, who won the women's title in Kuala Lumpur, will be among the favorites along with defending champion and compatriot Zhang Ning and Xia Xinfeng, seeded one and two respectively.

Japan's best hope for a medal will be in women's doubles, where the team of Kumiko Ogura and Reiko Shiota enter as the seventh-seeded team. Ogura and Shiota combined to win the bronze medal at the world championships.

"It's always a thrill to play before the home fans," said Ogura. "We know there will be high expectations, and we'll do our best to live up to them."

Japan's men's doubles team of Shuichi Sakamoto and Shintaro Ikeda, which also won the bronze in Kuala Lumpur, is also a medal contender for the hosts.

In the mixed doubles, world champions Nova Widianto and Lilyana Natsir of Indonesia will be looking to build on the gold medal they won last month at the worlds.


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