MALAYSIA OPEN 2013 Preview – Let’s warm things up

From the blistering cold of South Korea to the hot tropical weather of Malaysia, things are going to get warmed up in the second installment of badminton’s 2013 Superseries season.  […]

From the blistering cold of South Korea to the hot tropical weather of Malaysia, things are going to get warmed up in the second installment of badminton’s 2013 Superseries season.  The absence of top Chinese players are apparent in the draw but with so many of the best players and the best fans in the world, there is no way this can be a dull event.

By Adrian Kok, Badzine Correspondent.  Photos: Badmintonphoto

Lucky Number 9

Two-time Olympic silver medallist and revered local hero Lee Chong Wei (pictured below) is placed at the top part of the draw.  He will face Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen in the first round but the young Dane should not pose a severe threat to the local hero as he still lacks the experience.  China’s three top guns and even Lee’s fellow Korea Open finalist Du Pengyu are not featured in this event, removing some rather obvious initial roadblocks for Lee to take the 9th title.

However, aces like Wang Zhengming, Kenichi Tago , Sho Shasaki and Taufik Hidayat are not going to down without a fight.  They will have tricks up their slaves to put pressure on the local hero.  The top question still remains, will Lee be able to cope with the pressure to grab his lucky number 9?

Eyes will also be on Liew Daren (pictured top) to stage a brilliant performance as he vowed to bring his game to the next level after scoring his first win in France last year.  He will face Ajay Jayaram in the first round.  Daren will have to dig deep in his reserves playing against Ajay as the Indian has terrific stamina.  Nor will it be a walk in the park for Daren in round 2 as he will encounter either Nguyen Tien Minh or Taufik Hidayat, two very experienced players who are very difficult to play against.

First round men’s singles matches of note
Lee Chong Wei (MAS) [1] vs. Viktor Axelsen (DEN)
Boonsak Ponsana (THA) vs. Marc Zwiebler (GER)
Nguyen Tien Minh (VIE) [3] vs. Taufik Hidayat (INA)
Ajay Jayaram (IND) vs. Liew Daren (MAS)

The missing “Wangs”

The Wangs are missing in this inaugural event, as is the now just as great Li Xuerui, and this always means that fan interest can waver.  Nevertheless, emerging aces from other countries are present to turn the heat up.  First seed Saina Nehwal should cruise through the first two rounds.  If it all goes well, she will meet Eriko Hirose in the quarter finals.  Though Saina is ranked higher than Eriko, head to head statistics shows that the Japanese veteran actually has a slight edge in their last 5 encounters.

A match to look out for in Round 1 is between Sayaka Takahashi and three-time World Junior Champion Ratchanok Intanon (pictured).  It will be a rematch of their first round match at the 2012 Japan Open, which the young Thai won in a close rubber match.

First round women’s singles matches of note
Tine Baun (DEN) [3] vs. Sindhu P. V. (IND)
Ratchanok Intanon (THA) [5] vs. Sayaka Takahashi (JPN)
Minatsu Mitani (JPN) [7] vs. Porntip Buranaprasertsuk (THA)
(possible) Busanan Ongbamrungphan (THA) vs. Sun Yu (CHN)

Top Chinese pairs separated

Top Chinese pair and Korea Open champions Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei have been separated and each has been paired with younger players.  Both of them are in the same half of the draw and there might be a chance that they might encounter each other.  Zhang Nan is paired with Tang Jin Hua and Zhao Yunlei will partner Qiu Zihan.  Zhang and his new partner will play against a relatively new English pair of Chris Langridge and Heather Olver.

2012 was a good year for Malaysian mixed doubles stars Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying (pictured) as they had much success.  Though they did crash out in the second round of the Korean Open, they might be fired up for the home event as expectations are high.

In their first round the home favourites will be encountering a new Thai pair of Sudket Prapakamol and Duanganong Aroonkesorn.  It will be an exciting match to witness because there is so much experience on the Thai side, even if Aroonkesorn is not known as a mixed player.

Not being known as a mixed player has not hurt Markis Kido’s chances as he and his sister won a Grand Prix title last year and pulled off numerous upsets in other events.  They are hoping to be the fly in the ointment of Fischer Nielsen/Pedersen’s title hopes this year.

First round mixed doubles matches of note
Joachim Fischer Nielsen / Christinna Pedersen (DEN) [2] vs. Markis Kido / Pia Zebadiah Bernadeth (INA) (pictured)
Robert Mateusiak / Nadiezda Zieba (POL) [4] vs. Michael Fuchs / Birgit Michels (GER)
Chayut Triyachart / Yao Lei (SIN) vs. Vitalij Durkin / Nina Vislova (RUS)

Hot pairs

Since the retirement Jung Jae Sung after the 2012 London Olympics, Lee Yong Dae paired up with Ko Sung Hyun.  This hot pair will be on a roll after their success in their home event, especially with the world #1 Danes out of the way in Kuala Lumpur.  The Korean will face the German pair of Michael Fuchs and Oliver Roth for Round 1.  It could be a stroll in the park up until the semi-final, where they might meet the first seeds Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong.

The guidance of Park Joo Bong has brought much change to the Japanese Badminton.  As such, Japanese men’s doubles pairs have become a constant threat.  Seeded second in this event, Hiroyuki Endo and Kenichi Hayakawa meet another German pair, Ingo Kindervater and Johannes Schoettler, in round one.

Competition will be tighter when they progress through the rounds as they will be encountering tougher opponents like Angga Pratama and Ryan Agung Saputra (pictured).  The Indonesians are in good form, which will poses a threat to the Japanese and they’ll be keen to make the most of the chance to avoid Ko/Lee, who have ended the Indonesians’ last two Superseries campaigns.

First round men’s doubles matches of note

Koo Kien Keat / Tan Boon Heong (MAS) [1] vs. Yonathan Suryatama Dasuki / Hendra Aprida Gunawan (INA)
Kim Ki Jung / Kim Sa Rang (KOR) [3] vs. Chai Biao / Liu Xiaolong
(possible) Hirokatsu Hashimoto / Noriyasu Hirata (JPN) [4] vs. Cho Gun Woo / Kim Dae Eun (KOR)

The Veterans

Denmark’s Christina Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl are currently the reigning champions in women’s doubles at the .  The first seeds will be up against a young Malaysian pair, Shevon Lai and Marylen Ng.  The younger pair will gain good tournament exposure but it will be a tall order for them to beat the Danish veterans.

A more hopeful local pair, Vivian Hoo and Woon Khe Wei (pictured), are up against Tse Ying Suet and Poon Lok Yan from Hong Kong.  The pairs met each other once last year in the All England Open which the Malaysian pair lost.  Since this is a home event, it should give a boost to the Malaysian pair to step up to avenge the previous loss.  With that, Hong Kong’s veteran pair will need to up their game and not let their guard down.

Along with the Danish top seeds, the favourites for the title must be China’s Ma Jin / Tang Jinhua.  Winners of back-to-back Superseries titles in Europe last year, Ma/Tang have an interesting opener against two-time World Junior Champions Lee/Shin of Korea.  The Chinese players themselves won that title once each, in 2006 and 2009 respectively.

First round women’s doubles matches of note
Ma Jin / Tang Jinhua (CHN) [6] vs. Lee So Hee / Shin Seung Chan (KOR)
Pia Zebadiah Bernadeth / Rizki Amelia Pradipta (INA) vs. Choi Hye In / Kim So Young (KOR)
Vivian Hoo / Woon Khe Wei (MAS) vs. Poon Lok Yan / Tse Ying Suet (HKG) (pictured)

Click here for the complete 2013 Malaysia Open draws

About Adrian Kok