By : K.M. Boopathy
LEE Chong Wei beat Indonesia’s Taufik Hidayat in a thrilling Japan Open final at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium yesterday and in the process has regained some of the public’s faith in him.
But the onus is now on the Malaysian World No 4 to build on that momentum right through to next year’s Beijing Olympics.
Chong Wei, the fourth seed, was involved in a dramatic final against Olympic champion Taufik before securing a 22-20, 19-21, 21-19 win in 65 minutes for his third title of the year.
The match almost slipped away from Chong Wei’s grasp as Taufik saved five match points, battling from 14-20 to 19-20 but luck was with the Malaysian as Taufik sent a half court smash into the net thus ending an entertaining and thrilling singles final.
Yesterday’s win has given Chong Wei some breathing space after he was dumped from the World Championships with a lacklustre performance against eventual runner-up Sony Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia in the third round in Kuala Lumpur last month,
Chong Wei regards the Japan Open as one of the four major tournaments after the Olympics, World Championships and the All England and was delighted with his victory.
"It’s been my dream to win the Olympics, the World Championships, the All-England and the Japan Open, so I’m really happy that I have won one of the four for the first time," said Chong Wei.
"He (Taufik) is a wonderful player who has won the Olympics and the World Championships. I played today (yesterday) as a challenger. I think I was able to play my game.
"When Taufik was catching up with me at the end of the third game at 20-19, I tried to calm myself and waited for him to make an error in the rally."
Chong Wei pockets a cheque for US$16,000 (RM55,700) for yesterday’s win but more importantly, it is likely to fetch him sufficient points to move him up the ranking.
It was also the first time Chong Wei has beaten both World No 1 Lin Dan of China, which he did in the semi-finals, and Taufik, in the same tournament, but his consistency must remain if he hopes to feature among the medallists in the Olympics.
Taufik was disappointed with the his narrow defeat but was happy he did his part to make the final an interesting battle.
"I played almost even against him. Although I was disappointed that I lost, I think the spectators enjoyed the match. I’m satisfied with that," said Taufik.
In the women’s singles, Tine Rasmussen of Denmark completed her fairytale run when she upset two-time world champion Xie Xingfang of China 21-15, 21-17 to clinch her first super series title.
Tine’s giant-killing run in Tokyo included the scalps of two other players from China — Olympic champion Zhang Ning and World No 7 Lu Lan — before pulling off another brilliant win over Xingfang.
In the men’s doubles, the Indonesia-United States combination of Candra Wijaya and Tony Gunawan beat Luluk Hadiyanto-Aleven Yulianto 21-18, 21-17 to retain their title.