With the 2011 All-England Badminton championship off to a start now in Birmingham, the question on the minds of Malaysians is whether Lee Chong Wei can retain his All-England title which he won last year?
Datuk Lee Chong Wei is slated to meet his nemesis Lin Dan of China in the finals, if everything goes as expected.
Although Lee Chong Wei is the world No 1 badminton player, his record against Lin Dan is something else, losing to the Chinese more often than winning. In fact, his record against Lin Dan is terrible.
Chong Wei and Lin Dan are drawn in separate halfs in this year’s All-England, something Malaysians and I believe badminton fans all over the world were looking to as the two are undoubtedly the world’s best.
But Chong Wei’s path to the final looks the tougher to me. He has Bao Chunlai to contend with if he gets past his first round opponent Sho Sasaki of Japan. Chunlai can certainly cause trouble on his day, although Chong Wei has consistently beaten the Chinese.
Then, Simon Santoso stands in his way. Simon is a player you cannot write off.
If Chong Wei gets past Simon Santoso, he has to face veteran Pete Gade of Denmark. Pete Gade was one of the best badminton players in his heydays. Age has caught with the wily Dane and he is not as fast as he was. But one never knows, so Chong Wei has to be careful and not take Gade for granted.
Lin Dan on ther other hand, has only one possible serious challenger in Chen Jin. But being compatriots, they have the luxury of deciding who proceeds in the championship, something the Chinese have done in the past in one guise or another.
Can Chong Wei get the better of his nemesis, if they meet in the final?
There is no reason why Chong Wei cannot do it. Both of them are about equal in skills. The one factor which is likely to make a differrence is mental strength and who has the greater hunger to win.
One thing Chong Wei should try to avoid is to engage Lin Dan at the net. This is where Lin Dan seems to trump Chong Wei.
Chong Wei should also try to mix up his game with some aggressive smashes not go on the defensive most of the time. The element of surprise is always a good idea to keep in mind.