WUHAN, China – World number one Lee Chong Wei steered Malaysia to a first group tie win at the Thomas and Uber Cups in Wuhan Monday, where the injury-hit shuttler hopes to regain his form before the Olympics.
In Malaysia’s tie against South Africa, Lee made quick work of Jacob Malieka, effortlessly switching play from smash drives to delicate drop shots and showing no sign of the flu that had hindered his preparations.
"Today was very important even if the opposition was not strong," Lee said afterwards, between shouts from adoring fans in the crowd.
"I wanted to get the tournament feeling. In training there was no air-conditioning so I was able to adjust to it today," he added, referring to the windy conditions in the stadium that have preoccupied a number of players.
Lee arrived in Wuhan with a point to prove. After an injury-plagued season and run of poor results, his closest rivals on the circuit, particularly long-time foe Lin Dan, are eyeing Olympic success ahead of the Malaysian.
In the other tie of the early session, Germany looked good against the USA, rushing ahead to a quick 5-0 victory and sending the Americans, along with the South Africans, out of the Thomas Cup with two straight losses.
In the women’s Uber Cup, traditional European powerhouse Denmark started well against the USA with Danish veteran and world number seven Tine Baun stepping out on court for just 24 minutes to whip Rena Wang in two games.
One of the best women players outside the Chinese orbit and with a fighting chance of a medal at the London Games, Baun’s win marked a good day for Denmark as the inexperienced team won 4-1 in their first match in Wuhan.
"It’s a young and talented team. The players will enjoy the atmosphere," the 32-year-old former number one said. "We have a small chance against Japan," she added in reference to their next Group D opponents.
On competing in what will be her last Olympics, Baun was tight-lipped: "Lets see about that."
In the other Uber Cup tie, Germany edged out the Australians 3-2 as they fielded a weakened side without their star player and world number eight Juliane Schenk.
The home crowd will be closely watching Indonesia’s form later Monday, when the men step out on court for their tie against England. China is also in Group A and will play the Indonesians on Tuesday.