When it comes to China,dark horses bolt out of the screaming yellow,their preferred playing colour that swarms badminton courts. It was food poisoning,an upset stomach really,and the subsequent medication that sent Malaysian world No 1 Lee Chong Wei packing from the Indian Open in the first round. The man draped in the Chinese yellow was Chen Long,ranked at a distant 147. Hes a 21-year-old with the 2007 world junior title to his name,and now boasts of a 7-21 21-16 21-18 giant-killing effort over the reigning world No 1.
Just another promising talent from Chinas factory of future champions,Long did a few things differently on Wednesday. For instance,he never kidded himself about who he was playing. He didnt approach his first-round match against the worlds top player as just another game to massage his nerves. I always kept in mind that I was playing the No 1 one of the best players in the game, he said with the help of a translator. Having lost to Chong Wei at an Asian championship,Long knew he needed to lift his game considerably.
Long,who had been out with an ankle injury for most part of last year,has a slightly erratic game though,and his form can just as easily touch both the high and low extremes. On Wednesday,Chong Wei had raced to take the first game 21-7 before Long started putting pressure on the Malaysian. Moving far better than Chong Wei,the taller Chinese took off at 14-13 in the second to build a comfortable lead and then pushed the match into the decider.
The No 1 showed no signs of discomfort from the stomach trouble,though his stroke-making faded away slowly as he struggled to counter Longs body smashes. Longs attack accounted for more than half his winning shots in the deciding game. Leading throughout,the Chinese got himself into a commanding position at 18-13,before allowing some defiant net-pushes from Chong Wei that took it to 18-all.
The Malaysian then ran into a rough line-call,misjudging a serve and going for a shuttle that would have perhaps drifted out. Under tremendous pressure at 18-20,and with the Chinese pumped up for what would be his biggest win till date,Chong Wei stumbled out of the event in 50 minutes.
The little man who has been challenging the might of the Chinese recently trumping Lin Dan at the Swiss Open came to India with an eye on preparing for the World Championships,where the Chinese are threatening to crowd the entry list with as many contenders as they can unleash on the world. Chong Wei would be hoping to stop them and assert his No 1 staus. Ironically though,the biggest name at the Indian Open went out crashing to a Chinese racing to even qualify for the big event in August.
Umpires not fit
Still sullen over his first-round loss at the Indian Open,Chong Wei offered a clipped no comments response to his assessment of Hyderabads preparedness for the World Championships in August. It could get better, he said,of the facilities on offer at the Gachibowli Stadium,as well as the organisation. However,the top-ranked Malaysian was unforgiving on the matter of officiating,feeling cheated off his match when he contested a line-call trailing 18-20 in the decider. The linesmen,umpires were not fit for the match, he complained.