KUALA LUMPUR: No one can take the credit away from world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei for winning a record ninth Malaysian Open title on Sunday although badminton giants China did not send their best line-up.
But it was sad to note that despite a weakened field, none of the local men’s singles back-up shuttlers stepped up and be counted.
Liew Daren, Chong Wei Feng and Mohd Arif Abdul Latif failed miserably.
Daren lacked punch in his loss to Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen while Wei Feng and Arif could not even take a game off Indonesian veteran Sony Dwi Kuncoro and Japan’s Kenichi Tago respectively.
Independent players – Misbun Ramdan Misbun, Zulfadli Zulkifli and Tan Chun Seang – had mixed fortunes. Ramdan, who left the BAM set-up on Jan 9, did not make the main draw while Chun Seang and Zulfadli did not clear the opening round.
From the performances of these players, it looks like Chong Wei will continue to reign again this year.
National singles chief coach Rashid Sidek was naturally disappointed.
“China did not send their best but our players did not take the opportunity to shine. Daren could not make a breakthrough and that was sad. He had the chance against Jorgensen but he did not take it,” lamented Rashid.
Rashid, however, planned to increase the joint training session with Hendrawan’s back-up team to improve the standard of the back-up shuttlers.
“We are planning to send a back-up player for at least 10 tournaments this year. All the players will have more regular time brushing shoulders with Chong Wei to speed up their progress,” he said.
For badminton fans worldwide, they are waiting with bated breath for Chong Wei’s nemesis Lin Dan of China to return and resume their rivalry. Without Lin Dan, the men’s singles lack competition and excitement. The last time Chong Wei and Lin Dan met was at the London Olympic Games in August. Then, Lin Dan emerged triumphant.
Lin Dan’s world ranking has plummeted to 13th after taking a long break. The mercurial Chinese only took part in the invitational Copenhagen Masters in December as a goodwill gesture to his friend Peter-Gade Christensen. It was Christensen’s last international tournament before his retirement. Lin Dan lost to the Dane in the final.
Lin Dan will likely make a return at the All-England in March and will stand as a main challenger to Chong Wei at the World Championships in Guangzhou in August. Lin Dan is a four-time world champion while Chong Wei is still eyeing for his first.
“Chong Wei has proved to be unbeatable in the Open tournaments after winning the Korean and Malaysian Opens. The challenge for him this year is to win the major title – the elusive world title. Based on his form and commitment, he is on the right track,” said Rashid.