Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei did not disappoint the home fans when he survived a ferocious onslaught from Peter Gade-Christensen of Denmark to reach the men’s singles final of the Malaysian Open at Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
The world number one battled for an hour to beat Gade-Christensen 24-26, 21-17, 21-13 and put hiself one match away from winning his home Open for the fifth time.
In the title match today, he will be up against South Korean Park Sung-hwan — a player whom he has beaten seven times in eight meetings.
Sung-hwan ended the great run of Taiwanese Hsieh Yu-hsin with a clinical 21-13, 21-14 win in the other semi-final.
Beijing Olympics silver medallist Chong Wei admitted that the fiery performances from Gade-Christensen took him by surprise.
“Peter was not the same player who I beat in Kota Kinabalu (en route to winning the Super Series Masters Finals title two weeks ago). His speed was faster and his attacks were accurate from all corners of the court. I was caught off guard,” he said.
In a tight first game, both Peter and Chong Wei were playing a catch-up game with the Dane setting the pace from the start.
The Dane continued to stay on top of his game in the second and led 11-9. But a few mistakes allowed the more confident Chong Wei to take command to force a rubber. In the decider, a fired up Chong Wei was a class above and there was nothing Gade-Christensen could do about it.
“Fortunately, I was able to turn the game around. I was never in doubt of my fitness condition and I increased my speed in the decider,” said Chong Wei, who gained extra motivation from his coach, Misbun Sidek, who went against the doctor’s order to rest at home.
“There was pressure when I could not perform in front of my coach in the first game but I am glad that I got it right after that.”
On his match against Sung-hwan, the Malaysian ace said: “I may have a good record but Sung-hwan has grown into a good attacking player. He is being trained by my former coach (Li Mao) and I know, he will come prepared.
“I will be ready and will stay focused to succeed in the defence of the title.”
Gade-Christensen put his money on Chong Wei lifting the title today.
“I played well and could have won the match today but despite being under pressure, Chong Wei managed to turn it around. And when Chong Wei is confident, it is difficult to stop him,” he said.
“I will work harder to improve on my game so that I can take on Chong Wei the next time around. But from the way he is playing, I think, he has a bigger chance of winning against Park.”
The 25-year-old Sung-hwan, who is now the Korean number one, said that the pressure would be more on Chong Wei.
“This is a great start to the year for me to reach the Malaysian Open final,” he said. “I lost to Chong Wei in the Malaysian Open final five years ago. He is still the favourite and I will give my best.”
Sung-hwan has looked good in his run into the final and on a gold earring he wears on the left ear, he said: “People said that I have the innocent look, so I wear this.”
And he will be hoping to be the bad guy by spoiling the Malaysian party today.