CURRENT World No 1 and Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei, the main drawcard in the Proton Johor Open badminton championships which begin at the Johor Baru City Council Indoor Stadium here today – will be on a mission of his own.
Chong Wei, the top seed, is the hot favourite for the title which will give him a shot at winning a record-breaking eighth men’s singles national title and go one better than his coach Misbun Sidek.
More importantly, Chong Wei is using the Johor Open as a build-up to the China Open in Shanghai (Nov 18-23) which will be followed by the Hong Kong Open (Nov 25-30).
It has not been plain sailing for the top national player after the Beijing Games. His best was finishing runners-up to Taufik Hidayat in the Macau Open while in the French Open, Chong Wei, who was the top seed and defending champion, was beaten again by the Indonesian in the semi-final.
Chong Wei needs to play in the Johor Open and at least reach the last four to confirm his place in the National Grand Prix Finals in Alor Star next month.
“It is an important tournament for me. That is why I am here. The Johor Open will allow me to take a shot at the national title for a record eighth. This is itself is a good incentive for me wanting to do well in JB,” said Chong Wei.
Chong Wei’s task of winning the Johor title is made all the more easier after second seed and former All-England champion Mohd Hafiz Hashim pulled out at the eleventh hour.
According to BAM team manager How Kim Tho, Hafiz withdrew to be with his wife who is expecting the couple’s first baby and was admitted to hospital on Sunday.
Apart from Hafiz, the country’s top national women’s doubles pair of Chin Eei Hui-Wong Pei Tty, who won the Danish Open and finished runners-up in the French Open, have also withdrawn due to Eei Hui’s ankle injury.
However, newly-crowned world junior champions Mak Hee Chun-Teo Kok Siang will compete.
Top woman shuttler Wong Mew Choo, who also skipped the Penang Open due to the Olympics, is not expected to face any difficulty in winning here. She is expected to play second seed Julia Wong in the final.