K. Srikanth making Lee Chong Wei sweat it out before losing to the world No. 1 19-21, 18-21. – AFP Photo
KUALA LUMPUR: World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei had to sweat it out to reach the men’s singles final of the Singapore Open on a day when China again raised eyebrows by conceding yet another walkover.
The 31-year-old Chong Wei had to work extra hard on Saturday to subdue a resilient K. Srikanth of India 21-19, 21-18 in a 42-minute semi-final before checking into his second final in six years in Singapore.
The 2008 Singapore Open champion will take on resurgent Indonesian shuttler Simon Santoso, who slogged for one hour and 13 minutes to upset fifth seed Du Pengyu of China.
But it was Srikanth’s spirited performance against Chong Wei that made heads turn.
The Indian shuttler, who will turn 21 in July, played an intelligent game to go toe-to-toe with Chong Wei in the opening game. He even caught the Malaysian off guard with his unrelenting attacks and precision shots.
A sweat-soaked Chong Wei pulled through the first game but was quick to restore order in the second – showing better control to stay ahead of Srikanth despite the latter’s resistance.
Had it not been for Srikanth’s lack of consistency and experience, he could have made life even more difficult for the Malaysian.
Three-time All-England Chong Wei was quick to give his opponent due credit after moving a step closer to winning his second Singapore Open title.
“I have to admit that Srikanth played very well today and posed a strong challenge,” said Chong Wei, who had easily beaten Srikanth at the Hong Kong Open last year.
“He is in his early 20s and is one the juniors coming through ... he will be quite a handful for the top players in the future.
“I’m just happy to have reached the final of the Singapore Open again after skipping this tournament since winning it in 2008. Simon is an old foe but I’m ready to win back-to-back Superseries titles,” said Chong Wei, who captured the Indian Open last Sunday.
National coach Tey Seu Bock said: “Chong Wei was tested today but it should prepare him for a tricky match against Simon tomorrow. The Indonesian is playing well and Chong Wei has been enjoying himself too. Hopefully, he will get another victory here.”
Two-time Olympic Games silver medallist Chong Wei has won nine out of 10 matches against Simon.
Meanwhile, China came under scrutiny again when Bao Yixin-Tang Jinhua got a free ride into the women’s doubles final following the withdrawal of their younger team-mates – Luo Ying-Luo Yi.
Yixin and Jinhua will surely be fresh when they take on top seeds Christinna Pedersen-Kamilla Rytter Juhl of Denmark on Sunday.
The Danes have lost to Yixin-Jinhua twice and won once against the Luo sisters.
China have done the same in the last two Superseries. At the Indian Open last week, Liu Xiaolong-Qiu Zihan made it to the men’s doubles semi-finals after compatriots Fu Haifeng-Zhang Nan withdrew while top seeds Zhang Nan-Zhao Yunlei made it to the mixed doubles final after Xu Chen-Ma Jin retired (with the score at 11-21, 4-9) at the All-England.
The Badminton World Federation (BWF) had promised to come down hard on players suspected of throwing matches.