Shuttlers eye glory at Wuhan Asia Championships

As the world's top shuttlers gather in Wuhan for this week's Badminton Asia Championships, Chinese stars are hoping to flourish on home turf.

As the world’s top shuttlers gather in Wuhan for this week’s Badminton Asia Championships, Chinese stars are hoping to flourish on home turf.

It is the fourth straight year that the continental tournament is being held in the central Hubei Province capital. Home stars finished the last edition with 3 titles — the men’s singles, men’s doubles and mixed doubles. For many of the players, the Asia Championships are also a good preparation for the Thomas & Uber Cups to be held in Thailand next month.

Chen Long, the Rio Olympic winner and also the reigning champion, will kick off his title defense against a qualifier. But the current world No. 3 has been struggling this season, having failed to reach the semifinals of any of the 3 BWF World Tour events he has participated, including a first-round exit at the Malaysia Masters in January.

Chen’s possible rival in the semifinal could be compatriot and 2-time winner Lin Dan.

Widely considered as the best-ever men’s shuttler in history, the 35-year-old Lin has inevitably seen a slump in form in recent years. However, the Beijing and London Olympic champion is trying to extend his career, and has proved that he still has it in him — like he did at the All-England Open last month, where he finished runner-up to another Chinese player Shi Yuqi.

Son Wan-ho of South Korea, the highest-ranked Asian player, is Lin’s potential last 8 opponent.

The 2016 champion Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, who recently clinched his third gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, has a tough opener against China’s young star Qiao Bin. If Lee makes the semis, he could face Shi.

In the women’s singles, top seed and defending champion Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei was drawn to face a qualifier in the first round and so has the second seed and last year’s finalist Akane Yamaguchi of Japan.

Chen Yufei, world No. 5, and He Bingjiao, world No. 8, will compete for the women’s singles title for the hosts.

In the men’s doubles, defending champions Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen, current world No. 4, will face a pair of qualifiers in the first round, while another home duo Liu Cheng and Zhang Nan, will take on Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi of Japan.

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