Former world no.1 Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia found it difficult to hide his excitement in his first game on the world stage after he finished the 8-month long doping ban. Lee is representing his country in Sudirman Cup, the prestigious world mixed team championship tournament now underway in the Chinese city of Dongguan. Lee’s presence has made a huge difference as Malaysia have won both opening matches. On Sunday, they defeated South Korea 3-2 and followed that up by beating India next day by the same margin. There was hardly anything in Lee’s game that gave impressions of cobwebs or jitters on account of having stayed on the sidelines for long. Playing against Korea’s world no.34, Lee Dong-Keun, Lee Chong Wei showed superb reflexes in outplaying the Korean 21-12, 21-10 at Dongguan’s Dongfeng Nissan Sports Center. Next day, Malaysia had a match with India and Lee Chong Wei played against world no.4 Kidambi Srikanth. If Srikanth thought he would contend with someone whose game could have become rusty, he was proved wrong. The former super star played a marvelous shuttle game and defeated the Indian 21-16, 21-15. Malaysia’s two victories in two matches have already ensured them the quarterfinal berth but Korea and India have an encounter slated for May 13 that will decide the other quarterfinalist from Group 1D. This would be a do-or-die encounter because the winner will progress to the knockout stage along with Malaysia. Koreans have won the Sudirman Cup on three occasions and they are rated as favorites in the match against India. As for India, they have a problem only because their doubles teams are the weakest among all participating nations. In contrast the Koreans are credited with world class pairings in men and women and mixed categories.
The tournament, which began on May 10, 2015, had Malaysia playing with Korea in the opening match of Group 1D. Despite being a team tournament, all eyes were on Lee Chong Wei’s first competitive match after a long time. Lee was quick on his feet and his sharp reflexes reminded viewers of old times as he took on Korea’s Lee Dong-keun. After some circumspection at the start, Lee Chong Wei overwhelmed Dong-keun 21-12, 21-10. Lee’s win gave Malaysia a 2-1 edge since their doubles pair of Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong had already caused a huge upset by beating Korea’s world no.1 men’s doubles pair of Lee Yong/dae-Yoo Yeon-seon with a score of 20-22, 21-14, 27-25 in the opening tie. In the next match, Korea had brought the scores level at 1-1, when they beat Malaysia in women’s singles. Korea’s world no.7 Sung Ji-hyun defeated Malaysian youngster Lim Yin Fun 21-9, 21-7. After Lee Chong Wei restored the lead to 2-1, Korea leveled the tie by winning the women’s doubles, when Korean women Chang Ye/Na-Jung Kyung-eun beat the Malaysian pair of Woon Khe Wei/Vivian Hoo 22-20, 21-9. In the last tie of the day, Malaysia wrested the match from Korea with a victory in mixed doubles, when the combo of Chan Peng Soon/Goh Liu Ying defeated the Korean pair of Ko Sung-hyun-Kim Ha-na 23-21, 21-13.
On Monday, Malaysia defeated India 3-2 to assure themselves the quarterfinal spot. What went against the Indians was the lack of quality doubles players. The two matches that India won were women’s singles and women’s doubles. In the women’s singles, Saina Nehwal fought hard against world no.56 Tee Jing Yi before scraping through with at 24-22, 21-13. In the women’s doubles, Commonwealth Games silver medallists Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa defeated Vivian Kah Mun Hoo and Woon Khe Wei 21-18, 19-21, 21-15. But India lost all other matches beginning with the opening tie that featured Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy B. The Indian men’s pair lost 15-21 16-21 against Malaysians Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong. In the key contest, Kidambi Srikanth came face to face with Lee Chong Wei. Despite Srikanth doing his best, Lee easily beat the Indian world no.4 21-16, 21-15. In the last and deciding tie of the day, the Malaysian mixed doubles pair of Chan Peng Soon/Goh Liu Ying defeated India’s Sikki Reddy/Arun Vishnu 21-14, 21-18 in just 40-minutes.