BUKIT JALIL: Let's be real, it will be tough for world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei to win his 10th home title in the Maybank Malaysian Open when the action starts Wednesday with the first round at Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
He is getting older. His younger opponents are getting bolder and stronger. And he is starting to feel the burden of responsibility on his tired shoulders.
But the 31-year-old intends to let the magic of playing at home do the talking once again this week.
His nine-month-old baby boy Kingston will be cheering his “papa” on every day from the stands. His devoted wife Wong Mew Choo, family and friends will be there. And thousands of his loyal and patriotic fans will be rooting for him.
For Chong Wei, who is coming out of a disappointing Korean Open final where he lost to China’s Chen Long on Sunday, that is enough to fuel the fire in his belly to go after the title once more.
“It is a fresh start for me here. I know the fans will be here and I hope to maintain my reign at home and win it for the 10th time,” said Chong Wei, who showed up at Putra Stadium at 6.30am on Tuesday to get a feel of the venue.
“It is not getting easier. I have won nine Malaysian Open titles and everyone is eyeing my scalp, wanting to break my domination. That puts some pressure on me playing at home but I am just going to enjoy it – day by day, match by match.”
When asked about his probable re-match against second seed Chen Long in the final, he was quick to answer: “Let’s not go that far ... I have a few younger players from China to deal with first.”
Chong Wei, who plays Vittinghus Hans-Kristian of Denmark in the opening round on Wednesday, has Wang Zhengming, Du Pengyu and Chen Yuekun in his quarter and they could be a handful.
The Malaysian has also urged his fans to rally support for his compatriots – Chong Wei Feng, Liew Daren and the men and women doubles players so that they too can rise at home.
Realistically, besides Chong Wei, Malaysia’s only other hope of creating some buzz should come from the men’s doubles event where Hoon Thien How-Tan Wee Kiong and Lim Khim Wah-Goh V Shem are expected to step out of the shadows of the beleaguered pair Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong.
Said national coach Pang Cheh Chang: “We want the four-year title drought in the Super Series to end here but this desire must come from within the players. I do hope they will step up.”
If not for the knee injury to Goh Liu Ying, Malaysia could have also eyed some glory in the mixed doubles event with her partner Chan Peng Soon.
Now, Liu Ying is using the home tournament to see how bad her knee is and whether she needs to go for surgery. In the women’s doubles,
Malaysia’s best bet is reigning SEA Games champions Woon Khe Wei-Vivian Hoo but they have a tough opening round match against China’s Ma Jin-Tang Yuanting.
For the record, Malaysia have won at least one title in every edition for the last 10 years. The country last enjoyed a double at the 2010 edition when Chong Wei and Kien Keat-Boon Heong emerged champions.
Kien Keat-Boon Heong were the last men’s doubles champions to win a Super Series title that year.