By RAJES PAUL
PETALING JAYA: The top two seeds for the Asian Badminton Championships (ABC) are set to be China's Chen Jin and Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei but the favourite for the title is Indonesian Taufik Hidayat.
Based on the entries and in the absence of China's top two players – Lin Dan and Bao Chunlai – their younger compatriot Chen Jin will top the billing while the world number four and defending champion Chong Wei is set to be the second seed.
The Asian meet, which is the last tournament to decide the qualifiers for this year's World Championships, will be held in Johor Baru from April 10-15.
Taufik, who pulled a shocker by withdrawing from the All-England and Swiss Open last month due to problems with the national body, will make his return and one can only expect the best from him.
When the draw is released tomorrow, both Chen Jin and Chong Wei will be keeping their fingers crossed as they hope to avoid the Indonesian, at least, until the final.
Another Indonesian Simon Santoso can also be counted as a contender this time – especially after his good showing in the Swiss Open.
Simon, the world No. 20, knocked out two Chinese players – Chen Yu and Lin Dan – en route to reaching the final in Basel two weeks ago.
Lin Dan conceded a walkover after trailing 25-27, 0-5 against Simon in the semi-finals.
Besides the four players, the other top men singles players include China's Chen Yu and Chen Hong.
Chen Hong, who had announced that he would not make a bid to qualify for next year's Olympic Games in Beijing was the surprise entrant for the ABC meet.
South Korea will be pinning their hope on youngster Park Sung-hwan. The Korean may have not won a major title but holds the distinction of beating world number one Lin Dan twice.
After losing to Chong Wei in the ABC final last year, Thailand's Boonsak Ponsana will also be out to go one step better.
National champion Chong Wei, who is currently under the charge of Misbun Sidek, did not want to raise his hopes at the ABC.
''There is a chance to make the final. Chen Jin and Taufik are the top players in the ABC. For me, it is important to get back my confidence,'' said Chong Wei.
''It will be great to record big wins to boost my morale,'' he said.
In the men's doubles, China did not send their world champions Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng. But they will be depending on Xu Chen-Guo Zhengdong.
Indonesia will be banking on their senior-junior combinations of Sigit Budiarto-Fran Kurniawan and Flandi Limpele-Rian Sukmawan.
But Malaysia, parading six pairs including hotshots Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong – are certainly the favourites for the men's doubles title.
The others are Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah, Tan Bin Shen-Ong Soon Hock, Chan Chong Ming-Hoon Thien How, Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari-Lin Woon Fui and Gan Teik Chai-Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif. (thestar.com.my)