JOHOR BAHARU: Wong Mew Choo has sneaked in through the back door to be in the World Super Series Masters finals at City Council Indoor Stadium here, starting yesterday.
Thanks to the eleventh hour withdrawal of Chinaa��s reigning world champion Lu Lan, the Malaysian No. 1 womena��s shuttler has been elevated to the status of being in the company of the eight top-ranked players in the world.
Hence, a ticket to the US$500,000 championship for Mew Choo.
Lu, a native of Jiangsu, who won the world crown in Hyderabad, India two months ago, has told Badminton World Federation late on Monday night that she was ill and could not make it here.
And her absence meant that China, which has totally dominated the womena��s singles in the past couple of years, will not have a single representative in the event.
This means, Mew Choo will have the opportunity to shine and the draw conducted yesterday looked promising for the 28-year-old as she was drawn in Group A, together with Indiaa��s Saina Nehwal, the Indonesian Open winner, Thailanda��s Porntip Buranaprasert and Canadaa��s Chairmaine Reid.
The other group will see Salakjit Ponsana of Thailand, Yao Jie of Holland, Nicole Grether and Juliane Schenk of Germany.
a�?Ita��s a good draw for Mew Choo. Her opponents in the group are of equal standard with her and she is good enough for a place in the top two and a ticket to the semifinals.
a�?She needs to be calm, perform to her expectations and she will be fine. Only Saina is a real threat because she is still young and her game is on the ascent,a�? said Malaysiaa��s singles coach Datuk Misbun Sidek.
The mena��s singles draw was also kind to Datuk Lee Chong Wei, the worlda��s No. 1 who will have Chinaa��s Bao Chunlai, Indonesiaa��s Taufik Hidayat and Chinese Taipeia��s Hsieh Yu Hsin for company.
In the other group are Peter Gade of Denmark and compatriot Jan Jorgensen, the recent China Masters Open finalist, South Koreaa��s Park Sung Hwan and Thailanda��s Boonsak Ponsana.
Chong Wei plays the Taiwanese player in his opening match today and a victory should set him up nicely for the crucial clash against Taufik tomorrow, where a berth into the last four should be guaranteed.
a�?Chong Wei is very much capable of beating all his opponents in his group. Stay focus, I would tell him and he should be in the final,a�? said Misbun.
For the mena��s doubles defending champions Koo Kean Keat and Tan Boon Heong, there is the opening match against compatriots Fairuzizuan Tazari and Zakry Latiff today, in Group A with Xu Chen and Guo Zhengdong of China, and Rian Sukmawan and Yonathan Suryatama of Indonesia, the other two pairs in the group.
The recent China Masters Open winners South Koreaa��s Lee Yong Dae and Jung Jae Sung head Group B with Carsten Mogensen and Mathias Boe of Denmark; Anthony Clark and Nathan Roberston of England, and Chandra Yulianto and Hendra Gunawan of Indonesia completing the line-up. a�� Bernama