England: Double Olympic champion Lin Dan will launch his bid to become the fourth male singles player to win six All-England badminton titles when the sport’s oldest tournament begins on Wednesday.
China’s most decorated singles performer last appeared at the 105-year-old championships in 2012, when he won his fifth crown, and returns this year after taking time away from the sport.
Another triumph for the 31-year-old world number six would put him alongside former champions Frank Devlin of Ireland, Denmark’s Erland Kops and Indonesian Rudy Hartono.
One of the competitors standing in fifth-seeded Lin’s way is compatriot Chen Long, the world champion who won the All-England crown in 2013.
Chen, the top seed, plays a qualifier in his opening match while Lin faces Hong Kong’s Wei Nan.
Defending champion Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia will be missing while he serves a ban after failing a doping test at the world championships in August.
“It is a shame when the very best players in the world are unable to compete,” Badminton England chief executive Adrian Christy told Reuters.
“It will be a shame that Chong Wei won’t be able to renew his rivalry with Lin Dan as we have enjoyed some amazing rivalries between those two.”
Elsewhere, Indonesia’s fifth-seeded pair Tantowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir are aiming to win their fourth mixed doubles title in a row.
Their quest looks likely to hinge on a potentialquarter-final clash with England’s Chris and Gabby Adcock, ranked sixth in the world.
The Commonwealth champions are looking to overturn a decade of Asian dominance in Birmingham and begin their assault on Wednesday against Indonesia’s Markis Kido and Pia Zebadiah Bernadeth, a brother-sister combination.
The last time Britain gained success at the championships was 10 years ago when Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms lifted the mixed doubles title.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)