PETALING JAYA: It cannot get better than this – a clash between Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan in the men’s singles final of the US$1.2mil Korea Open to start off this year’s badminton season.
Yesterday, top seed Chong Wei showed that he has no reason to be worried about Du Pengyu – for the time being – when he crushed the fourth ranked Chinese player with an impressive 21-8, 21-13 win in 37 minutes.
It was Chong Wei’s fifth triumph over the Chinese and the Malaysian’s superiority on court yesterday showed that the 24-year-old Pengyu has a lot of catching up to do to bridge the gap.
Four-time world champion Lin Dan, in contrast, had to dig deep to overcome a fighting Sho Sasaki of Japan before securing a 21-16, 21-14 win to stay on track to defend the title and get off to a blistering start to the year.
Can Chong Wei get the better of his nemesis Lin Dan to restore his pride and revive his confidence ahead of the London Olympic Games?
It will not be easy, but Chong Wei is expected to go for broke against Lin Dan, who is one of his main stumbling blocks to becoming Malaysia’s first gold medallist at the Olympics.
The last time Chong Wei beat Lin Dan was at last year’s All-England final but since then, the Chinese ace has demoralised the Malaysian regularly – starting with his superb comeback win at the World Championships in Wembley in August, followed by back-to-back victories at the Hong Kong and China Opens.
Without any doubt, Lin Dan is the hot favourite having won 18 of the 26 matches ever since their rivalry started in 2004. But fans all over the world can expect the Chinese superstar to be pushed to the limit today.
National coach Tey Seu Bock was happy that a steady Chong Wei made it to the final.
“The goal was to reach the final and Chong Wei did it. Today (yesterday), he played with so much confidence. He was focused and hardly gave Pengyu any opportunity to strike back,” said Seu Bock in a telephone interview.
“It is great that we can start the year with a match between these two great players – Chong Wei and Lin Dan.
“It will be 50-50 as both know each other so well.
“I am sure that the match will serve as an appetiser for the London Games. Our main goal is the London Olympics.
“Last year, Chong Wei lost 19-21, 21-14, 16-21 to Lin Dan in the final of the Korea Open but this year, it could be even tighter.
A mouth-watering clash is also in store in the men’s doubles when archrivals Lee Yong-dae-Jung Jae-sung of South Korea and China’s Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng face off in the final today.
Every match between these two pairs has gone down to the wire and left fans on the edge of their seats.
South Korea are also on track for a triple home treat with Yong-dae-Ha Jung-eun and Jung Kyung-eun-Kim Ha-na making it to the mixed doubles and women’s doubles finals respectively.
Kyung-eun-Ha-na’s victory over world No. 1 and defending champions Wang Xiaoli-Yu Yang in the women’s doubles semi-finals was the highlight of the day especially as the latter had reached the finals of every tournament they played in – a total of 12 in all.