World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei is looking to put last year’s shock first-round exit at the Japan Open behind him as he seeks this week to regain the tournament title he won in 2007.
The 27-year-old Malaysian, who has notched a string of wins this year, including the All England Super Series, crashed to Indonesia’s Simon Santoso in the opening round last year after struggling with an injury.
Top seed Lee, who finished runner-up at the Japan Open in 2008, has notched three other Super Series wins this year — in South Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia.
He will take on Gurusaidatt Raja Manuri Venkata of India in the first round, and would then face a re-match of the All England final against Kenichi Tago if the Japanese can get past Muhammad Hafix Hashim of Malaysia.
Lee’s first severe test is expected to come in the quarter-finals where he is seeded to meet defending champion Bao Chunlai of China, the sixth seed.
The top half of the draw in the tournament, which starts today, also includes Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand, seeking his first win since the India Grand Prix in 2008.
Beijing Olympic gold medallist and former world No. 1 Lin Dan of China, the fifth seed, is in in the bottom half of the draw, scheduled to meet fourth seed and 2004 Olympic gold medallist Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia in the last eight.
Also in the bottom half is Danish second seed Peter Gade, looking to regain the title he won in 1998 and 1999. He defeated Lin Dan at the All England before losing to Lee in the semi-finals.
In the women’s singles, Chinese world No. 1 and No. 2 Wang Yihan and Wang Xin, last year’s finalists, will be the players to beat.
The 2008 champion, Wang Yihan, has yet to win a title this season, while Wang Xin has a string of wins under her belt including the Malaysia Open Super Series, the German Open and China Masters.
Fellow Chinese Wang Shixian and last year’s world champion Lu Lan are expected to be a threat in Wang Yihan’s side of the draw.
Yao Jie of the Netherlands and European champion Tine Baun of Denmark, who won the 2007 Japan Open, are potential stumbling blocks for Wang Xin.