Lee Chong Wei (left) salutes the crowd after beating home favourite Viktor Axelsen in the semi-finlals of the badminton world championships in Denmark on Saturday. - BERNAMA
COPENHAGEN: Lee Chong Wei must be really hungry for the world title.
He took just 33 minutes to tear apart poor Viktor Axelsen of Denmark 21-9, 21-7 and storm into his third straight men’s singles final in the World Championships at the sold-out Bellarup Super Arena on Saturday.
Chong Wei will face the winner of the match between second seed Chen Long of China and Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia.
But it doesn’t matter who he meets – because Chong Wei has vowed to give Malaysia a perfect birthday gift as the country celebrates its 57th Merdeka Day on Sunday.
“It will be my gift for the people of Malaysia for all the support they’ve given me. That is my sole motivation,” said the 31-year-old Chong Wei.
On Saturday, former world junior champion Axelsen enjoyed only brief moments of control in the early stages of the first and second games before Chong Wei came back to stamp his class.
“Even I can’t believe the way I’m playing. I’m pushing every shuttle with confidence. I don’t want to give away easy points and I want to finish the games off quickly,” said Chong Wei.
“Viktor had the support of the home fans and played with so much determination ... I’m glad I broke his resolve.”
All the 20-year-old Axelsen could say after the shattering defeat – his sixth in a row against Chong Wei – was: “I tried everything but he just didn’t give me chance to attack. I tried so many different things ... but I could not apply pressure on him.”
Chong Wei has definitely shown his hunger throughout the week.
“If you have watched me this whole week, you will know how hungry I am for this title this year,” said Chong Wei, who just two months ago had aggravated an inner thigh injury during the Indonesian Open.
Asked about his two previous World Championships heartbreaks – losing to Lin Dan of China in the finals in Guangzhou (2013) and Wembley (2011) – he replied: “I don’t even want to remember them. I’m not going to see any messages or open my Facebook. I just want to stay focused on tomorrow’s match.
“I have been psyching myself up ... I can do it this week. Undue pressure can destroy everything I’m hoping for here.
“This is my third final ... I just want to enjoy every moment of it. It doesn’t matter whether it is Chen Long or Tommy. I just want to get it right this time.
“I know Malaysia have not done well in the world meet whenever it is held in Copenhagen ... but I’m happy to break that record.”
Malaysian shuttlers have never won a medal in the World Championships in the three editions the tournament was held in Copenhagen – 1983, 1991 and 1999.
In Sunday's final, Chong Wei will take on Chen Long of China, whom he had beaten in nine out of their 17 meetings in a rivalry than has spanned over five years.
On Saturday, Chen Long, however, had to come out from a pit of trouble before beating a fired up Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia 21-16, 22-20 in a 71-minute pulsating semi-final clash.
Chen Long paid tribute to Tommy, the son of former world champion Icuk, for his gutsy display.
“I did not expect him to give me a tough fight. It was very close but I am glad that I came trhough,” said Chen Long, beaming over his first world championships final appearance.
Despite the gruelling affair, the former All-England champion warned that he would be ready for a fresh assault against Chong Wei in the title match.
“I will relax after this match and be ready for Chong Wei. We are of equal calibre but I believe that I can beat him to win my first world title.
But with the final on Merdeka Day, Chen Long may have his work cut out as the determined Chong Wei will not let this golden opportunity to win his first world title pass him by.
And as a Merdeka Day promise, Chong Wei has posted a facebook video to show his determination to also win this title for fellow Malaysians.