Imminent change at top (pic)

Chen Long is the player China will depend on to win honours this year.

NEW ERA: Chen Long set to rule after latest master class

 THE Korea Open signalled the changing of the guard at the world stage as it has become evident Lee Chong Wei is powerless to stop China's Chen Long from taking over as the leading men's singles player.Chen Long is the player China will depend on to win honours this year.

No player, not even China legend Lin Dan, has managed to beat Chong Wei in straight games four times in a row but Chen Long has done exactly that. 

Chen Long, in prime physical condition at 25 and armed with sound tactics and skills, will be the player China will depend on to win honours in the main events this year.

China head coach Li Yongbo has already announced Chen Long will be sent for more tournaments, and the focus will be on him as Lin Dan, who has not played since winning the World Championships in Guangzhou in August, will not be the trump card for the badminton powerhouse anymore.

In fact, Chen Long is expected to stand in Chong Wei's way in the Malaysian's final attempt to win a World Championships title in Copenhagen in August and the Asian Games gold in Incheon. 

Age is definitely against Chong Wei as at 32, he is not going to be able to combine speed and skills to perfection anymore. 

 His bid for an unprecedented 10th Malaysia Open crown this week will also be under threat   as Chen Long is also in the fray.

Chong Wei, however, has produced magic time and again in the Malaysia Open with his  unbelievable fightback when trailing 20-10 in the deciding game to Lin Dan in the 2006 final in Kuching just one example.

That defeat was one of the reasons Lin Dan has often avoided playing in the Malaysia Open.

It will also be interesting to see what bungling men's doubles Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong have in store in the Malaysia Open after going into hiding since their defeat in the final of the French Open in October.

Several BAM officials are confident they are in good condition but their last minute withdrawal from the Korea Open suggests things may not have changed much.

It will not be a shock if they lose in the first round to China's scratch pair Chai Biao-Hong Wei in the first round tomorrow.

Even if they survive, they could stumble against Hirokatsu Hashimoto-Noriyasu Hirata of Japan in the second round.

 There is also much for Hoon Thien How-Tan Wee Kiong to prove after losing in the first round of the Korea Open.

Thien How has been nursing an elbow injury but he is the player who needs to buck up as he is still haunted by physical concerns despite possessing a solid defence and tactics.

 Thien How holds the key in his combination with Wee Kiong to become world class but time is also running out as he is already 28.


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