Reports: LOGANATH VELLOO
Pictures: KAMARUL ARIFFIN
WORLD number one Lee Chong Wei led all three Malaysian men's singles players into the third round of the World Championships at the Palacio de Deportes in Madrid yesterday.
After receiving a first-round bye, Chong Wei opened his campaign with a 21-18, 21-14 win over German Bjoern Joppien.
|FLYING START: Lee Chong Wei in action against Germany’s Bjoern .Joppien in the second round. Chong Wei won 21-18, 21-14.|
And the top seed immediately dedicated the Malaysians' strong showing yesterday to their teammate Chan Chong Ming, who had to leave for home following his father's death.
“Before he left the team hotel, Chong Ming advised us all to do our best for Malaysia. And I was very determined to win my first match today,” said Chong Wei.
“I am happy to get the first match out of the way. This tournament is different altogether compared with the other Open tournaments and I had to be very careful against Joppien.”
The 24-year-old top seed admitted to feeling jittery against the German, who had the benefit of playing in the first round on Monday and therefore had the better knowledge of the court conditions.
“My opponent was giving his best shots to score an upset win. I was struggling to get my act together in the first game and the pressure only lessened after I closed it out narrowly,” he said.
Chong Wei will next take on Dane Joachim Persson in the third round today. Persson, who is seeded ninth-16th, is best known for delivering Denmark's winning point in the Thomas Cup semi-final tie against Malaysia in Tokyo in May.
|HUGE RELIEF: Malaysia’s Kuan Beng Hong pumps his fists to celebrate his 21-16, 9-21, 21-19 win over ninth-16th seed Przemyslaw Wacha of Poland in the men’s singles second round.|
National number two Mohd Hafiz Hashim also advanced easily. He defeated Slovakian Michal Matejska 21-8, 21-10 and will play against Dicky Palyama of Holland today for a place in the quarter-finals.
But the biggest surprise of the day for Malaysia belonged to Kuan Beng Hong. He has finally bounced back from a major loss in confidence following his defeat by Persson in the decisive Thomas Cup match.
Yesterday, he eliminated ninth-16th seed Przemyslaw Wacha of Poland 21-16, 9-21, 21-19 and a hyped-up Beng Hong pumped his fists and jumped for joy as though he had just captured a tournament title.
“It was a very important win for me to prove that I have regained the confidence to play in a high-level competition,” said Beng Hong.
“I could have wrapped it up in straight games if not for three consecutive bad line calls that went against me when I trailed 8-11 in the second game. In the third game, I chose to play it safe and directed all my smashes down the middle of the court.”
Beng Hong faces a daunting task in the third round today against third seed Chen Jin of China. But national singles coach Li Mao feels that with renewed confidence, Beng Hong will be able to take the match to the two-time world junior champion.
“Li Mao told me that I had broken the lack of confidence barrier, which has held me back all these while. He told me not to be afraid of anyone and that I can match Chen Jin if I believe in myself,” said Beng Hong.
(source: The Star Online)