PETALING JAYA: Lee Chong Wei’s wish to be a champion in his 100th career final did not materialise when he was dethroned at the Japan Open.
The 34-year-old Malaysian went down 14-21, 21-19, 14-21 to reigning world champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in a 75-minute men’s singles clash in Tokyo.
The lanky 23-year-old Dane started off in a ruthless fashion as he raced to an 8-1 lead. Axelsen used his 1.93m height to smash down winners at every opportunity.
Chong Wei’s misery could have ended in straight games if not for two mistakes by the Dane at 19-19 in the second game.
Axelsen made a rare error of smashing into the net and then uncharacteristically sending the shuttle way past the baseline.
But six-time Japan Open winner Chong Wei only earned a brief reprieve.
He tried to raise the game in the decider with his deceptive shots, tricky netplay and even a thundering 417kph smash, but he could do nothing to douse Axelsen’s fire.
The Dane went on to lift his first Japan Open title. It was Chong Wei’s second loss to Axelsen in 11 meetings.
Chong Wei said Axelsen won due his new-found confidence since winning the World Championships in Scotland last month.
“I’ve played against him many times, but this time he played confidently. I could do nothing to slow him down. He has changed since emerging as world champion.
“I am not too disappointed. I played much better today after struggling in the first few rounds.
“Overall, I’m satisfied. This is my 100th final and I’m still here,” quipped Chong Wei.
National coach Tey Seu Bock commended Chong Wei for rising up again after a disastrous first-round loss at the World Championships.
“Chong Wei can still play well at his age. He held Viktor for one hour and 15 minutes before losing and that shows his determination. You have to give him credit for that,” said Seu Bock.
“Three weeks ago he was down after the loss in the world meet. He even got off to a sluggish start here. Now, he has regained some of his confidence.”FINAL RESULTS
Men’s singles: Viktor Axelsen (Den) bt Lee Chong Wei (Mas) 21-14, 19-21, 21-14.
Men’s doubles: Marcus Fernaldi Gideon-Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (Ina) bt Takuto Inoue-Yuki Kaneko (Jpn) 21-12, 21-15.
Women’s singles: Carolina Marin (Spa) bt He Bingjiao (Chn) 23-21, 21-12.
Women’s doubles: Misaki Matsutomoto-Ayaka Takahashi (Jpn) bt Kim ha-na-Kong Hee-yong (Kor) 21-18, 21-16.
Mixed doubles: Wang Yilyu-Huang Dongping (Chn) bt Takuro Hoki-Sayaka Hirota (Jpn) 21-13, 21-8.