Indonesia's Simon Santoso gestures after beating Lee Chong Wei in the final of the Singapore Open on Sunday. - AFP
KUALA LUMPUR: This must have hurt really bad.
World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei suffered a huge blow to his morale after a crushing 15-21, 10-21 loss to qualifier Simon Santoso of Indonesia in a 48-minute men’s singles final of the Singapore Open.
“Simon played so well. I could do nothing to stop him. I don’t mind losing but not by playing a game like this ... there were just so many mistakes,” said top seed Chong Wei after Sunday’s title match.
“I was hoping to turn things around in the second game but he left me quite far behind. I lost focus and could not control the shuttle too.”
The defeat to a rejuvenated Simon – Chong Wei’s first in almost five years – dashed his plan of winning a second Singapore Open title.
Ironically, Chong Wei won his maiden Singapore Open crown in 2008 with a victory over Simon in the final at the same venue.
Chong Wei’s meltdown was a surprise considering the Malaysian had enjoyed a blistering run since the start of the season, having won three Superseries titles – the Malaysian Open, All-England and last week’s Indian Open.
Even in his defeat to China’s Chen Long in the final of the Korean Open in January, the Malaysian had put up a class act.
On Sunday, though, the 28-year-old Simon gave Chong Wei a taste of his own medicine by dominating the match with sheer confidence and brilliant court craft.
The opening game saw Simon taking a 7-4 lead before Chong Wei drew level.
Everyone was expecting Chong Wei to turn on his power at this stage and romp home, but Simon obviously didn’t read the script. He kept pushing and cornering Chong Wei into all sorts of trouble to take the opener.
It seemed all over for Chong Wei when Simon marched to a comfortable 9-3 lead in the second game.
Chong Wei, however, was not ready to throw in the towel yet, narrowing the gap to 10-12.
But all hopes of an amazing comeback vanished when a pumped-up Simon kept producing even more impressive moves to walk home with his third career Superseries title.
Chong Wei, a winner of 54 Superseries titles, admitted that Simon, who was once ranked No. 3 in the world, had transformed himself into a better player.
“He has changed his style of play but, I think, the key to his victory was his patience. I have played against him many times but, today he displayed a higher level of quality in his game,” said Chong Wei, who now holds a 9-2 record against the Indonesian.
Simon, who turned professional this year, is returning from a nagging back injury but has shown great improvement of late.
Prior to the Singapore Open, he had marked his comeback by winning the Malaysian Open GP Gold in Pasir Gudang last month.
The 31-year-old Chong Wei, whose son Kingston celebrated his first birthday on Saturday, is ready to move on.
“I accept this defeat but I have to move on as there are many major events coming up. My focus now will be on the team’s preparation for the Thomas Cup Finals,” said Chong Wei, who has reached 83 finals in his career so far.
The Thomas Cup Finals will be in New Delhi from April 18-25 and Malaysia are depending on Chong Wei to steer the team to at least a semi-final finish.
It was also a bad day for two other top seeds when Li Xuerui of China and Christinna Pedersen-Kamilla Rytter Juhl of Denmark lost in the women’s singles and doubles finals respectively.