Lee Chong Wei and Saina Nehwal have spent a major part of their badminton careers trying to scale the Chinese wall. Both shuttlers,superstars in their own countries,have stumbled against their nemesis,though the Malaysian can boast of a marginally better performance. It’s an uncanny similarity,one that hasn’t missed coach Tey Seu Bock’s attention.
Lee’s poor record against his arch-rival,China’s Lin Dan,extended earlier this month at the World Championships,where the Chinese shuttler notched up his 23rd win over his Malaysian counterpart in 32 meetings.
The disappointment was difficult to deal with for Lee,with his long-time coach even questioning his pupil’s mental toughness when pitted against the Chinese.
Saina would empathise with Lee’s predicament. Till the emergence of PV Sindhu,she was the lone warrior from the country against an army of Chinese shuttlers,who would do almost anything to stifle her. The pressure on her is immense and has led to her downfall at times.
Bock drew parallels to the pressure faced by Lee back in Malaysia with Saina’s condition in India. The whole of Malaysia wants him (Wei) to win every time. Malaysia is a small country compared to China. They can produce 10 players and train them in a way that Lee can be beaten. We cannot do that in Malaysia, Bock said. The situation is very similar to India and Saina. She has been battling the Chinese army alone all these years. It is not easy to manage this.
Bock said it was down to how well these players handle the Chinese mentally,for skill-wise they are as good as them,if not better. They (Chinese) have a lot less pressure because they have won much more. When Lee steps on to the court,first he has to deal with the pressure of beating a Chinese opponent and then focus on winning his maiden (World and Olympic) title. So it’s tough to adjust mentally, Bock remarked,adding that Lee is a limited edition player and it would be difficult to produce another one like him.
Lee,though,refused to reflect on what has been a tough month for him. Coming ever so close to win his maiden world championship title,the Malaysian had to retire from the final against Dan despite the finish line in his sights. Lee missed the first two ties for the Mumbai Masters owing to sponsor commitments back home and recovering from the muscle-pull he suffered in the final.
It wasn’t difficult to understand the hysteria surrounding Lee,the biggest draw of the tournament. The Olympic silver medallist,who will make his IBL debut on Tuesday,looked unperturbed and declared that IBL is a much better product than the Chinese League. I have played in China and I have played in India,but I think India is better. Next year I think you can do more better. China (League) is a long one played over six months but Indian League is only three weeks, he said.
His presence seems to have lifted the spirit in the Mumbai camp. Bock insisted that Mumbai will not be a one-man machine and hoped the focus on Lee continued…