By RAJES PAUL
Legend has it that eight dragons emerged from the sprawling Liu Jiang (Liu River) which flows through this beautiful city. Today, eight dragons from the badminton world will emerge to do battle for the prestigious Super Series Masters Finals men’s singles title.
They are world number one Lee Chong Wei; China’s Lin Dan and Chen Long; Indonesia Taufik Hidayat and Simon Santoso; Denmark’s Peter-Gade Christensen; and Japan’s Kenichi Tago and Sho Sasaki.
But the focus will be on the two most gifted and celebrated dragons of the era – Chong Wei and four-time world champion Lin Dan – as a final between them will be a fitting climax to the 12-leg Super Series season.
A meeting between archrivals Chong Wei and Lin Dan in the final is very much a possibility but young Chen Long could spoil the party.
In the draw released by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) yesterday, top seed Chong Wei is in Group A with the evergreen Christensen, Simon and Sasaki. In Group B with Lin Dan are Chen Long, Taufik and Kenichi. The top two will play in the crossover semi-finals.
Gracious in defeat: Lee Chong Wei shaking hands with Lin Dan after losing to the China No. 1 in the World Championships final in October.
National coach Tey Seu Bock agreed a final showdown between Chong Wei and Lin Dan was what most fans wanted.
“And for Chong Wei to win the match,” he said with a broad smile.
“But in all honestly, it is going to be hard for Chong Wei. Both Lin Dan and Chen Long will have the crowd’s backing.
“The group matches won’t be easy either. Chong Wei has three in his group who can last the pace.
“Peter has shown that age is not a factor while both Simon and Sasaki are vibrant players full of energy.”
Seu Bock feels that the Masters Finals will also serve as a prelude to what could transpire at next year’s Olympic Games in London.
“I see three names – Chong Wei, Lin Dan and Chen Long – leap before my eyes when I think of the Olympic Games. The format will be similiar as the players have to go through the group stages first.”
At the Olympics, the qualifiers will be divided into 16 groups with only the group winners advancing to the elimination round.
On Chong Wei’s condition, Seu Bock said: “It has been a long and tiring but successful year for him. Let’s hope he has enough in the tank to end it well.”
Chong Wei was awarded the BWF Male Player of the Year award during a welcome dinner for the players on Monday. Despite losing to Lin Dan in the world championship, Chong Wei stood tall in winning five titles and reaching 11 consecutive finals.
The top female award went to China’s reigning world champions Wang Xiaoli-Yu Yuyang for reaching 12 consecutive finals and winning seven Super Series titles, which included all five Premier meets.
In the men’s doubles, Malaysia’s hopes rest on Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong who are out to redeem themselves with a good showing to make up for a disappointing year.
Courtesy of The Star