KUALA LUMPUR: World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei celebrated in a grand fashion in Seoul yesterday after becoming the first Malaysian to win a Korean Open badminton title.
He was the master of the court in the men’s singles final against Peter-Gade Christensen, breaking the resolve of the top Dane for a clinical 21-12, 21-11 win in 34 minutes to get his season off to a roaring start. Chong Wei won the title without dropping a single game in five matches.
It was also sweet revenge for the 2008 Beijing Olympics silver medallist in the opening leg of the Super Series circuit. He was beaten by Christensen in three games in the final last year.
And after he succeeded in becoming the first Malaysian to get on the list of champions in the Korean Open since its inception in 1991, Chong Wei did a little jig and punched his fists into the air.
“It really feels great to be able to control the game from the start against a good player like Peter,” said Chong Wei in a telephone interview.
He bombarded the Dane at every opportunity with his smashes to make clear his intentions to nail the title.
“I did allow Peter to keep up with my pace. I was bent on winning my first Korean Open title and that was the motivation for me to keep at my game,” he said.
“It is nice to start the season with a title. It gives me the motivation to meet the challenges ahead with more confidence.”
Chong Wei also hoped that the win in South Korea would silence those who had been critical of him on his decision to skip the Laos SEA Games last month for fear of aggravating a knee injury.
“Honestly, the short break was a blessing in disguise. Some quarters questioned my motives when I skipped the Games. But the break allowed me to start the year without having to worry about aggravating the injury,” he said.
“I have a long journey this year. I have so many more important tournaments ahead for me and I have to set my priorities.”
Among his major assignments for the year are the Thomas Cup Finals, World Championships, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.
Chong Wei’s next task is to reward his faithful fans with another good showing at the Malaysian Open, which begins on Wednesday at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
“Being the favourite has its dangers. All the players will be out to scalp me. But I will be ready for tougher challenges,” said the defending champion, who will be out to claim the home Open title a sixth time.
In the men’s doubles, South Koreans Jung Jae-sung-Lee Yong-dae went the distance to defeat Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng of China 21-11, 14-21, 21-18 in a gruelling 68-minute final.
It was revenge of sorts for the Koreans, who suffered an agonisingly narrow defeat by the Chinese in the final of the world championships in India last year.