The nation’s top shuttler Lee Chong Wei was convincing in retaining the Malaysian Open men’s singles badminton title, listing World No 1 Lin Dan and Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat among his conquests.
Yet while Chong Wei and Hafiz Hashim have exactly a month to fine-tune their preparation before the World Championships in Anaheim, so do the rest of the world who aim to succeed Xia Xuanze as the men’s singles champion in the United States.
Chong Wei’s coach, Li Mao and Wong Tat Meng, realise the recently concluded Malaysian Open was a bonus, a win to boost the Penang lad’s morale before boarding the plane for California.
It also enabled World No 4 Chong Wei to join a select band of shuttlers who succeeded in retaining their men’s singles titles, following in the footsteps of Malaysia’s Wong Peng Soon, Thailand’s Charoen Watanasin, Malaysia’s Tan Aik Huang, China’s Xiong Guobao and former local favourite Rashid Sidek.
The victory over Lin Dan in the final, carved over 88 minutes, may also earn Chong Wei a favourable draw in Anaheim, to be released on Aug 4.
True to his style, Chong Wei wants to remain grounded.
“At first I felt there was no advantage playing at the KLBA Stadium because I had never trained there before.
“Gradually the crowd became a factor. I would like to thank the fans for their support,” said Chong Wei.
World No 6 Hafiz, another potential world-beater when on song, found Denmark’s former World No 1 Peter Gade too strong a nemesis in the quarter-finals.
Gade then excluded Hafiz as a potential winner in California, and instead described Lin Dan and Taufik as in a class of their own and heavy favourites for the title in the States.
Gade grouped himself with Chong Wei, Bao Chunlai and Chen Hong as having an outside chance of climbing the podium.
Hafiz remains unperturbed, saying he has four weeks to polish his technique under coach Misbun Sidek.
“The Malaysian Open was good for me to gauge where I stood before the World Championships,” said Hafiz, who is contemplating undergoing dental surgery to remove a bad tooth.(Malay Mail)