Malaysia Open Super Series - Finals
Chong Wei reminds skeptics he’s still worth a crack at Olympic gold. LEE Chong Wei drummed out an emphatic message to the skeptics who do not think he is good for Olympic gold: Write him off at your peril.
The world No. 1 was devastating en route to winning his eighth home title at the Maybank Malaysia Open at Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday. And he declared his hunger for more after defeating Kenichi Tago of Japan 21-6, 21-13 in a lopsided men’s singles final to notch his easiest win yet in the home series.
Chong Wei basked in the glory after the match. He soaked in the wild celebration at the stadium, acknowledged the support of the adoring fans and even took his time to share his joy with his brother’s baby boy.
With yesterday’s feat, the 29-year-old Chong Wei equaled the record of the late great Wong Peng Soon, who had captured the title eight times in 1940, 1941, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952 and 1953. Chong Wei is determined to make the record all his own with a ninth triumph next year.
It was Chong Wei’s second title in a week, marking a brilliant start to the New Year, having won the Korea Open by beating his nemesis Lin Dan of China in Seoul the previous Sunday. Yesterday, Chong Wei showed he was in a different league by extending his unbeaten run over Kenichi for the 11th time in sensational fashion.
The match was a foregone conclusion from the start as Chong Wei, spurred on by the fans, overpowered the tense Kenichi 21-6 in a flash. The second game could have ended just as fast if not for the short delay when Kenichi requested for the uneven white line on the court to be re-taped after taking a 2-1 lead.
Home comfort: Lee Chong Wei with the trophy and medal he received for winning the Malaysia Open yesterday. Chong Wei defeated Japan’s Kenichi Tago 21-6, 21-13 in the final.
The minor problem was quickly fixed and it did nothing to break Chong Wei’s rhythm as the Malaysian continued to dominate, romping home to victory 21-13.
“This is the easiest of all my Malaysia Open wins. I think Kenichi was overwhelmed by the crowd. This is the first time I have seen so many fans at a final here,” said a delighted Chong Wei.
“I’m grateful for their support. It’s great to win my eighth home title and I will definitely go for the ninth as no one has done it before.”
Chong Wei said winning back-to-back titles made for a great Chinese New Year celebration but he would remain cautious of a China backlash as far as his Olympic Games preparation was concerned.
“I ended last season with three semi-final defeats, in the China and Hong Kong Opens and the World Super Series Finals, to my rivals from China. It was towards the end of the year and I was mentally drained.“I’m happy that I have got my momentum back again,” said Chong Wei.
“I beat Lin Dan at the Korea Open and Chen Long in the Malaysia Open. They are my two main rivals for the Olympics and I am naturally very happy as it is a major confidence boost.
“But I’m sure they will come back stronger. They will still be my main opponents in the battle for gold. I have to stay focused and not let these wins go to my head.”On the lack of successors coming through, he said: “I haven’t seen any new talents making a mark in the Malaysia Open all these years. I hope more juniors will come through soon.”
In the women's doubles department,DASHING Danish women’s doubles pair Christina Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl will never forget the Malaysia Open. Yesterday, the world No. 7 won their first major title when they turned on the power to upset second seeds Ha Jung-eun-Kim Min-jung of South Korea 21-19, 21-18.
They celebrated their victory in grand fashion by throwing their rackets and even their shoes to the spectators. It was their way to honor the Malaysian fans who had been supportive of them throughout their outing here. “The Malaysian fans are awesome. It’s unbelievable that we won. We are so happy that words can’t describe how we feel,” said Pedersen.
“We watched many videos of various matches and prepared ourselves with strenuous training to beat the Koreans,” said the 28-year-old Juhl.
“Our legs couldn’t move because we were nervous and we had to push each other to relax and focus on the game.
We eventually managed to calm down and play our hearts out.Pedersen and Juhl also play mixed doubles with Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Thomas Laybourn, respectively. Pedersen-Nielsen are ranked world No. 3 while Juhl-Laybourn are No. 8.
“Playing mixed doubles helps improve strength and speed and this aided us against the Koreans,” said Juhl.
In the men's doubles eveent, Taiwan's Fang Chieh-min-Lee Sheng-mu won their first title after more than a year by sensationally beating favorites Cho Gun-woo-Shin Baek-cheol of South Korea in the men’s doubles final yesterday.
The Taiwanese pair last won back-to-back titles in the Indonesia and Singapore Opens in 2010 but have suffered a dip in form ever since. However, they have been in fine fettle here, taking out several top pairs and, yesterday, they fought back from a set down to beat the Koreans 16-21, 21-16, 21-16.
Former world No. 3 Chieh-min-Sheng-mu, who stunned top Malaysian pair Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong in the Korean Open last week, warned they ready to help Taiwan qualify for the Thomas Cup Finals.
Stunning the favorites: Taiwan’s Lee Sheng-mu (front) and Fang Chieh min react after scoring a point during their men’s doubles final against South Korea’s Cho Gun-woo and Shin Baek-choel yesterday. The Taiwanese duo won 16-21, 21-16 and 21-16.
“Winning the Malaysia Open has boosted our confidence to face any opponents without fear,” said Chieh-min.“Our priority now is to qualify for the Thomas Cup. We have never qualified before. Our next target will be to make it to the Olympics.“Malaysia will be one of our obstacles in the Thomas Cup qualifiers but we’re ready to take on Kien Keat-Boon Heong again.
“We beat them at the Korean Open and noticed they were a little slow on court.“I believe we can beat them again.”Taiwan head coach Liao Kuo-mao said they have a very good chance of qualifying for the Thomas Cup Finals.“We have quite a strong squad this year and our doubles pairs are capable of delivering the points,” he said “Even our second and third singles players are potential match winners.”
Besides Chieh-min-Sheng-mu, the other Taiwanese pair is Liao Min-chun-Wu Chun-wei. The singles cast comprise Hsu Jen-hao, Hsueh Hsuan-yi and Chou Tien-chen. Malaysia should be alarmed about the Taiwan threat.