Lee Chong Wei reacts after losing a point to Chen Long of China in the men's singles final of the Korean Open on Sunday. The Malaysian world No.1 lost the match in straight sets. - AP
KUALA LUMPUR: World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei has promised to bounce back stronger at the Malaysian Open after failing to get off to a dream start in the season-opening Korean Open in Seoul.
The 31-year-old shuttler went down 14-21, 15-21 to China’s Chen Long in Sunday’s 56-minute men’s singles final, thus crushing his hopes of winning the Korean Open for the fourth time.
It was Chen Long’s eighth win over Chong Wei in 15 meetings – and his fourth consecutive victory over the Malaysian – in a period of 14 months.
The powerful Chen Long, who is trying to fill in the shoes of five-time world champion Lin Dan, produced an efficient display to give himself an early 25th birthday present.
Chen Long, who turns 25 on Jan 18, accelerated to a 7-0 first-game lead in just six minutes – showcasing his brilliance at the net and superb execution of smashes from the baseline.
Chong Wei recovered from the horrendous start to show plenty of urgency midway through the game. However, it wasn’t enough to prevent the pumped-up Chen Long from nailing the opener.
A rejuvenated Chong Wei stepped up his game to take an impressive 10-6 lead in the second game but Chen Long refused to back down.
The China shuttler charged back into the game to level the score at 13-13 and kept pushing Chong Wei deeper into all kinds of trouble before romping home to his first Korean Open title – and show the world that he is ready to dominate the season.
Two-time Olympic Games silver medallist Chong Wei did not offer any excuses for his defeat.
“I lost to a better player. Chen Long played well. I was quite impatient in the opening game and made some errors,” said Chong Wei in a telephone conversation after the match.
“He could handle all my attacking shots and was very calm and collected throughout the match. He has grown stronger, but I will find a way to deal with him next time. I have to tweak my approach.”
Chong Wei will get a quick chance to exact revenge on Chen Long as the duo are expected to cross paths again – most likely in the final of the Malaysian Open, which will be held at the Putra Stadium from Wednesday.
Chong Wei is determined to reign supreme on home soil by winning his 10th Malaysian Open.
“Have I really won nine Malaysian Open titles? Has it been that long?” he asked.
“I can’t believe I’ve won that many ... and now I have the chance to make it 10!”
In the Malaysian Open, top seed Chong Wei is in the same half with three of China’s second stringers – Wang Zhengming, Du Pengyu and Chen Yuekun – three Denmark players – Jan O Jorgensen, Viktor Axelsen and Hans Kristian Vittinghus – and compatriot Liew Daren.
Chen Long is in the lower half with Indonesians Tommy Sugiarto and Sony Dwi Kuncoro; Japan’s Kenichi Tago; South Korea’s Shon Wan-ho; and Malaysia’s Chong Wei Feng.
Meanwhile, Denmark’s Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen prevented China from making a clean sweep of all the titles at the Korean Open when they downed Fu Haifeng-Hong Wei 21-12, 21-17 in the men’s doubles final.