PETALING JAYA: All is not well with Lee Chong Wei.
The former world No. 1 shuttler suffered the humiliation of being knocked out in the men’s singles first qualifying round at the Korean Open in Seoul on Tuesday.
Chong Wei, who turns 33 next month, was unable to handle 2013 world junior champion Heo Kwang-hee’s pace as he went down 19-21, 19-21 in 45 minutes.
The two met at the Japan Open last week. Then, Chong Wei took just 28 minutes to beat the South Korean youngster 21-10, 21-12 in the second qualifying round to reach the main draw.
The defeat is Chong Wei’s worst-ever showing in a Superseries event, adding fuel to speculation of a rocky relationship with Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) technical director Morten Frost.
At No. 28 in the world now, Chong Wei now needs to pull up his socks for the four remaining Superseries events - Denmark, French, Hong Kong and China Opens – this year to have a chance of qualifying for next year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Frost did not comment on his relationship with Chong Wei, who finished runner-up in the World Championships in Jakarta last month.
But the Dane said: “Chong Wei did not have a good day while the young Korean played very well. I guess Chong Wei has a lot of things on his mind and he lost some confidence. We need to solve these issues when we return home.”
Independent shuttler Zulfadli Zulkiffli kept the Malaysian flag flying by reaching the main draw.
The world No. 36, who made the third round of the World Championships, started by beating American Sattawat Pongnairat 21-10, 21-8. He then returned a few hours later to beat Japan’s Kazumasa Sakai 13-21, 21-8, 21-17 to earn a first-round clash with Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto in the main draw on Wednesday.
“It was a really tight schedule but I’m glad to have won both my matches,” said the 22-year-old Zulfadli.
“I’ll definitely try my best. I’m not going to put pressure on myself as I play better as the underdog,” added Zulfadli.
The mixed doubles was the only main draw event contested on Tuesday. Both the Malaysian pairs – Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying and Tan Aik Quan-Lai Pei Jing – were sent packing in the first round.
Peng Soon-Liu Ying started off well but later faltered to lose 21-18, 12-21, 15-21 to sixth seeds Lu Kai-Huang Yaqiong of China.
Aik Quan-Pei Jing also lost in three games, losing 14-21, 21-17, 17-21 to Holland’s Jacco Arends-Selena Piek.