MALAYSIA’s top men’s singles shuttler Lee Chong Wei is on the verge of a big breakthrough in his career after reaching the final of the Malaysian Open at Putra Stadium yesterday with another top-class performance.
Chong Wei, the world No.1, set up an intriguing clash with Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand and has a bright chance to nick his sixth Malaysian Open title.
If he pulls it off, it will also be his first back-to-back Open title.
Just a week ago, the Malaysian was in ferocious form to lift the Korean Open title for the first time.
Yesterday, Chong Wei overcame a tight first game before overcoming Vietnam’s Nguyen Tien Minh 22-20, 21-11 in a 40-minute semi-final match while Boonsak staved off a strong challenge from Denmark’s Peter-Gade Christensen to prevail 11-21, 21-12, 21-16.
Chong Wei did well to dictate the pace in the first game but he also put himself in trouble by giving away easy points.
Tien Minh battled for every point in a neck-and-neck fight until the two were locked at 20-20. Then Chong Wei stepped up a gear to clinch the first game at 22-20.
The second game, however, was a stroll in the park for a confident Chong Wei.
Top seed Chong Wei admitted that he could have played better in the opening game.
“I played too safe and was afraid of making mistakes. But that approach does not work against an aggressive player like Tien Minh,” said Chong Wei.
“I was quite confident of my game in the second and led all the way for a win. I am happy to be in the final again.”
The Malaysian had whipped Boonsak in the quarter-finals of the Korean Open just a week ago but he said that he would be ready for a fresh assault today.
“Past result does not count. I will come with good preparation. At this stage, it is not about who is fitter. It is all about mind games,” said Chong Wei.
“My target here is to win a back-to-back title for the first time and I am determined to accomplish it,” he added.
Boonsak, who last defeated the Malaysian in the Asian Badminton Championships (ABC) two years ago, said the Malaysian starts as the favourite.
“I need a good rest and good food to recover from the tough match against Peter. I have to be in good condition if I harbour hopes of beating Chong Wei,” said Boonsak. “Chong Wei is so strong now. He rarely makes mistakes. His attack his sharp and defence is solid. overall, he is a better player than me.
“But usually, there will be pressure playing in a home tournament. I will try to capitalise on that,” he added.
National singles coach Misbun Sidek that he was happy with Chong Wei’s form although the challenge from his opponents were getting tougher.
“The demand on his physical condition is getting more challenging. He is the target of everyone. All are coming with different styles to unsettle him,” said Misbun.
“But I am happy that Chong Wei had passed all his tests so far. He is getting stronger mentally and he has to build on that,” he said.