Badminton fans in the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil erupted in joy yesterday when national number one Lee Chong Wei smashed his way to his fourth Malaysian Open title in five years.
The top seeded Chong Wei came through unscathed despite immense pressure to beat South Korean Lee Hyun-il, who is the protege of the Malaysian’s former coach, Li Mao, 21-15, 11-21, 21-17 in a 62-minute final. And after the victory, Li Mao gave him a hug and a pat on the back.
Hush-hush: Li Mao whispering words of encouragement to Chong Wei after his win in the men’s singles final. – S.S. KANESAN
The 25-year-old Chong Wei have thus broken a jinx for Malaysian badminton at the Putra Stadium.
Malaysia had suffered the humiliation of failing to qualify for the semi-finals of the 2000 Thomas Cup Finals staged at the venue. And last year, Malaysian shuttlers, led by Chong Wei, failed miserably to win at the World Championships.
“I am happy that I have finally brought joy in this stadium for Malaysian fans. I lost here during the world championships and it feels good to get it right today,” said the world No. 2, who lost tamely to Indonesian Sony Dwi Kuncoro in the world meet.
“I did not have a good start ... fever and stomachache in this Malaysian Open. And I am satisfied that I managed to pull through and won the title back,” said Chong Wei, who lost in the quarter-finals last year.
It was certainly not easy for Chong Wei, especially when the 28-year-old Hyun-il turned on the aggression in the second game.
The Korean kept up the pressure in the decider but the Malaysian stayed composed to romp home.
“It was obvious that Li Mao told him my weak points and Hyun-il tried his best to break my rhythm, especially in the second game. But I stayed calm in the rubber. I hope to maintain this approach in every tournament,” said Chong Wei.
There is a possibility of him meeting Hyun-il again in the second round of the Korean Open, which begins on Wednesday.
Chong Wei’s win makes him the second best Malaysian player on home soil. The late Wong Peng Soon holds the record with his eight titles.
A disappointed Hyun-il said: “It is still a good start for me. I am currently ranked 28th in the world and I hope to break into the top 16 to get a place in the Beijing Olympics.”
Li Mao said that Chong Wei handled the pressure well.
“That is very crucial for him. But I am happy with Hyun-il. This is his best performance since I took charge a year ago,” said the Chinese coach.