JAPAN OPEN: Absence of formidable trio augurs well for Chong Wei
LEE Chong Wei is primed to win the Japan Open which begins in Tokyo today after the disappointment of losing his second consecutive Olympic final to Lin Dan of China in the London Games last month.
Chong Wei, the top seed, need not worry about the China threat as their top trio of Lin Dan, Chen Long and Chen Jin have skipped the event and the formidable players he will have to overcome for the title are old foes Peter Gade Christensen of Denmark, the second seed, and seventh-seed Indonesian Taufik Hidayat.
Chong Wei opens his campaign against Anand Pawar of India and a win will see the World No 2 meet either Viktor Axelsen of Denmark or Thailand's Suppanyu Avihingsanon.
Kenichi Tago of Japan awaits the Malaysian in the quarter-finals and, should he advance, comes up against Taufik in the last four.
Should Christensen avoid upsets in the earlier rounds, he is expected to meet Chong Wei in the final.
Everything points to a comfortable winning return for Chong Wei but he may have to be cautious as he has lost some momentum after taking a short break since returning from the London Olympics.
But even a not-so-fit Chong Wei will be hard to beat and with his China rivals absent, his accumulation of titles in the super series circuit is expected to continue.
Liew Daren should try to make amends for his poor outing in last week's China Masters where he lost to Sourabh Verma of India in the first round.
Daren opens against a qualifier and if he advances, will most likely meet the unpredictable Nguyen Tien Minh of Vietnam next.
A win should see him playing Christensen in the quarter-finals.
Chong Wei Feng also missed the opportunity to make an impact on the China Masters as, after beating Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand in the first round, lost to China back-up player Wang Zhengming.
However, it will be tough for him to make any inroads in Tokyo as he opens against local talent Kenichi.