SINGAPORE — Six years ago, he emerged champion at Singapore’s premier badminton tournament and walked away with the US$15,000 (S$19,000) winner’s cheque.
Now, Malaysian star Lee Chong Wei could be returning to the event known today as the OUE Singapore Open badminton championships.
The current world No 1 has informed the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) that he wants to compete in the US$300,000 tournament, which will be held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium from April 8 to 13.
BAM General Manager Kenny Goh told TODAY that Malaysia will be sending a full team to the championship and it is set to include Lee and recent Malaysian Open men’s doubles champions, Lim Khim Wah and Goh V Shem.
Should Lee’s participation be confirmed, it would be a boost for the tournament, which has been hit in recent years by a spate of high-profile withdrawals.
“Chong Wei spoke to me recently and said he is ready to take part in the Singapore Open,” said Goh.
“In fact, we wanted him and the rest of the (Malaysian) national squad to go to Singapore as part of our preparation for and to collect ranking points for the World Championships in Copenhagen in August. So I think Chong Wei’s participation in Singapore is on the cards, unless something else happens.”
The final list of competitors for the tournament has yet to be finalised as entries are still coming in.
In recent years, fans were left upset after top names, including former Olympic and world champion Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia and China’s two-time Olympic and five-time world champion, former world No 1 Lin Dan, pulled out at the eleventh hour.
“If he is confirmed for the Singapore Open, it will give the championship a big boost,” said OUE Singapore Open Organising Committee Chairman Ng Yoke Weng.
“Chong Wei is a big attraction and I am sure many of his Malaysian fans living in Johor Baru would make the short trip across the Causeway to see the world’s No 1 men’s singles player in action.”
A two-time silver medallist at the Olympics and World Championships, Lee beat Indonesia’s Simon Santoso in the 2008 final in Singapore in a final warm-up ahead of the Beijing Olympics that year, where he lost to Lin in a one-sided final.
Earlier this month, leading public-listed property firm OUE became the title sponsor of the tournament — it is part of the MetLife Badminton World Federation Superseries — for a year, reportedly for a six-figure sum, with a view to reviewing it. The prize purse also rose by US$50,000, from US$250,000 last year.
Powerhouses China have confirmed they will send a star-studded line-up that includes their world’s top two women’s singles players, Li Xuerui and Wang Yihan. Wang beat Li to win last year’s final.
China’s Cai Yun, who won the men’s doubles title at the 2012 London Olympics with Fu Haifeng, will also compete in Singapore, where he will team up with Lu Kai.