BUKIT JALIL: When Lee Chong Wei says he will be competing until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, it was no empty rhetoric.
It was apparent at the Axiata Arena yesterday as the 35-year-old Chong Wei let his action do the talking by capturing his 12th home title in style to show his rivals that he still has many good years of badminton left in him
The world No. 6 withstood a stern challenge from the in-form Japanese star Kento Momota to win 21-17, 23-21 in a 71-minute battle for his 47th career title spanning over 17 years.
“It’s very fulfilling,” said Chong Wei.
“Reaching 14 finals and winning it 12 times is no easy feat. The Malaysian Open is no ordinary local tournament as it’s one of the prestigious international tournaments.”
“I felt the immense pressure being the sole flag bearer in the men’s singles but I’m so glad I didn’t let the supporters down today.”
The contest between the two finest shuttlers of their respective generations did live up to its hype yesterday – even until the last shuttle.
After a hard-fought opening game win, Chong Wei looked to be cruising towards an easy victory when he opened up a commanding 12-5 lead.
But former world No. 2 Momota showed just why no one had beaten him in the last 21 matches when he picked up six straight points to make it 13-12.
He piled up the pressure to level the contest at 18-18 before securing game point at 20-19.
But a determined Chong Wei saved two game points to reach 22-21 and it took some element of luck for the former to troop home as a winner.
Chong Wei challenged a call in the crucial stage and the instant review system showed the shuttlecock was out by a whisker.
“I had two challenges left, so I took a gamble. And fortunately, luck was on my side.”
Chong Wei believes the outcome could have been different if the match was stretched to a rubber game.
“I couldn’t afford to let the match go to a rubber game. Momota, being one cycle (of 12 years) younger, would surely have the advantage in terms of fitness.”
“If I keep up to this form and maintain my condition, I’ll give it another shot at the next Olympic Games.”
The 23-year-old Momota was in awe of Chong Wei.
“He’s just really good. He doesn’t play like a 35-year-old man,” said Momota.
“I really admire him. He’s definitely still one of the best men’s singles shuttler in the world right now and I still have plenty to catch up.”