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BADMINTON

Lee Chong Wei's bid for All England hat-trick may be his last

Malaysia's world No 1 player is not sure how long he will continue at the top level

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 March, 2014, 11:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 March, 2014, 11:00pm
 

Lee Chong Wei's millions of supporters will be hoping that his bid to regain the All England Open title this week is not his last attempt at the world's oldest badminton tournament, which begins again at Britain's National Indoor Arena on Wednesday.

The world number one from Malaysia is the top seed, favoured to avenge his loss to Chen Long in last year's final, and employing his light-footed game at the age of 31 almost as nimbly as ever.

However, Lee originally planned to retire after the 2012 Olympics and has recently been suggesting that he may do so soon, perhaps after the Asian Games at Incheon in September.

I don't know whether I can last until 2016 for the Olympics in Rio
Lee Chong Wei

"I don't know whether I can last until 2016 for the Olympics in Rio," he said after winning the Malaysian Open in January.

"I just cannot imagine how I would fare in three years' time," he added, exaggerating slightly the time until the next games, when he will be 33.

His chances will be enhanced by Lin Dan's absence in Birmingham, but Lee's coach Rashid Sidek makes it clear there is no complacency in approaching the All England, which is still one of the top five tournaments.

"We will put in an extra effort to prepare for this as it is a very prestigious tournament," said Rashid. "The absence of Lin Dan does not mean Chong Wei can win the title hands down. Other players, especially younger ones from China, are equally capable."

Rashid may be referring to Wang Zhengming, a 24-year-old from Guangzhou, and Tian Houwei, a 22-year-old from Fuzhou, or perhaps even Du Pengyu, the seventh seed.

The biggest danger however is again likely to be Chen Long, who is seeded to reach Sunday's final.

The women's singles could produce a great semi-final showdown between Li Xuerui, the Olympic champion from China, and Ratchanok Intanon, the 19-year-old world champion from Thailand.

Hong Kong's Yip Pui-yin will face Minatsu Mintani, of Japan, in the women's singles opening round, but faces Li if she gets to the next round. Chan Tsz-ka faces Porntip Buranaprasertsuk of Thailand.

In the men's event, Hu Yu opens his campaign against fourth seed Boonsak Ponsana, of Thailand.

And in in the mixed doubles, Lee Chun-hei and Chau Hoi-wah take on Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Yu Yan Vanessa Neo of Singapore.

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