GEORGE TOWN: Lee Chong Wei finally clinched his first major title in his home state of Penang, but he hardly showed any emotions after winning the Malaysian Masters at the SPICE Arena in Relau.
The 33-year-old top seed beat Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin in an all-Malaysian men’s singles final, winning 21-18, 21-11. It was his fifth Malaysian Masters triumph, having also emerged champion in 2009-2012.
Instead of jumping in joy, Chong Wei walked over to give Iskandar a hug and a pat.
Although lacking in experience, Iskandar had his moments of glory. He caught world No. 5 Chong Wei off guard on a number of occasions with his powerful smashes, tight netplay and excellent retrieves.
Chong Wei was impressed by Iskandar’s fighting spirit and maturity throughout the 42-minute final.
The two-time Olympic silver medallist praised Iskandar for giving him a good fight but warned him to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground.
“I told Iskandar after the match to keep up the good work,” said Chong Wei. “He played with confidence. I told him not to forget all the hardships he had endured to be where he’s now. He should know now why the coaches had to push him in training.
“With fame, comes a lot of expectations. I hope Iskandar do not think he is too good now ... he has to keep working on his game.
“Everyone will praise him now but he must not let it go to his head.”
Chong Wei said that he saw a significant change in Iskandar’s display.
“He doesn’t give up easily now. He is patient and goes for the attack at the right time. He must continue to play like this and not lose his momentum.”
On his first major win in Penang, Chong Wei, who was born in Bagan Serai, said: “It is great to win here ... it has given me a positive start to the year.”
Chong Wei said he would now concentrate on the All-England and Swiss Open in March.
Despite the defeat, Iskandar said it was an unforgettable moment in his badminton career.
“It’s been an exciting tournament for me. I came with only a few shirts and never expected to reach the final. Now, I have experienced a wonderful match with Chong Wei in the final,” said the 24-year-old Iskandar.
“I feel more confident with my game now. I’m looking forward to keep this good run going. I aim to do well at the Indian Open Grand Prix Gold (in Hyderabad) next week,” added the 24-year-old.
Happy hunting ground
In the women’s singles, India’s P.V. Sindhu showed Malaysia is her happy hunting ground.
The 20-year-old shuttler from Hyderabad pulled off all the right moves to beat Kirsty Gilmour of Scotland 21-15, 21-9 in a 32-minute final to lift the crown.
It was her second Malaysian Masters title. She was also the winner of the Grand Prix Gold tournament in 2013.
“I love playing in Malaysia. I did not take the match against Kirsty lightly and fought all the way. It is a very good start to the season for me,” said Sindhu, a two-time bronze medallist at the World Championships.
Sindhu now has a total of six titles, having won three Macau Opens and the Indonesian International.
“I must start winning in my own country,” said Sindhu.
She has a chance to do just that as her next assignment is Indian Open Grand Prix Gold which starts in Hyderabad on Wednesday.
“I have finished runner-up twice in this tournament. I hope to get it right next week,” said Sindhu.