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Lin Dan returns to action in Shanghai

http://www.sports.cn/ 2008-11-16 18:29:00

By Raphael Sachetat.

For the first time since the Olympics, Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei will compete in the same tournament as the Olympic Champion went on a 3-month break to prepare for the last legs of the Super Series.

Everyone had been waiting for such a draw where Lin Dan, reigning Olympic Champion, would face Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei, who has since their last encounter, climbed one ladder to the top of the world ranking and scooped top billing.

Things however haven’t run smoothly for Chong Wei, who has only reached the final at his best in several of the tournaments he had entered for. On his side, Lin Dan had officially said that he only wanted to play when he was at his best so as to not disappoint his fans as the Olympic title holder.

Needless to say that this Li Ning China Open should see a fully fit Lin Dan. The second seed from China is likely to meet one of his compatriots – who entertained the world tour while he was away – Gong Weije or Lu Yi in the second round after taking on a qualifying shuttler in the first round.

A mouth watering quarter final awaits him then, should Taufik Hidayat overcome a tricky first round against Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand. With the form and motivation the Indonesian has shown in the last two tournaments – losing to Peter Gade in France in the final partly because of a bad blister (and Gade’s astonishing performance) – this should be a definite highlight this week.

The winner of this confrontation could be meeting Bao Chunlai for a classic, as the tall left hander also makes his big come back after a disappointing Olympics. Bao will have to stop Denmark’s Joachim Persson, who is also on a good run, before that.

In the upper part of the draw, Chong Wei and Gade are set to meet in the quarter-final, with Chong Wei starting his journey in Shanghai with a tough hurdle in the name of Qiu Yanbo, who had worked wonders in the Yonex Japan Open last September.

Gade faces Hong Kong’s Chan Yan Kit before a possible clash against India’s Chetand Anand or Malaysia’s veteran Wong Choong Hann for another interesting tie. Chen Jin, who has failed to shine ever since his bronze in Beijing will have to be at his best as his draw is anything but easy.

A tricky first match against upcoming and rising star of Japan Kenichi Tago, before a probable match against China’sChen Hong, who has retired from the national team last year but who could still do damage to top players. And then, awaits 8th seed Korea’s Park Sung Hwan – who has returned to International competition as all his teammates after a mini Olympics competition was held in Korea . This explains why all the Korean delegation skipped most of the post Olympic tournaments.

Zhou Mi leads the charge in the women’s singles as she was World No 1 when the draw was released – she lost the spot to Tine Rasmussen since then – and the former Chinese national will gladly enjoy her new status in her motherland, hoping to fare as well as during other tournaments especially as she had won the China Masters in Beijing last month.

Having secured so many titles this year, she is assured of participating in next month’s Super Series final and could very well top the billing there too. She takes on Slovenia’s Tvrdy in the first round before a potential clash with Yao Jie in the second round and Malaysia’s Wong Mew Choo (title holder of the China Open) in the quarters.

Then comes Tine in the semis. The latter will have some hard work to do to live up to her recent status in the quarter-finals as she might face either Wang Lin – winner in France – or Xu Huaiwen, the last European who had actually taken the World No 1 spot, in June 2006.

Tine, on her hand, is the only European brought up shuttler to reach this level ever since her compatriot Camilla Martin, some 10 years ago. Pi Hongyan of France couldn’t dream of a worse draw in her former country. The Chinese born French faces Wang Chen of Hong Kong in the first round before playing (should she win) the winner of Wang Yihan and Jiang Yanjiao.

Then Xie Xingfang – her Nemesis – stands in the quarter-finals. Another perfect first day match will be India’s Saina Nehwal, recently crowned World Junior Champion in Pune, who has been all over the National news in India, who will try to outwit China’s Zhu Lin. The winner of this match will probably confront Lu Lan, second seed at the lower half of the draw in an expected tight quarter-final.

Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun are back in business. Reassuring all their fans who had been stressed out by their recent split partnership in Denmark and France (the duo who clinched the Olympic silver were only helping out the younger generation get some experience).

But they are back as a pair and lead the men’s doubles chart. Enjoying a bye in the first round, they could be facing in the quarters Candra Wijaya and Tony Gunawan, who are yet to win a title since the 2007 Yonex Japan Open.

Malaysia is sending no less than nine pairs, amongst which Koo Kien Keat/Tan Boon Heong, Mohd Fairuzizuan Tazari/Zakry Abdul Latif and veterans Lee Wan Wah and Choong Tan Fook, who have recently signed a deal with independent sponsors to continue their career – for maybe another couple of years.

A mix of young and old pairs from Malaysia will hope to fare well in this tournament. Second seeds Lars Paaske and Jonas Rasmussen will try to make it to the end in the absence of World No 1 Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan. Another pair to watch is fifth seed Lee Young Dae and Jung Jae Sung of Korea who take on China’s He and Sun in their first match.

The women’s doubles will see what the next generation of draws will look like. The former pairs of Gao ling/Huang Sui, Yang/Zhang are no longer part of the circuit and it’s all up to China’s younger pairs to continue the tradition. Du Jing and Yu Yang are top seeds and set to play this fall’s heroines Zhao Yunlei and Shu Cheng in the quarters.

Malaysia’s in form Wong Pei Tty and Chin Eei Hui are second seeds after their great run in Europe – ending an entire career title drought in Odense before clinching silver in Paris. They look like they are the next in line to trouble China after Lee Kyung Won and Lee Hyo Jung from Korea seem to be stepping down a little – they are not part of this draw, neither are any of the top Indonesian pairs. China will have a strong field of 11 pairs which could be enough to ensure them a couple of medals by the end of this week.

The Indonesians have skipped the mixed doubles as well, which should give room to other nations to shine in Shanghai. Such as Lee Young Dae and Lee Hyo Jung, Olympic Champions, who return to competition after being away from the courts since their glorious outing in Beijing this summer.

He Hanbin and Yu Yang are top seeds while Xie Zhongbo and Zhang Yawen also return to competition after a period away. They are the No 2 seeds.

The event will be played in Shanghai – a new spot for China’s badminton in the recently built state of the art Yuanchen Development Centre, in the heart of the new business district of Pudong in Shanghai, starting Tuesday November 18th for the qualifying round and the next day for the appealing main draws.