KUALA LUMPUR: Expect the temperature to rise in cold, cold Seoul when Malaysia’s world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei takes on Lin Dan of China in a battle to become the first champion of the richest tournament in the history of badminton – the US$1.2mil South Korea Open – today.
Yesterday, arch rivals Chong Wei and Lin Dan took contrasting semi-final paths to make the dream of all badminton fans come true.
The winner of today’s epic battle stands to take home US$90,000 (RM275,000).
And, if Chong Wei wins, it will be his biggest ang pow ever for the Chinese New Year.
He has already pocketed US$40,000 (RM122,00) for winning the Super Series Masters Finals in Taipei on Jan 9 and made another US$30,000 (RM91,600) when he captured the Malaysia Open title for the seventh time on Jan 23.
Yesterday, top seed and defending champion Chong Wei showed that he was on track for the largest pay cheque of his career when he demolished China’s back-up shuttler Du Pengyu 21-10, 21-10 in a 34-minute semi-final.
Despite competing in his third major tournament in a month, Chong Wei did not show any signs of fatigue nor strain in his game, maintaining a fast pace to show his determination to become the first Malaysian to win three titles in a month.
But the -8°C temperature in Seoul must have affected three-time champion Lin Dan, who was slow to catch fire against a resurgent Simon Santoso in the other semi-final.
The Asian Games champion locked horns against the Indonesian for almost 75 minutes before finally scoring five straight points in the decider to prevail 23-21, 20-22, 21-15.
National singles coach Rashid Sidek said that besides the lucrative prize money, “pride will be at stake when the two players clash”.
“Chong Wei showed that the back-up shuttlers from China are not in his league. If he maintains his form, the final can go down to the wire,” said Rashid.
“Lin Dan has been quite unpredictable over the last two months. He has walked out from three Open tournaments (in China, Hong Kong and Malaysia) citing injuries.
“Today, he was not impressive in his win over Simon. He could have wrapped it up in straight games but he did not show much urgency. It felt as though he was holding back.
“I expect Lin Dan to show his true colours when he takes on Chong Wei today.”
On paper, at least, Lin Dan is the favourite. He has, after all, won 17 out of the 23 matches against Chong Wei since their rivalry first took place in 2004.
In their last meeting at the Asian Games in Guangzhou in November, the 28-year-old Lin Dan was simply a cut above – nailing his first Asiad title to complete an impressive collection of all the major titles that badminton has to offer.
Men’s singles: Lee Chong Wei (Mas) bt Du Pengyu (Chn) 21-10, 21-10; Lin Dan (Chn) bt Simon Santoso (Ina) 23-21, 20-22, 21-15.
Men’s doubles: Lee Yong-dae-Jung Jae-sung (Kor) bt Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong (Mas) 20-22, 21-9, 21-10; Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen (Den) bt Ko Sung-hyun-Yoo Yeon-seong (Kor) 21-17, 21-19.
Women’s singles: Wang Yihan (Chn) bt Sung Ji-hyun (Kor) 21-5, 18-21, 21-18; Wang Shixian (Chn) bt Porntip Buranaprasertsuk (Tha) 21-7, 21-13.
Women’s doubles: Wang Xiaoli-Yu Yang (Chn) bt Cheng Wen-hsing-Chien Yu-chin (Tpe) 21-9, 17-21, 21-7; Tian Qing-Zhao Yunlei (Chn) bt Du Jing-Pan Pan (Chn) 21-12, 22-20.
Mixed doubles: Zhang Nan-Zhao Yunlei (Chn) bt Xu Chen-Ma Jin (Chn) 21-14, 21-11; Tao Jiaming-Tian Qing (Chn) bt Ko Sung-hyun-Ha Jung-eun (Kor) 21-18, 21-17. - theStar