Thursday, April 17, 2008

Badminton: Top seeds Lin Dan and Chong Wei struggle for wins

Newspaper article, adopted from The Star, 17 April 2008.

IT was the last but, definitely, the most anticipated match of the day and Lee Chong Wei almost broke the hearts of the local fans at the Bandaraya Stadium.

Yesterday, the country’s top men’s singles shuttler had to come back from the brink of defeat to tame China’s Zhu Weilun 17-21, 21-16, 21-6 in a 48-minute battle.
Close call: China’s Lin Dan makes a backhand return to Vietnam’s Nguyen Tien Minh in the second round yesterday. Lin Dan won 19-21, 21-14, 21-16.

There were anxious moments when he was trailing 1-5 and 8-11 in the second game but the second seed came up with the goods to claw his way up to level at 12-12 and 15-15.

Then, spurred on by the fans, Chong Wei stepped up a gear to force the rubber, winning it 21-6 to seal the match.

Today, he will take on Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana in the third round.

Boonsak had earlier dashed Yeoh Kay Bin’s hopes of strengthening his claim for a place in the Thomas Cup Finals by beating the Malaysian 21-10, 21-13.

Chong Wei attributed his poor start to his inability to read Weilun’s game. The two last met during the Asian Junior Championships in Japan eight years ago.

“I was 18 years old when I last played against him. He is hardly sent out for international tournaments.

“Now, his game has changed a lot. I knew it would be tough but he certainly surprised me with his improved performance,” said the 26-year-old Chong Wei.

“I was not used to his style of play and took a while to get into rhythm. I knew that I needed to break his rhythm and, fortunately, I managed to do that when I was tied at 15-15.

“This is not the start that I had expected. But I promise I will bounce back with better performances. I want to keep my unbeaten record against Boonsak.

“Hopefully, I will be able to reach the semi-finals for a possible meeting with Bao (Chunlai of China),” added the 2006 Asian champion.

Besides Chong Wei, three other Malaysians – Wong Choong Hann, Mohd Hafiz Hashim and Tan Chun Seang – also made it to the third round.

Choong Hann, who hurt his finger during a hard-fought 21-17, 21-14 win over former Asian junior champion Kenichi Tago, said he expects a great fight against Chen Yu of China today.

“I have a good record against Chen Yu although it has been a while since we last met. It is going to be an interesting match and I expect it to go down to the wire.”

Hafiz, who snuffed out a fiery challenge from his younger compatriot Mohd Arif Abdul Latif with a 21-16, 21-17 win, will take on Chunlai today.

Chun Seang, the nation’s top back-up shuttler, also has a tough task today as he will take on South Korean Park Sung-hwan.

Said national singles coach Misbun Sidek: “The matches will only get tougher from now on. It will be tough for the players who are facing Chinese opponents but we hope for a good showing from the Malaysians.”

Meanwhile, top seed Lin Dan of China also got off to a jittery start. He came back from a game down to beat Vietnam’s Nguyen Tien Minh 19-21, 21-14, 21-16 to set up a meeting with Singapore’s Ronald Susilo.


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