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Danish badminton great Gade warns of Asian threat

AFP - Former world number one Peter Gade issued a warning about the future of professional badminton on the eve of the All-England Open.

Gade, the only Westerner seeded in either singles event of the 100th championship starting on Wednesday, is concerned that badminton's shop-window does not shrink into just one area of the globe.

"It's important to have a lot of different countries in the top game," said the former world number one from Denmark, who has often taken on the might of China alone.

"It's too narrow and we need a lot more players coming forward - we need youngsters from other countries coming up," added Gade, whose All-England title in 1999 happened in a year when the five titles went to five different countries.

Last year by contrast, all five twent to China for the first time. It was the first time in the three decades of the open era that one country had achieved that.

But even at the age of 33 Gade has not ruled out winning the All-England again, and he also offered hope for players of other countries.

"Apart from Lin Dan, all the other Chinese players have been beaten," the fifth seed said.

"I have beaten them, and Lee Chong Wei has too. In a few years time when Lin Dan is not there, it will be possible to do well against the Chinese.

"He's exceptional: he's one of the best players ever in the history of badminton. Maybe the best. I have lost to him on a number of big occasions. If he had not been there - what might have happened?"

Lin is seeded only second, having missed the first two Super Series tournaments of the year, whilst Lee, the winner in Seoul and Kuala Lumpur, is top seed.

But he was last year too, only to be beaten by Lin in straight games in the final. The Chinese left-hander will be unofficial favourite to confound the seedings again.

If he does, it will be Lin's fifth All-England title in seven years, making him the first men's singles player to achieve that in the open era, and the first since Rudy Hartono, the legendary Indonesian, in the mid-seventies.

This time though Lee's coach, Misbun Sidek, thinks the Malaysian will be ready for the challenge, having had him practising regularly against left-handers.

"It's not the same as playing Lin Dan, but it will help Chong Wei prepare," said Misbun. "More importantly, Chong Wei must also stay focussed when playing Lin Dan."

Lee Chong Wei may need to be ready earlier than that, for he could face Sony Dwi Kuncoro, the world bronze medallist from Indonesia, in the second round.

If Lee survives that, his quarter-final opponent should be Jan Jorgensen, the young Dane whom Gade thinks could succeed him at the top level.

Gade himself has a probable quarter-final with Taufik Hidayat, the former Olympic champion from Indonesia, the winner probably meeting Lee. The two leading Chinese, Lin and Chen Jin, the 2008 All-England champion, should meet in the other semi-final.

The women's singles shows the difference a year makes. Last time Wang Yihan, unseeded and little known, caused a sensation by beating the three-time former champion Xie Xinfang and then defending champion Tine Rasmussen in the final.

Since then Wang has won Super Series titles in Japan, Hong Kong and Switzerland, and is top seeded, though several other Chinese players look capable of halting her defence.

Among them are Lu Lan, the world champion, Zhou Mi, Singapore Super Series champion from Hong Kong, Xin Wang, Malaysian Super Series champion, Jiang Janjiao, who came within one shot of last year's All-England final, and Wang Lin, French Super Series champion.

This event is dominated by Chinese, though Wang Lin may have a second round with Rasmussen, still the only prominent European woman. The Dane has however slipped to world number ten, leaving her unseeded in her bid to regain the title.

Source from AFP

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