ISLAMABAD :No. 1-ranked Lee Chong Wei is unlikely to let an ankle injury distract him from his mission in Guangzhou, which is to beat Lin Dan on Chinese soil and claim his first Asian Games badminton title.
Lee was injured as he won the singles gold medal for Malaysia at the Commonwealth Games in India last month, but has returned to practice and his progress has been closely monitored at the National Sports Institute. Olympic champion Lin Dan has a clear advantage in head-to-heads, with 14 wins and seven losses against Lee.
Although Lee won their last meeting, at the Japan Open, and is growing in confidence after his Commonwealth title. To get to a coveted Asian Games gold medal match, Lee would likely have to beat Thailand`s Boonsak Ponsana and face either reigning world champion Chen Jin or Sony Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia in the semifinals.
Progression to the final for Lin Dan would likely have to include a quarterfinal win over Vietnamese Nguyen Tien Minh and a semifinal against veteran Indonesian Taufik Hidayat aiming for his third successive singles gold at the Asian Games or Japanese star Kenichi Tago. China once ruled the women`s singles at the Asian Games from 70s to 90s before Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea halted its run.
Now Chinese hopes rest on No. 1-ranked Wang Xin and third-seeded Wang Shixian after world No.
2 Wang Yihan was overlooked for selection due to inconsistent form. Perhaps the biggest threat to China`s chances in the women`s competition could come from India`s latest badminton sensation Saina Nehwal, who won gold at Commonwealth Games.
Nehwal is ranked third in the world, the highest ranked non-Chinese among the Asian players in the top seven. It will be a stern test of skill and nerve for Nehwal, whose victory on the final day of competition at New Delhi allowed host India to edge England into the second place in the medals standings at the Commonwealth Games.
Nehwal`s first big tests could begin as early as in the quarterfinals, where she will likely meet sixth-seeded Yip Pui Yin of Hong Kong. That would set up a likely semifinal against Wang Shixian, who won their match at the recent world championships in straight sets.
Wang Xin will likely have to beat Korean Bae Yeonju and Japan`s Eriko Hirose if she is to advance to the final. Form, fans and history will be on Wang Xin`s side if she makes it, and if Nehwal crosses all the hurdles to be the first Indian women to win medal at the Asian Games.
She has won their last two meetings, both in Malaysia. In the men`s doubles, countries which have never produced a top finish at the Asian Games are being considered among the contenders this time.
Taiwan`s Fang Chieh-min and Lee Seng-mu seeded fourth have a realistic chance to have a shot at gold. The Taiwanese pose an even bigger challenge in the women`s doubles, with Cheng Wen-hsing and Chien Yu-chin seeded No.
1 for the tournament. Thailand is rated a strong chance of collecting its first Asian Games badminton gold medal with Prapakamol and Thoungthongkam earning the No.
1 seeding in mixed doubles.