PETALING JAYA: National number one Wong Choong Hann staged a remarkable comeback to beat youngster Sony Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia to win his first international men's singles title this year in the US$150,000 Taiwan Open in Taipei yesterday.
The 26-year-old shuttler survived an early scare before overcoming the two-time Asian Badminton Championships (ABC) champion Sony with a 3-15, 15-7, 15-4 win in the final at the National Taiwan University.
An ecstatic Choong Hann, who pocketed US$9,000 (RM34,200), said in a telephone interview from Taipei: “I really wanted to win my first title for the year and I am glad I was able to pull it off. It was certainly a tough draw for me.”
“Besides winning the title for myself, I want to dedicate this victory to Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali. She has been very supportive, helpful and caring towards me and the badminton players. I hope this victory will make her very happy although it comes a week late,” said Choong Hann.
Siti Hasmah, a patron of the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM), is the wife of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who stepped down as the Malaysia's Prime Minister on Oct 31.
It was the third consecutive time that Choong Hann's had beaten 19-year-old after his sole defeat to the Indon at the Swiss Open in March.
It also ended Choong Hann's wait for an Open title this year after the Malaysian let slip a golden opportunity to become the first Malaysian world champion. Then, he crashed in the final hurdle against China's Xia Xuanze in the World Championships at Birmingham just three months ago.
The victory yesterday was only Choong Hann's fourth Open title in his six-year badminton career. The other titles are the Dutch Open (1997 and 2002) and China Open last year.
It was however, a tough first game for the Malaysian yesterday.
“I was against the wind in the hall. Sony was controlling the pace of the game and most of my shots landed out.
“He was so stable and I found it very difficult to penetrate his defence,” he said.
“But I made full use of the advantage of the draft in the second but he did not give up easily.
“He was attacking and we were tied 7-7. Then, I broke his rhythm of play and went all the way to win.
“He used up too much of energy in the second game and I knew it was my game in the rubber.”
Based on his fiery form in the Taiwan Open, Choong Hann should be in good stead to defend his China Open crown when the competition starts at the Tianhe Gymnasium in Guangzhou on Wednesday.
But this time, he will have to brace himself against Chinese players like Lin Dan, Xia Xuanze, Bao Chunlai and Chen Hong, who had given the Taiwan Open a skip in an effort to find glory at home.