KUALA LUMPUR: The All-England Championship, the oldest and most prestigious international badminton tournament, will open its curtain tomorrow at the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham with the participation of world’s leading shuttlers, particularly from Asia.
Malaysians bank their hopes on world’s number one Datuk Lee Chong Wei who lifted the coveted title twice – in 2010 and 2011.
However, he failed to defend the title last year due to back injury, having lost archrival Lin Dan of China, who won the honour in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2009.
The absence of Lin Dan in the tournament this time, however, will not guarantee an easy passage for Chong Wei for he is expected to face a stiff challenge from eighth seed Nguyen Tien Minh of Vietnam in the quarter-finals and third seed Du Pengyu of China in the semi-finals if both players live up to the expectations.
The other singles shuttlers such as Liew Daren, Mohd Arif Abdul Latif, Misbun Ramdan Misbun and Chong Wei Feng might face an uphill battle to go beyond the first round based on their inconsistent performance and unfavourable in the tournament.
Liew, the winner of the French Open 2012, for example, will face a daunting task for he is slotted to meet world’s number five Chen Jin of China, who happened to be the All-England champion in 2008, as early as the first round.
In the men’s doubles category, not much hope can be given to Malaysia’s number one Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong who exhibited a seesaw performance last year and boasted only the Malaysia Open Grand Prix gold on the home turf.
Potential successors to national doubles, Goh V Shem-Lim Khim Wah have been showing tremendous improvement, especially in the two tournaments earlier this year, namely the Korean Open and Malaysian Open.
They reached the quarterfinals in the Korean Open and the semi-finals in the Malaysian Open, thus their presence in Birmingham are much-awaited.
On the other hand, Malaysian women’s shuttlers have not been able to make their present felt at the All-England since the women’s category was introduced in 1900.
Likewise, Malaysia’s number one mixed doubles pair Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying, who won the Japan Open and the Malaysia Open Grand Prix Gold last year, and became runners-up in the Malaysian Open 2013, are not given much hope to make an impact due to the presence of heavyweights in the tournament.
Badminton Association of Malaysia general manager Kenny Goh said Chong Wei was targeted to clinch three titles this year, namely All-England, the Sudirman Cup (world mixed team championship) in Kuala Lumpur in May, and the World Badminton Championship in Guangzhou, China in August.
“What is more important to us is that Chong Wei is able to maintain his world’s number one ranking to ease his way to the World Championship while other players should strive to achieve their Key Performance Indicators (KPI),” he added.
For the record, Malaysia’s best performance in the national men’s singles was registered by the late Datuk Eddy Choong who won the title four times – in 1953, 1954, 1956 and 1957.
The International Badminton Federation-sanctioned All England, which was introduced in 1898 and categorised as a Premier Super Series, offers total prize money of USD$400,000 (RM1.242 million). — Bernama