# Malaysian blown away by Korean youngster in the first round in qualifiers in Korean Open
# Zulfadli Zulkifli makes the main draw
Much was expected from Malaysian ace Datuk Lee Chong Wei, who is chasing his Rio Olympic dreams, in the USD600,000 Viktor Korean Open after his second round exit in last week’s Yonex Japan Open in Tokyo.
But it went up in smoke in 45 minutes at the SK Handball Stadium (Olympic Gymnasium 2) in Song-Ga, Seoul on Tuesday when he was shown the exit in the first round in the qualifying rounds – leaving big question marks over his badminton career.
The former World No 1, now ranked No 28 in the world and runners-up in the recent World Championships in Jakarta in August, fell to an embarrassing 19-21, 19-21 defeat to 20-year-old South Korean youngster Heo Kwang-hee, ranked No 125, in 45 minutes.
It was the same opponent he thrashed in the second round in the qualifiers in last week’s Yonex Japan Open in Tokyo for a place in the main draw with a 21-10, 21-12 win.
After defeating Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana in the first round in the Japan Open, Chong Wei, however, fell to Chinese superstar Lin Dan in the second round. Lin Dan won 21-17, 21-10 for a place in the quarter-finals and went on to win his first superseries title this year by defeating Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen in the final.
However, Chong Wei’s defeat to Kwang-hee is certain to raise eyebrows as the Malaysian tries to find his footing after coming back from a eight-month ban for doping after last year’s World Championships in Copenhagen.
Since making his comeback on May 1 after serving the ban, Chong Wei helped Malaysia win the team bronze medal in the Singapore SEA Games followed by back-to-back wins in the US Open and Canada Open before the world meet in Jakarta where he again lost to China’s Chen Long in the final.
Despite reaching the final in the world meet in Jakarta, many have questioned Chong Wei’s overall performance. Many say he has lost his sharpness and zest in the game.
The shocking defeat in Seoul – his first ever in the first round in a qualifying round leaves several questions unanswered.
The fact that his former singles coach Tey Seu Bok was summoned to Seoul to help him out in his training has left many speculating if things are not in order with him and Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) technical director Morten Frost.
Chong Wei’s current singles coach is Indonesian Hendrawan.
While Lin Dan has shown that he is still hungry for a third Olympic gold medal, where is Chong Wei heading after playing in two superseries events and two failures?
The BAM must take stock of the situation and remedy this before the slide continues in Malaysia’s bid to lay their hands on the elusive Olympic badminton gold medal.
Meanwhile, privateer Zulfadli, who recently turned down BAM’s offer to join the national body in his quest to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics, won both his qualifying round matches to make the main draw.
Zulfadli beat Sattawant Pongnairat of the United States 21-19, 21-8 in the first round in 29 minutes. In the second round Zulfadli stopped Japan’s Kazumasa Sakai in three sets with a come-from-behind 13-21, 21-8, 21-17 win in 48 minutes for a place in the main draw.
The Malaysian, ranked No 36, however, faces a tough first round match against Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto, who is ranked No 16.
Men’s singles (First Round)
Heo Kwang-hee (Kor) beat Datuk Lee Chong Wei (Mas) 21-19, 21-19
Zulfadli Zulkifli (Mas) beat Sattawat Pongnairat (USA) 21-10, 21-8
Zulfadli Zulkifli (Mas) beat Kazumasa Sakai (Jpn) 13-21, 21-8, 21-17