The Star Sports Tuesday April 3, 2007 Badminton: ABC loses its lustre By LIM TEIK HUAT PETALING JAYA: The Asian Badminton Championships (ABC) in Johor Baru from April 10-15 was supposed to be the event to showcase the star players of the continent. Good chance: Wong Mew Choo is expected to do well in the women’s singles event. Apart from the presence of Olympic and world champion Taufik Hidayat, that is if he does not change his mind at the last minute, leading players from China, South Korea and Indonesia have opted to skip the championships. The ABC is the last tournament for them to pick up ranking points for qualification for the World Championships in Kuala Lumpur in August. The Olympic qualifying period begins on May 1 and the Asian badminton powerhouses have chosen to keep their top players at home to prepare for the Singapore and Indonesia Opens next month. With the absence of three of the top four pairs in the world – Fu Haifeng-Cai Yun of China, Lee Yong-dae-Jung Jae-sung of South Korea and Markis Kidho-Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia – another title is for the taking for current Malaysian badminton sensations Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong. From the draw released yesterday, the duo, who won the back-to-back All-England and Swiss Open titles last month, only have their own team-mates to worry about. Ranked 10th in the world, Kien Keat-Boon Heong are the second seeds behind defending champions Lee Wan Wah-Choong Tan Fook. Kien Keat-Boon Heong should face some resistance from Tan Bin Shen-Ong Soon Hock but national chief coach Yap Kim Hock believes that they still hold the upper hand to win their third consecutive and fifth international title. “Their quality of play is better than the rest of the ABC field at this moment. This will be a good chance for them to win the title and get among the top 10 in the world ahead of the World Championships,” said Kim Hock. Top Malaysian singles player Lee Chong Wei is the top seed but he has two bogeymen in his path and faces an uphill task in the defence of the title. Chong Wei, who has returned to train with former coach Misbun Sidek in a bid to regain his old touch, has Olympic and world champion Taufik in his quarter of the draw. He was beaten in straight games in the last two matches against the Indonesian – in the 2005 World Championships in Anaheim and in the Japan Open last year. If Chong Wei can turn the tables on Taufik, he is likely to play China’s Chen Yu for a place in the final. The third seeded Chinese enjoys a psychological edge over the Malaysian, having emerged as the winner in three of five previous meetings. With China’s top three – Lin Dan, Chen Jin and Bao Chunlai – skipping the meet, Chen Hong is the second seed. He is tipped to play against Malaysian number two Mohd Hafiz Hashim in the semi-finals. In the women’s singles, Malaysian Open runner-up Wong Mew Choo is the eighth seed but has a good chance to go far if she beats Indonesia’s Francesca Ratnasari in the first round. Also in Mew Choo’s path is fellow Malaysian junior Lydia Cheah, Japan’s Kaori Mori and China’s Lu Lan, whom she beat in the first round of the All-England.