Wednesday March 6, 2013
Chong Wei hopes compatriots will rise to the occasion
Reports by RAJES PAUL
ON paper, world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei (pic) is set to be Malaysia’s sole flag bearer after the first round of the men’s singles action in the All-England, which begins in Birmingham today.
But just don’t tell Liew Daren and Chong Wei Feng, who have vowed to defy the odds and record their best-ever performances in the oldest tournament in the circuit.
“I don’t want Chong Wei to be left alone. I am bent on clearing my first round,” said a confident Daren after a practice session at the National Indoor Stadium yesterday.
Daren faces former world champion Chen Jin of China in the first round and it could all go wrong for the Malaysian.
“I’m the underdog and have never beaten him ... but there’s always a first time. I want to do better than my quarter-final finish last year. Who knows, it could be a Daren-Chong Wei final!” said Daren, the 2012 French Open winner.
“I still remember making it to the quarter-finals last year before losing to veteran Lee Hyun-il of South Korea. I lost because I lacked experience. Now, I am more mature in the game.”
Daren and Chen Jin are in the lower half of the draw with second seed and reigning German Open champion Chen Long of China. The others in their half are Wei Feng, Jan O Jorgensen and Viktor Axelsen of Denmark, Kenichi Tago of Japan and Sony Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia.
Wei Feng will take on Jorgensen, who can play exceptionally well on a good day, in the opener and is determined to get past the early rounds in his fourth All-England outing.
“I’ve been playing since in 2009 ... this time, I’ve set my mind on entering the quarter-finals at least. I’m physically in better shape and confident I can last longer on the court,” he said.
Three other aspiring Malaysian singles players – Mohd Arif Abdul Latif, Tan Chun Seang and Zulfadli Zulkifli – will start from the qualifying tournaments and it’ll be tough for them to make the main draw.
While the second stringers are hoping for personal breakthroughs, Chong Wei – the King of the Super Series – is eyeing his third All-England title.
He won the All-England title in 2010 and 2011 but withdrew from last year’s final against Lin Dan of China with a shoulder injury.
This year, Chong Wei is ready to make amends.
Top seed Chong Wei takes on Wong Wing Ki of Hong Kong in the first round but the more dangerous players in his half are China’s Wang Zhengming, Du Pengyu and Gao Hua; Indonesia’s Taufik Hidayat; Hu Yun of Hong Kong and Sho Sasaki of Japan.
Although Chong Wei will be happy to win it for the third time, he’ll be more delighted if the second echelon of players can rise to the occasion.
“Daren, Wei Feng and Arif have improved. Hopefully, they’ll get to show the world that Malaysia has more talents by doing well here,” said Chong Wei, who won the first two legs of the Super Series in South Korea and Malaysia in January.
For the record, Malaysia’s most successful outing ever in the All-England was in 1966, when the nation won both the singles and doubles titles through Tan Aik Huang (singles) and Tan Yee Khan-Ng Boon Bee (doubles).