PETALING JAYA: It will be an uphill battle for the Malaysian singles shuttlers to pick up Olympic qualifying points at the Japan Open, which begins in Tokyo today.
Wong Choong Hann (pic) has never done well in Japan and he has to get past Denmark's Peter Gade-Christensen, the Malaysian Open champion, in the first round.
The 30-year-old Choong Hann has never managed to get the early rounds in his career at the Japan Open.
On top of that, he has painful memories in Japan, having ruptured his Achilles heel tendon during the Thomas Cup Finals tie against South Korea in Tokyo last year. It took him five months to get back on his feet again.
Besides Choong Hann, Lee Chong Wei and Mohd Hafiz Hashim are also playing in Tokyo. All of them are in the same half of the draw with Gade-Christensen, world champion and top seed Lin Dan of China and Song Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia.
The luck of the draw has put Chong Wei up against Hafiz in the opening round with the winner expected to cross swords with Sony Dwi Kuncoro, the Indonesian who finished runner-up in the World Championships in Kuala Lumpur. Sony defeated Chong Wei in the third round en route to the final.
Said national chief coach Yap Kim Hock yesterday: “All our players (Choong Hann, Chong Wei and Hafiz) have a tough draw in Japan. I hope they will defy the odds to earn valuable Olympic qualifying points. The qualifying period ends in May next year.
“Misbun (Sidek) is working hard to get his two players (Chong Wei and Hafiz) to qualify for the Games while (Wong) Tat Meng is working on putting Choong Hann in the Olympics. There is a healthy rivalry going on.”
Only two Malaysians will get to compete in the Olympics.
Kim Hock left with the team for Tokyo yesterday.
Four other Malaysians – Mohd Roslin Hashim, Yeoh Kay Bin, Sairul Amar Ayob, Lee Tsuen Seng – are also in the main draw of the championships, the seventh leg of this season's Super Series.
All four will also find the going tough. Roslin's first round opponent is Kendrick Lee. If he gets past the Singaporean, his next opponent is Lin Dan.
As for Kay Bin, he faces Shoji Sato of Japan in the opening round with Indonesian Taufik Hidayat or Chen Hong of China standing in his way in the second round.
Sairul opens his campaign against China's Chen Yu while Tsuen Seng's first round opponent is Indonesian Simon Santoso.
Two other Malaysians – back-up shuttlers Tan Chun Seang and Chan Kwong Beng – will be playing in today's qualifying rounds.