MACAU OPEN 2010 Preview – The Lees are Back in Town

Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei (pictured) comes to town for the 2010 Kumpoo Macau Open Grand Prix Gold as the sole defending champion but despite his top seed status, he may […]

Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei (pictured) comes to town for the 2010 Kumpoo Gold as the sole defending champion but despite his top seed status, he may face one of the stiffest challenges early in the tournament.  Doubles contenders have their work cut out  for them as more Lees – Sheng Mu and Yong Dae – come back to the Asian tour looking for mixed and men’s doubles gold.

By Kevin Kung, Badzine Correspondent.  Photos: BadmintonPhoto

This year’s Macau Open Grand Prix Gold will only have one defending champion on court, but he is drawn to face an enormous challenge in the first round. World number 1 and last year’s champion Lee Chong Wei stands a good chance of playing against Korean Lee Hyun II, who came out from retirement in the spring for the Thomas Cup. To make it happen, Lee need only win a qualifying match against local player Chan Io Chong first. Second seed Peter Gade of Denmark is likely to face his first challenge from last year’s runner-up, Wong Choong Hann, in the quarter-finals, followed by a semi-final most likely against Sony Dwi Kuncoro or Boonsak Ponsana.

In women’s singles, the absence of defending champion Wang Yihan does not make others road to the title much easier. Top seed Lu Lan will face Singapore Open runner-up, young talent Tai Tzu Ying from Chinese Tapei in the opening round. The winner is likely to fight for a ticket to the semi-final with the fifth seed Yip Pui Yin (pictured), who was recently crowned in the Malaysia Grand Prix Gold.

Women’s singles is by far China’s best chance at a title in Macau as Lu Lan is joined by Asian Champion Li Xuerui.  Both ladies were beaten in their last outing, at the Singapore Open, by eventual winner Saina Nehwal of India.

Uber Cup-winning Korea will have its core players competing in this event: Bae Seung Hee, Bae Youn Joo and Sung Ji Hyun.  Meanwhile, Zhou Mi, who crossed the delta from Hong Kong last year only to lose early to Sung, will face another youngster in this year’s first round as she takes on two-time World Junior Champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand.

Ratchanok is not the only top junior player who will be playing in this tournament, either. Some of her slightly older competitors are in the draw in the weeks leading up to the Youth Olympic Games. Huang Yuxiang from China and Tam Chun Hei from Hong Kong will figure in the men’s singles qualifiers while Misaki Matsutomo from Japan and China’s Suo Di, could even face each other in the second round if they can pull off incredible performances in qualifiers as well as against their tough first-round opponents Eriko Hirose and Sung Ji Hyun respectively.  Either way, before the Games in August, local Macau fans will be able to see exciting performances by these promising young athletes.

Korean Lee Yong Dae (pictured) will have his first appearance on court after he began a long convalescence due to an elbow injury sustained last summer. The second seed in mixed doubles and fourth seed in men’s doubles will use this tournament to warm up before going to the BWF World Championships in Paris next month.

After winning three titles in past two months (with a third a work in progress in California at the time of writing), Taiwan pair Fang Chieh Min and Lee Sheng Mu will be playing for another at the Macau Grand Prix Gold.  Fang/Lee have a likely quarter-final date with top seeds Mathias Boe/ Carsten Mogensen, who are the biggest European threats in this event, along with team-mates Peter Gade and mixed pair Fischer Nielsen/Pedersen.

At the same time, Malaysian Choong Tan Fook is still playing after being appointed as the Hong Kong Team visiting coach. This will very likely be his swan song in this tournament.

In mixed doubles, Malaysia Open Grand Prix Gold champion Lilyana Natsir will hope to make her third final with a third partner in two months as she and Tontowi Ahmad are set to challenge Korea’s Lee/Lee in the quarter-finals.  But first, they will have to get past Chen/Cheng, one of two Taiwan mixed pairs who will be hoping to overcome jet-lag to continue their momentum from a successful North American tour.  The other is Lee/Chien, who should trouble top seeds Gunawan/Marissa early while Denmarks Joachim Fischer Nielsen / Christinna Pedersen have possibly the toughest first-round match of all the mixed seeds when they take on Indonesians Debby Susanto / Mohammad Rijal (pictured).

Local favourites will also have a chance to claim the top spot on the podium. Wang Rong, the former Chinese National Team player and the runner-up of last year’s Thailand Open, is now playing under the Macau flag. She, together with Hong Kong East Asian Games gold medallists Zhang Dan / Zhang Zhibo (pictured) will be the best hopes of the host city to win a title.

Zhang/Zhang showed a tremendous performance in last year’s East Asian Games, beating the top two pairs from China. They will have a high chance to complete their goal as China Team is sending only one junior pair to Macau.  Their way to the top in their new home last year, however, was stopped by a scratch pairing from Korea and this pitfall is again a possibility as Indonesia Open Champions Lee Hyo Jung / Kim Min Jung await the Macau pair in the quarter-finals and Ha Jung Eun and Lee Kyung Won are also in the draw with new partners.

Badzine will have live coverage for the semi-finals and finals of Kumpoo Macau Open Grand Prix Gold so stay tuned with us.

To see the complete Macau Open draws, CLICK HERE

About Kevin Kung