Badminton: Choong Hann comes up short in second straight final

PETALING JAYA: For the second consecutive tournament, Malay­sian veteran Wong Choong Hann fell a win short of ending a six-year title drought.

Yesterday, the sixth seeded Choong Hann was beaten 21-11, 21-14 by Nguyen Tien Minh in the Taiwan Open men’s singles final, which saw the third seeded Vietnamese succeeding to break the rhythm of the Malaysian from the start.

A week earlier, the 33-year-old Choong Hann, who last title was at hew 2003 Taiwan Open, went down to world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei in the final of the Macau Open.

En route to the two runner-up finishes, Choong Hann, who is now an independent player, had scored upset wins over world championship runner-up Chen Jin of China in Macau and Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia in Taipei.

And his results in the two tournament may prompt the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) to recall him to feature for the country in team events.

It will be no surprise if Choong Hann is named in the team for the Laos SEA Games in December and be considered for selection for the Thomas Cup Finals next year.

Choong Hann may be chosen because the back-up players have remained unimpressive in international tournaments and they are certainly not ready for the big league.

Choong Hann, who has justified the investment put in him by his sponsors, Dunlop, with his improved performances, said that he would not mind playing for Malaysia again if everything fall into place nicely.

“It will be good to play for the country in major events once again but there are contract matters that need to be looked into,” he said in a telephone interview.

Choong Hann left the BAM set-up after the Beijing Olympics last year and the last time he took part in the SEA Games was in the 2005 edition in Manila where Malaysia emerged as the men’s team champions. Malaysia were represented by the back-up team in the last Games in Korat in 2007 and returned without any title.

For the Games in Vientiane, the BAM are contemplating to send their best team led by Chong Wei, who has yet to win an individual title in the series.

Although things are looking bright for Choong Hann, the veteran was disappointed yesterday over his tame defeat by Tien Minh.

“I had the better chance of ending a six-year wait for a title in the Taiwan Open compared to Macau last week. But I did not make it happen,” he said.

“Nguyen had total control of the game. He played a tight game and did not allow me to tap for winners. He was even able to retrieve my smashes from half court and that frustrated me even more.”

Choong Hann conceded that Tien Minh, who also won the Thailand Open last month, would be one of the players to beat in the SEA Games.

“His attacking and deceptive game style has not changed much since I last played against him two years ago. But he now has more confidence in himself and that has taken his game to a higher level. He will certainly continue to give the top players a hard time,” he said.

Choong Hann will return home today and work on his preparation for the China Masters and Japan Open next month.

Meanwhile, Taiwan enjoyed a rare feat when they bagged two titles through Cheng Shao-chieh (women’s singles) and Chen Hong-ling-Lin Yu-lang (men’s doubles).

Final Results

Men’s singles: Nguyen Tien Minh (Vie) bt Wong Choong Hann (Mas) 21-11, 21-14.

Men’s doubles: Chen Hong-ling-Lin Yu-lang (Tpe) bt Yohan Hadikusumo Wiratama-Wong Wai Hong (Hkg) 14-21, 21-12, 21-19.

Women’s singles: Cheng Shao-chieh (Tpe) bt Bae Seung-hee (Kor) 17-21, 21-12, 21-15.

Women’s doubles: Zhang Jiewen-Yang Wei (Chn) bt Vita Marissa-Mona Santoso (Ina) 21-14, 21-9.

Mixed doubles: V. Diju-Jwala Gutta (Ind) bt Hendra Gunawan-Vita Marissa (Ina) 23-21, 21-18.

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