A BATTLE of sponsors and a diplomatic row between China and Japan, have seen the entire China team pulling out of the Yonex Japan Open and the player who is expected to benefit from this is Lee Chong Wei.
Never have China's shuttlers, whose main sponsor is fast-growing local brand Li Ning, totally snubbed the Japan Open which is the home tournament of leading badminton equipment suppliers Yonex.
As for the Malaysians, it is an unwritten rule that they have to play in the Japan Open to honour Yonex their their long-time sponsors and Chong Wei looks well on course to lift his third Japan Open title. Except for a tough quarter-final clash against local favourite Kenichi Tago and a semi-final clash against Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia, Chong Wei's path looks clear.
Chong Wei begins his campaign against Anad Pawar of India while two other Malaysians -- Liew Daren and Chong Wei Feng -- will meet Sai Praneet of India and Kenichi respectively.
World junior champion Zulfadli Zulkifli, who has a habit withdrawing late and conceding walkovers, has done it again and pulled out from the qualifying rounds at the eleventh hour.
This is only depriving another young Malaysian of getting a chance to compete in a super series event.
Men's doubles Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong will also benefit from this latest development as they now have a good chance of reaching the final.
Before the redraw, they were staring an early exit as they were down to play South Korean dangermen Kim Ki Jung-Kim Sa Rang but now as the second seeds, they have a first-round bye and will most likely meet Thailand's Patiphat Chalardchalaem-Nipitphon Puangpuapech in the second round tomorrow.