KUALA LUMPUR: World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei is on the verge of becoming the most successful men’s singles player in the Japan Open.
On Saturday, top seed and defending champion Chong Wei showed no mercy in his 21-10, 21-5 demolition of Vietnamese Nguyen Tien Minh, the bronze medallist at the World Championships.
It took the 30-year-old just 29 minutes to set up a final showdown with local hero Kenichi Tago.
Chong Wei will be gunning for his fourth title in Tokyo. The Malaysian is now tied with Ardy Wiranta of Indonesia on three titles. Ardy won it in 1991, 1992 and 1994 while Chong Wei emerged champion in 2007,1010 and 2012.
Chong Wei is motivated to win the title as a parting gift for coach Rashid Sidek, who quit the national team on Thursday due to problems with the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM).
“I think this is one of my best matches against Tien Minh in recent times. I was very focused today and I am happy that I knocked him off easily,” said Chong Wei in a telephone interview.
On his match against Tago, who skipped the World Championships in Guangzhou last month due to injury, Chong Wei said he would be ready.
“It will not be easy. Kenichi has the home crowd behind him and he is very determined to beat me. I came here with one single aim – to win the title and I will go all out,” he added.
Tago has lost all his 13 meetings to Chong Wei and the closest he came to beat the Malaysian was at the 2010 All-England before going down 19-21, 19-21 in the final.
If Chong Wei wins, it will his fifth Super Series title this year after winning the Opens in Malaysia, South Korea, India and Indonesia.
Besides Tago’s final appearance, there was also joy for hosts Japan in the women’s singles event.
Akane Yamaguchi and Shizuka Uchida assured Japan their first-ever title in the 32-year history of the championships when they marched into the final with stunning wins.
Shizuka dumped fourth seed Wang Yihan of China 21-17, 21-14 while Akane upset sixth seed Tai Tzu-ying of Taiwan 26-24, 21-14 in the semi-finals.