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Sunday January 20, 2013

Chong Wei faces tough challenge in bid to make history

In-form: Sony Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia
returning a shot to Japan’s Kenichi Tago
during their semi-final match Saturday. In-form: Sony Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia returning a shot to Japan’s Kenichi Tago during their semi-final match Saturday.

MALAYSIAN OPEN BADMINTON CHAMPIONSHIPS
PUTRA STADIUM, BUKIT JALIL (Jan 15-20)

IT is going to be just like the old times.

Two seasoned campaigners – Lee Chong Wei versus Sony Dwi Kuncoro. Two rival camps – Malaysia and Indonesia.

Welcome to what can be dubbed as an explosive men’s singles final in the Maybank Malaysian Open badminton at Putra Stadium today as local hero Chong Wei sets out to carve a piece of history as he bids to become the home champion for a record nine times.

Yesterday, Chong Wei fended off a fiery challenge from Jan O Jorgensen of Denmark before pulling off a 21-13, 17-21, 21-12 win in a 56-minute battle.

Sony also had to come through a harrowing time as he recovered from a brief spell of inconsistency to beat a gritty Kenichi Tago of Japan 21-12, 19-21, 23-21 in a one-hour and 13 minutes energy-sapping semi-final match.

Sony has been a spoiler for Chong Wei before and the Malaysian knows it.

In their 12 head-to-head meetings, the Indonesian has beaten Chong Wei five times and his memorable wins over the Malaysian came during major tournaments – the 2007 World Championships in Kuala Lumpur and 2009 World Championships in India.

And based on his resurgent form, the 28-year-old Indonesian has the ability to prevent Chong Wei from becoming the most successful player in the Malaysian Open by winning his ninth crown. Last year, Chong Wei had equalled late Wong Peng Soon’s feat of winning eight.

Chong Wei, who lost focus in the second game against Jorgensen yesterday, acknowledged Sony’s revival but did not want to be too worried about it.

“Sony came through a great fight against Tago today. He has improved and showed that he has fully recovered from his injuries. I would rather focus on my game right now,” said Chong Wei.

“Today, Jorgensen really gave me a good fight. He is confident and the top players will have to be wary of him. Fortunately, after trailing 0-4 in the decider, I managed to find my touches again.”

The 25-year-old Jorgensen said: “Chong Wei is just so good in his attacking game. One has to be in a such a high level all the time to beat him. I am happy with my game though because I managed to steal one game from him at home. Next, my goal is the All-England (March 5-10).”

Meanwhile, despite being pushed to all corners by Tago yesterday, the 28-year-old Sony said that he had enough energy in the tank to give Chong Wei a run for his money.

“It will be a heavy task against Chong Wei because the Malaysian is really in a good shape now but I promise to play to my maximum ability,” said Sony.

The world No. 5 and 2007 World Championships runner-up Sony said that his form had been inconsistent due to his back problem but things had turned out to be better since early last year.

“I am physically much stronger now and playing with better technique and style. This is my first Malaysian Open final and I am ready to give my best,” said Sony, who is expecting his second child soon.

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