For someone, who has won the Yonex Japan Open tournament 5 times, it doesn’t sound fit when it is announced that the player would need to come through qualification matches. But Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei cannot help it. The long doping ban kept him away from competitive badminton for too long, resulting in the former world no.1 slipping low down in BWF rankings. The Malaysian superstar doesn’t mind all that and he is determined to win his sixth crown, when the tournament gets underway on September 8, 2015 at Tokyo’s Nippon Badminton Association Courts. Since the world championships at Jakarta, the Yonex Open Japan is the first major tournament and presents the richest field of badminton stars. Rising Japanese stars will attempt to benefit from playing at home. Kento Momota is already world no.3 and local shuttler Kenichi Tago will also aim to become the first Japanese player to win the men’s singles title at Tokyo.
Lee Chong Wei couldn’t have a tougher challenge that the one he faces in the Yonex Japan Open. The 5-time champion has to first beat Scotland’s Alistair Casey and one more qualifier from either Japan or Korea. Only then the Malaysian can enter the main draw announced on August 19th. If comes through the qualifying rounds, Lee’s first round opponent will be Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana, who is a super-series title winner himself and he can give Lee a hard time. The Malaysian won his first Japan Open in 2007 and came back to win the second title in 2010. For the last three years, Lee has been unbeaten in Tokyo. Therefore, it is rather ironic that the three-time defending champion should begin his campaign as a qualifier.
Lee Chong Wei’s further progress is rather explosive. He is slated to play Lin Dan in the second round and if he clears this challenging hurdle, Lee will run into Chen Long waiting in the third. Chen Long is having a great time these days and he has become literally unbeatable. In the World Championship gold medal match at Jakarta, he simply outplayed Lee. Other than Chen Long, the field in the Japan Open is full of top stars with tremendous record. Lee himself was once world’s no. 1 and with 2-time Olympic medalist and 5-time world champion Lin Dan, world no.2 Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen and newly named world no.3 Kento Momota of Japan all joining the fray, the Yonex Japan Open has acquired additional strength. Lee’s record against the Chinese stars is full of losses than wins and since he would enter as a qualifier, the Japan Open is likely to have a series of hard-fought matches through to the semifinals.
Japanese badminton stars would eye to win the titles on their home soil. Women’s formidable doubles pair Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsutomo would like to earn their second consecutive title and single star Akane Yamaguchi could aim for her second Yonex Japan Open. Japan’s men’s doubles stars Kenichi Hayakawa and Hiroyuki Endo may also demonstrate their skills on the court. The draw may help former world no. 3 Japanese Kenichi Tago, who is also coming off from the qualifying rounds. With Chen Long, Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei on the other side of the draw, Tago only has the Dane Jorgensen in his half. If the Japanese can get past Jorgensen, he stands a great chance of making it to the final. But Lee Chong Wei is a committed and experienced campaigner and he wants to justify his superiority despite the odds stacked against him.