FIRST HURDLE: Top seed expected to cruise past Finn
Chong Wei wants to get the first match out of the way.
MOST Malaysians will be sound asleep when Lee Chong Wei starts his London Olympics campaign today (early tomorrow in Malaysia) but the shuttler must surely know that they would have gone to bed after saying a prayer for him.
Though Chong Wei is expected to cruise past Finland's Ville Lang, there is no room for error for it is a knockout tie as the two are the only players in Group A.
A win for Lang would be a major upset but it has happened in the Olympics before, with Lin Dan being a first-round victim to Singapore's Ronald Susilo in the 2004 Athens Games.
The records, though, favour World No 2 Chong Wei as he has beaten Lang, ranked 45, in their previous two encounters -- at last year's World Championships at the Wembley Arena and in the 2009 All England.
Those wins, however, were achieved when Chong Wei was in prime condition while tonight's tie will be his first competitive match since suffering an ankle injury in the Thomas Cup finals in May, which even raised doubts as to whether he would even make it to London to attempt bettering his silver medal effort of Beijing 2008.
Thankfully, the injury was not as serious as initially diagnosed and word from the Malaysian camp is that Chong Wei has nothing to worry fitness-wise.
The training stint in Bath has also helped while the shuttler has had several opportunities to test the conditions at the Wembley Arena, scene of his World Championships heartbreak last year when he failed to seal the title despite twice holding match-point against Lin Dan in the final. Chong Wei, however, has wisely chosen not to think too far ahead as he wants to get the first match out of the way.
Speaking to the Malaysian media several days ago, Chong Wei said: "The first match is crucial as it will give me a chance to not only gauge the stadium conditions but also get a chance to play competitively after more than two months. Lang is a player I have beaten before but this is the Olympics and I have to tread with caution."
The year has been unkind to the shuttler so far, as injury also cost him a proper chance to defend his All England crown, which Lin Dan won after Chong Wei was forced to concede a walkover in the final. But with this being his final chance for Olympic glory, Chong Wei has to forget all his past demons and take to the court confidently against Lang for the expected win.
That will be perfect news for Malaysians to wake up to and also set him up nicely for tougher battles, with Simon Santoso of Indonesia expected to be his opponent in the last 16.