KUALA LUMPUR: World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei has had enough of being the sole flag bearer for Malaysian badminton on the international scene.
And on Friday, after reaching the men’s singles’ semi-finals of the Korean Open in Seoul, he issued a clarion call to all his team-mates – especially the younger ones – to wake up and step out of their comfort zone.
The 31-year-old Chong Wei bulldozed past a hapless Du Pengyu of China 21-9, 21-12 in just 35 minutes to set up a meeting with Japan’s Kenichi Tago in the semi-finals on Saturday.
He is the only Malaysian survivor in the season-opener after Lim Khim Wah-Goh V Shem went down with a whimper against top seeds Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen of Denmark in the men’s doubles quarter-finals.
The Malaysians lost 10-21, 9-21 in just 31 minutes.
Two-time Olympic Games silver medallist Chong Wei said that it was time everyone stopped depending on him, starting with the Korean Open.
With a hectic season on the card and with a few team events lined up for them this year, Chong Wei feels that it was time for the others – both the men’s singles and doubles – to rise to the challenge.
“This is a very important year. Honestly, I do not know how long I can last like this. If not for all the support, I would have hung up my racquet much earlier,” said Chong Wei.
“In a year when there are so many team events, like Thomas Cup Finals, the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, I think it is time for both the singles and doubles to step up. I cannot do it alone – especially in the team events.
“The players must train harder and work together. We must complement one another. It is an important year … so, let’s start to focus from now on.”
On his chances against Kenichi, Chong Wei said he would brace himself for a challenging time.
“It has been a good ride for me so far here … I hope to maintain it. It is a New Year and I will try my best to get Malaysia off to a great start. I will fight all the way,” said Chong Wei, who ended the year by winning the BWF World Super Series Finals last month.
Chong Wei has only lost once in 15 meetings against Kenichi, with his recent defeat coming at the French Open semi-final in October.
In men’s doubles, V Shem admitted that they played badly against the Danes.
“It was our first meeting against them and we just did not play our game. It was a bad one but we will be ready to bounce back at the Malaysian Open next week,” said V Shem.
V Shem-Khim Wah will face the same Danish pair in the opening round of the Malaysian Open on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, it was a great day for England’s Chris Adcock-Andrew Ellis as they dumped All-England men's doubles champions Liu Xiaolong-Qiu Zihan of China 21-19, 22-20 to set up a meeting with Fu Haifeng-Hong Wei of China.