Singapore - Lin Dan is the man to beat for the 2007 Aviva Singapore Open Super Series men's singles crown. Even as Peter Gade, the defending champion spoke about the top five men shuttlers who are good enough to conquer the world, China's Lin Dan remains the clear favourite. After all, he is the No 1 seed and also the undisputed world No 1 too. But the fact remains that he has never won in Singapore has added fuel to his burning desire to add the Aviva Singapore Open crown to his long list of achivements.
A vote of confidence from his peers gathered here for the US$200,000 Championship at the Indoor stadium has reinforced the belief that the Chinese No 1 is worthy of the men's singles crown.
''We are in for some exciting times, especially in the men's singles. We have a group of the top five players who are a cut above the rest and capable of beating each other. There is Lin Dan and former Singapore Open Champion, Chen Hong,from China. We have Taufik Hidayat from Indonesia and Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei and myself. We all could give one another a run for the money on our day. So it's quite competitive out there at each of the Super Series.'' commented Peter.
He added, ''of course Lin Dan is the overwhelming favourite but what about Taufik? He is probably one of the most talented shuttlers around, his world ranking does not do him any justice. And he is not the only one, local favourite Ronald Susilo is another man to watch. He was number seven in the world before his injury and he won Lin Dan in straights sets in the 2004 Olympic Games. This shows his pedigree and plus the home crowd support, he is certainly another player to watch.''
In the end, all the competition is good for badminton and good for badminton fans. They pay to watch us play and it is our duty to give them their moneys worth, concluded Gade, the defending champion here in Singapore.
By his own admisssion, Lin Dan feels that winning in Singapore would be tough, more so with the top five singles player present.
''For me winning the Singapore title is a big challenge. But I am ready to give my best,'' said Lin Dan.
Singapore's main hope Ronald Susilo, the 2002 runner-up, faces a tricky opening round match, against Malaysia's Lee Tsuen Seng. The two met before in the finals of the New Zealand last year but it was the Malaysian who triumphed.
Ronald said, ''I have been working very hard to get back in shape. It is good that the first Olympic qualifying event is held in my home country, I really want to go out and give my best and win in front of my home fans. However, Tsuen Seng is a good player who has defeated me before, so I have to be really careful.''
Fans are able to catch other Singaporeans such as Li Li, Jiang Yanmei and Vanessa Neo from 9am onwards at the Indoor Stadium.
Team manager Hau Kim Tho thinks he can. ''Many are ready to write him off. But I see things differently. Singapore could be the start of a new beginning for Chong Wei. I can see the change of attitude in him. He knows what he wants and he is getting there,'' said Hau.
Still all eyes will be on Lin Dan and the prospect of a final showdown with Taufik, the Indonesian ace come Sunday is a mouth watering prospect. For the women's category, all eyes will also be on Lin Dan's sweetheart, Xie Xingfang, the world no 1 woman player as she attempts to win the Singapore Open crown. Frankly she has no peers except her very own teamates, like Zhang Ning and Zhu Lin, the No 3 seed. Even defending champion Pi Hongyan, a French of Chinese origin, has admitted that to beat the Chinese would be tough. More so Xie Xingfang. She has an uphill task on her hands in her opening round, she faces Hong Kong's Zhou Mi, a former world no 1 and 2002 Singapore Open Champion.