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China Armed with Powerful Men's Singles Line-Up

The men's singles events in the Thomas Cup are what gives the tournament its steel.

While the doubles offers some powerful performances from the world's top pairs, it is the men's singles that raises the roof because of the personalities and one-on-one clashes that are involved.

The focus of this year's Thomas Cup Finals is China, with their awesome depth in the men's singles.

It is one of the strongest line-ups ever to take part in the tournament, with the Chinese boasting three players in the world's top four.

They are led by world number one and world champion Lin Dan, All England champion Chen Jin, the world number four, and third-ranked Bao Chunlai.

Other teams have strong players, but none can enjoy the same strength as the Chinese, who are hot favourites to win their seventh Thomas Cup crown.

In doubles, they are served by All England winners Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng, who are backed by the pairings of Guo Zhengdong-Xie Zhongbo and He Hanbin-Shen Ye.

Malaysian national singles coach Misbun Sidek said the key to beating China was to get the upper hand in the singles match-ups.

It is all a matter of prestige for China in the Finals. They have showed the world their greatness in the men's singles by qualifying a maximum of three players for the Beijing Olympics. They get the chance again to boast of their strength in the singles in the Thomas Cup," he said in the local media.

Malaysia, the third seeds, could meet China in the semi-finals if they finish on top of Group B, which also features South Korea and England.

If they finished second in the group, then they may have to overcome Indonesia in the quarter-finals.

Bao was China's Achilles heel at the 2002 Thomas Cup Finals in Guangzhou, China. He lost to Malaysia's Mohd Hafiz Hashim as the Malaysians won 3-1 in the semi-finals.

However, Bao has since emerged as one of the best players in the world and China, having learnt their lessons, bounced back with a vengeance to win the Cup in 2004 and 2006, both in Jakarta.

And with their strength in depth, few will bet against them making it three in a row and seven overall.

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