PETALING JAYA: Chinese shuttlers Bao Chunlai and Chen Jin (pic) are not in the same half of the draw as Malaysian Open top seed Lee Chong Wei but there is little relief for the Malaysian, who is in the same quarter as Indonesian ace Taufik Hidayat.
Chong Wei faces a tricky challenge in the season-opening Super Series event at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil from Jan 15-20.
He has team-mate Mohd Hafiz Hashim as his first-round opponent and it will be the third time that the duo will clash in a Super Series tournament. In the inaugural Series last year, Chong Wei lost to Hafiz in Singapore but avenged the defeat in Japan.
If Chong Wei, who is now ranked second in the world, clears the first round, he is likely to have Poland’s Przemyslaw Wacha as his next opponent before the quarter-finals.
World number one Lin Dan of China is the only top shuttler giving the tournament a miss and Chong Wei is looking at regaining the title that he had won thrice before losing to Chunlai in the quarter-finals last year.
Chong Wei has regained his form after a brief slump and has not lost in the early rounds since winning the Indonesian Open last year. He also emerged as champion in the Super Series events in Japan and France.
Also in the half as Chong Wei are top Dane Peter-Gade Christensen and Chen Yu of China.
Another all-Malaysian first-round battle will see veteran Mohd Roslin Hashim taking on KLRC Bhd’s Sairul Amar Ayob with the winner likely to play against Christensen.
Former Malaysian number one Wong Choong Hann also has the luck of the draw against him. He has a first-round match against former world number one Chen Hong of China. If he wins, he faces second seed Chunlai in the next round.
Yeoh Kay Bin opens his campaign against third seed Chen Jin.
In the women’s singles, China Open champion Wong Mew Choo faces team-mate Julia Wong in the first round and she has in her quarter top seed Xie Xingfang of China. Also in the same half is reigning world champion Zhu Lin. Mew Choo beat both the Chinese players in the China Open last November.
The top seeded men’s doubles pair of Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong, who are also the title holders, face the possibility of meeting team-mates Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah in the quarter-finals.
In the same half as Kien Keat-Boon Heong are former world champions Fu Haifeng-Cai Yun of China, who are the third seeds, and Japanese Shuichi Sakamoto-Shintaro Ikeda, who beat the top Malaysian pair in the quarter-finals of the World Championships last year.
The third ranked Malaysian pair of Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari-Mohd Zakry Latif are seeking to boost their chances of qualifying for the Beijing Olympics in August but they could not have asked for a worse draw than having to face top Indonesians Luluk Hadiyanto-Alvent Yulianto in the first round.
If they survive the opening match, they will be up against the formidable Indonesian-American combination of Candra Wijaya-Tony Gunawan.