03 Sep 2006
K. M . Boopathy
IT WAS a double defeat for Malaysia at the Hong Kong Open badminton championships yesterday.
But at least Lee Chong Wei showed he could inspire confidence for a golden outing in the World Championships in Madrid compared to veterans Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah.
Chong Wei fought gallantly against World No 2 Lin Dan but the Chinese ace was not be denied, and posted an impressive 21-19, 8-21, 21-16 win in the final to capture his fourth international crown this year.
Tan Fook-Wan Wah were in command until they were restricted to a 13-8 lead in the second game. Indonesian youngsters Markis Kido-Hendra Setiawan then pulled ahead to snatch a 22-24, 21-16, 22-20 win.
Chong Weis defeat was his fourth in five meetings against Lin Dan this year and he will also lose his World No 1 ranking to his arch rival on Thursday.
The world ranking will also determine the seedings for the World Championships, which will be held on Sept 18-24. But Chong Wei has no complaints.
Chong Weis intention from the beginning was to secure one of the top two seedings to avoid Lin Dan until the final, and he has achieved his first goal.
The last two tournaments the Thailand Open in July and Korea Open last week have not been the right build-up to the World Championships. He was bundled out in the second round by Chen Yu of China in Thailand and Roslin Hashim in Korea, shuttlers who will not see action in Madrid.
A top class performance was needed before the Madrid challenge and Chong Wei has recaptured his form again. He can now approach the World Championships with renewed confidence.
The final between Chong Wei and Lin Dan also appeared to be a sneak preview of the World Championships and the two are expected to do battle again in Madrid.
There is little to separate the two but as Lin Dan has proved, sharp returns and a consistent defence have given him a slight edge.
Lin Dan has also proven to be the stronger shuttler in deciding third games where he has the ability to counter Chong Weis attacks and is lethal when it comes to counter-attacks.
Chong Wei has the ability to match Lin Dans attack and net play but defence is one area he will have to work even harder.
The fact that Chong Wei gave away four points in a row, three of them unforced errors at the net, in the third game when Lin Dan led 17-16 made all the difference.
Lin Dan grabbed the opportunity and ended the match with a flourish by executing an unreturnable forehand cross court smash for a 21-16 win to secure his fourth title of the year.
Chong Wei also needs to work on his strength as his smashes lose sting in deciding games.
Tan Fook, 30, and Wan Wah, 31, Malaysias best bets for the doubles world crown, are their own worst enemies and the going will be tough for the veterans in Madrid if they do not cultivate a killer instinct.
Tan Fook-Wan Wah are way ahead of their competitors in terms of experience but it may not be a decisive factor as proved by Markis-Hendra, who are both just 21.
With Chan Chong Ming-Koo Kien Keat and Fairuzizuan Tazari-Lin Woon Fui plagued by inconsistency, much will depend on how Tan Fook-Wan Wah can perform in Madrid.
Tan Fook-Wan Wahs best outing in the World Championships was a semi-final appearance in Seville in 2001.
(All finals) Mens singles: Lin Dan (Chn) bt Lee Chong Wei (Mas) 21-19, 8-21, 21-16.
Doubles: Markis Kido-Hendra Setiawan (Ina) bt Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah (Mas) 22-24, 21-16, 22-20.
Womens singles: Xie Xingfang (Chn) w.o. Zhang Ning (Chn).
Doubles: Yang Wei-Zhang Jiewen (Chn) bt Gao Ling-Huang Sui (Chn) 21-19, 15-21, 21-19.
Mixed doubles: Zheng Bo-Zhao Tingting (Chn) bt Nova Widianto-Lilyana Natsir (Ina) 22-20, 21-19.