With the pending retirement of Lee Chong Wei looming after the 2012 Olympics, the Malaysian world #1 has focused all of his efforts this year claiming one of the few titles to elude him in his career. His performances this year has propelled him to the undoubted favourite for the title, even with Lin Dan in the draw. The Chinese 2nd seed has also allegedly set his retirement after the 2012 Games in London, with both players not even reaching 30. China’s big hope has hand picked the events he has played since his Olympic triumph in Beijing three years ago.
There is the European threat, with Peter Gade who never considered a retirement before the age of 30 but still looking to claim his first world title. He is seeded 3rd this year to break up the Asian dominance in the top seeds this year. The next generation could break through this year with the likes of Chen Long, Kenichi Tago and Du Pengyu all receiving seeds this year.
There are some players to watch also from the 48 unseeded players, Kazushi Yamada reached the last 8 in Paris last year, Shon Wan Ho was a top 16 this year and Spain’s Pablo Abian is one of the most consistent players on the EBU Circuit.
Lee Chong Wei
Seeded – 1
2010 Result – Quarter Finals
1st Round Opponent – Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk (Thailand)
Likely Threats – Park Sung Hwan (Last 16) Chen Long (QF)
His performances in the past 8 months have put him at a level of invincibility that Lin Dan had going into the 2008 Olympics. His opener against the world #32 Saensomboonsuk is s favourable start as Lee Chong Wei could have hoped for. He hold a 5-0 head to head advantage and has failed to drop a game in any of the five matches.
His 3rd round match if the seeds go according to plan is the world #9 Park Sung Hwan, who he holds an 11-1 head to head advantage against with that single victory for the Korean coming in 2004. Chen Long is a likely quarter final opponent, but the Chinese player has only claimed a single win over the Malaysian in five matches and that was in 2009.
This event is ultimately Lee Chong Wei’s to lose. With four Super Series victories in 2011 already to his name as well as winning two of their last three Super Series against Lin Dan.
Seeded – 2
2010 Result – Quarter Finals
1st Round Opponent – Kestutis Navickas (Lithuania)
Likely Threats – Peter Gade (SF)
The 2009 world champion tamely crashed out last year and controversy had surrounded the Chinese player since. Withdrawals before matches with Chinese players has been given as various injuries but losses to Sho Sasaki as well as Lee Chong Wei on numerous occasions have seen Lin Dan’s aura of invincibility disappear.
It will be his first meeting with Navickas on his opening round match, with a massive question mark looming over a potential quarterfinal match with Du Pengyu. Peter Gade should be his likely semi final opponent, who defeated him in the Swiss Open in 2010 but his overall record over the Dane is an impressive 14-3 in the Chinese players favour.
Lin Dan is capable of winning this event, if he turns up without the controversy that his plagued him for the past 12 months.
Seeded – 3
2010 Result – Semi Finals
1st Round Opponent – Rajiv Ouseph (England)
Likely Threats – Simon Santoso (Last 16) Lin Dan (SF)
The 34-year old goes into the event knowing that he is capable of reaching the final of the world championships, a feat he accomplished ten years ago in Seville. His record against the top two seeds is poor, to say the least but his sole victory of Lee Chong Wei resulted in his last Super Series victory (Korean Open, 2009).
His opening match against England’s Rajiv Ouseph is a favourable one, with the Dane holding a 6-0 head to head advantage and the Englishman failing to claim a single game in any of the six defeats. His 3rd round match against Simon Santoso will be his first main test, with the Indonesian claiming a victory this year against Gade in Korea.
Seeded – 6
2010 Result – Winner
1st Round Opponent – Raul Must (Estonia)
Likely Threats – Taufik Hidayat (QF) Lee Chong Wei (SF)
To say that Chen Jin was a surprise winner last year would be an understatement. It was so improbable that few could have believed that a Taufik Hidayat – Chen Jin final was possible. The two could potentially meet once again at the last 8 stage, with Chen Jin leading the head to head 3-1.
Raul Must is Chen Jin’s first opponent this week and their first meeting ever. Chen Jin’s recent form has been average, after inheriting the Singapore Open title with a Lin Dan withdrawal and three defeats to Sho Sasaki this year has seriously dented his credentials of retaining his world title.
Seeded – 4
2010 – Runner-Up
1st Round Opponent – Rodrigo Pacheco Carrillo (Peru)
Likely Threats – Chen Jin (QF) Lee Chong Wei (SF)
Taufik Hidayat took the decision to play the US Open and Canada Open in the build up to the World Championships and suffered a double dose of defeat from Marc Zwiebler, who defeated him in both tournaments.
His opening match against Peruvian Rodrigo Pacheco is one of the easiest matches the Indonesian could have faced and has already defeated the world #61 previously in the world championships, albeit eight years previously.
Hidayat has to prove he is capable of competing with the top 10 players once again and put the double disappointment of the US and Canada Open behind him.
Seeded – 14
2010 Result – 3rd Round
1st Round Opponent – Valeriy Atrashchenkov (Ukraine)
Likely Threats – Chen Long (Last 16) Lee Chong Wei (QF)
No player is coming into the event on a better run of form than the German, two victories in the US Open and Canada Open has put him well inside the top 20 in the world and with a very favourable opening two rounds before his biggest test against Chen Long.
2010 Result – Quarter Finals
1st Round Opponent – Daniel Paiola (Brazil)
Likely Threats – Du Pengyu (Last 32)
He appeared from almost nowhere in 2010 before losing out to Peter Gade in the quarterfinals, his run last year was a warning to all of the top players that the world championships is the premier event of the year and anyone can beat anyone on their day, can Yamada repeat the feat in 2011?
Seeded – 11
2010 Result – Did Not Play
1st Round Opponent – Brice Leverdez (France)
Likely Threats – Du Pengyu (Last 16) Lin Dan (QF)
His impressive 2011 has made him into a player that nobody wants to face, Lin Dan, Chen Jin, Boonsak Ponsana , Park Sung Hwan and Tien Minh Nguyen have all lost to Sasaki in 2011. His second round match could be easier than his opener against Leverdez, who Sasaki was ranked lower than 12 month previously.
Seeded – 15
2010 Result – 2nd Round
1st Round Opponent – Ajay Jayaram (India)
Likely Threats – Chen Jin (Last 16) Taufik Hidayat (QF)
His heroics in the 2010 All England proved he could play with the best in the world, his impressive wins over Zweibler and Santoso in the Sudirman was a reminder just a few months ago that he is a player not to be taken likely. His most recent match against his potential 3rd round opponent was a victory over Chen Jin in his run the 2010 All England final.
Play begins on August 8, with two days of first round matches.
Men’s Singles Draw: