PETALING JAYA: National number one Lee Chong Wei restored his pride by winning the Japan Open title for the first time in sensational fashion in Tokyo yesterday.
In contrast to his disastrous performances in the World Championships last month, a rejuvenated Chong Wei dished out a classy show to beat Indonesian superstar Taufik Hidayat 22-20, 19-21, 21-19 in the men's singles final. The match saw brilliant performances from both players in the 65-minute battle.
It was Chong Wei's second win over Taufik this year. The first was in the semi-finals of the China Masters in July and then, it was the first time too in two years that he had beaten the Olympic champion.
With the win, Chong Wei becomes the second player under the charge of Misbun Sidek to win the Japan Open after Mohd Roslin Hashim in 2001.
By claiming the Japan Open title, Chong Wei has nailed the first of his “Big Four” on the international stage. He also wants to be the champion in the World Championships, Olympics and the All-England.
“This victory makes up for all the pain and agony that I went through after my defeat at the world championships,” said Chong Wei in a telephone interview.
Chong Wei carried Malaysia's great hope to end a 30-year wait for a world title but he went down in a most uncharacteristic fashion to Indonesian Sony Dwi Kuncoro in the third round.
“It was very important for me to get back on my feet after the world championships. All my hard work has paid off,” he said.
“This time, there was no disturbance from anyone and I was really focused on the tasks at hand. I had a tough draw and I played every match with determination to prove to myself that I am still a good player. At this moment, I just feel very, very satisfied.”
The win yesterday certainly did not come easy for the world number four. After losing the first game narrowly, the unseeded Taufik made a spectacular comeback, winning eight consecutive points to take a 17-15 lead before going on to force a rubber.
In the decider, Chong Wei bounced back strongly to take a 19-13 lead but Taufik looked as though he would spoil the party for Malaysian. But Chong Wei pressed home the advantage.
“Taufik just did not want to give up. I did not want to come this far and lose. Fortunately, I held on for a victory. It feels good to win my third title this year (after the Indonesian and the Philippines Opens),” said Chong Wei, who won US$16,000 for his efforts.
Misbun was pleased with Chong Wei's overall performances and he wants the player to ride on the success.
“We cannot predict when and how Taufik will attack but Chong Wei did well to retrieve many of the tricky shots. Chong Wei was strong in the head and handled the tense situation well. This will see him going far in future tournament,” said Misbun.
“I am not telling that he is superior right now but he had indicated here that he is still a true fighter. No many can make a quick rebound from a debacle such as one in the world championships. But I am glad, Chong Wei has come out of it.”
Chong Wei next tournament is the Taiwan Open, which begins on Wednesday in Taipeh.