WORLD No 1 Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong need to be at their best to retain their Malaysia Open crown as the first Super Series tournament of 2008 has attracted all the top 10 pairs. Lee Chong Wei, however, is expected to capitalise on the absence of rival Lin Dan of China from the men's singles at the Putra Stadium on Jan 15-20.
Kien Keat-Boon Heong, the top seeds, are expected to face world champions and second seeds Markis Kido-Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia in the final but prior to that, the Malaysias will have to overcome a strong field.
They will either face former world champions Fu Haifeng-Cai Yun of China, the third seeds, or the Indonesian-American combination of Candra Wijaya-Tony Gunawan, the fourth seeds, in the semi-finals.
However, it is the quarter-finals that could prove to be tricky for Kien Keat-Boon Heong as they may meet compatriots Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah, Koreans Jung Jae Sung-Lee Yong Dae and Lee Jae Jin-Hwang Ji Man and Denmark's Jens Eriksen-Martin Lundgaard Hansen.
Kien Keat-Boon Heong fell in the last eight twice in their last three outings.
Wan Wah, who has yet to fully recover from a left knee injury, is racing against time to be fit and his status will only be known next week.
Malaysia's third pair Zakry Latif-Fairuzizuan Tazari, who are aiming to clinch a place in the Beijing Olympics in August, are ranked 16th and this means they could even face Kien Keat-Boon Heong or Tan Fook-Wan Wah in the first round.
Meanwhile, Chong Wei's chances of regaining the title he last won in 2006 have increased due to the absence of Lin Dan.
However, the top seeded Chong Wei still has to battle hard in order to win as he has China's Bao Chunlai, the second seed, and Chen Jin, the third seed, and eight seed Chen Yu among the players who can trouble him.
Sixth seed Taufik Hidayat is another player Chong Wei would be hoping to avoid as the Indonesian, purely on reputation, is capable of causing an upset should the duo meet in the last eight.
The absence of Lin Dan is not really surprising as he has often struggled in the Malaysia Open.
Chong Wei defeated Lin Dan in the 2005 and 2006 finals while the two-time world champion was shocked by Park Sung Hwan of Korea in the quarter-finals last year.
Wong Choong Hann and Hafiz Hashim are the other two shuttlers who will be looking for better fortunes in the first Super Series tournament of the year.
Choong Hann has been struggling since reaching the semi-finals of the Macau Open last year while Hafiz had a horrendous 2007 where he was bundled out in the preliminary rounds in all tournaments except for the Korea Open.
Wong Mew Choo is the other Malaysian player to receive a seeding — eighth — and this will give her a good chance of at least reaching the quarter-finals.
Having finished runner-up in the Malaysia Open last year, Mew Choo is capable of producing surprises.
Seedings — Men's singles: 1 Lee Chong Wei (Mas); 2 Bao Chunlai (Chn); 3 Chen Jin (Chn); 4 Peter Gade Christensen (Den); 5 Sony Dwi Kuncoro (Ina); 6 Taufik Hidayat (Ina); 7 Kenneth Jonassen (Den); 8 Chen Yu (Chn).
Doubles: 1 Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong (Mas); 2 Markis Kido-Hendra Setiawan (Ina); 3 Fu Haifeng-Cai Yun (Chn); 4 Candra Wijaya-Tony Gunawan; 5 Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah (Mas); 6 Jung Jae Sung-Lee Yong Dae (Kor); 7 Jens Eriksen-Martin Lundgaard Hansen (Den); 8 Lee Jae Jin-Hwang Ji Man (Kor).