Lee Chong Wei suffers through All England opener, while Hong Kong’s Angus Ng reaches round two
Malaysian star is suffering with a knee ligament injury
World number one Lee Chong Wei admitted he had been within a hair’s breadth of quitting the last All-England Open of his career before surviving his first-round test.
The three-time former champion, Malaysia’s most successful Olympian, won 21-15, 21-12 against Brice Leverdez of France, but knows he may have to finish the tournament without ever being at his best.
Meanwhile, Angus Ng Ka-long was the only one of Hong Kong’s contingent to make it to round two in the men’s draw.
Lee played with heavy strapping over the knee he injured training a month ago and had little idea how or even whether he would be able to perform in Birmingham.
“I just know it is not one hundred per cent,” the 34-year-old said. “I was so very close to pulling out. But this is the All-England and I said I will play.
“I’m just going on court and trying to forget my injury and do my best. I didn’t play well, but at least I think I tried to play every shot.”
Lee was a little fortunate that Leverdez, who beat him in the Danish Open in October and led 14-11 this time, relinquished his lead with mistakes.
Lee next plays Wang Tzu-wei, the world number 25 from Taiwan, and must hope the ligament damage continues to recede before a possible quarter-final with Tian Houwei, the seventh-seeded Chinese player.
Hong Kong Open champion Ng, seeded eighth, battled back from losing the first game against Rajiv Ouseph of England to win 19-21, 21-18, 21-12.
Ng now faces China’s Shi Yiqi, who beat Hong Kong’s Hu Yun with little difficulty, 21-12, 21-9.
HK’s other representative, Vincent Wong Wing-ki, lost 22-20, 21-18 to Japanese qualifier Kazamusa Sakai.
World No.8 Ng faces a tough test if he gets past No.10 Shi, with second seed Jan O Jorgensen his likely quarter-final opponent.
China’s Tian came from 18-14 down to win 21-19, 21-18 over Tommy Sugiarto, the Asian champion from Indonesia.
Some now consider Olympic champion Chen Long, a potential semi-final obstacle for Lee, the favourite despite being seeded five.
He has competed little since his Rio triumph, though a 21-17, 21-7 win over Marc Zwiebler, a former semi-finalist from Germany, suggested he’s not lacking full match fitness quickly.
Chen may have been aided by the departure from his quarter of the draw of Son Wan-Ho, the fourth-seeded South Korean, who withdrew with an ankle injury after only five points, allowing Sony Dwi Kuncoro from Indonesia a shortcut into the second round. Lin Dan of China also cruised through.
The women’s top seed, Tai Tzu-ying, who still denies that the world number one ranking means much to her, made a start which suggested that the world’s oldest title may mean a great deal.
The World Super Series champion from Taiwan came from 18-16 down against Nitchaon Jindapol, the world number 16 from Thailand, to deliver a professionally taken 21-18, 21-14 win.
Quizzed about the reported quote that the world number one ranking didn’t mean much to her but might mean a lot to her family, Tai answered: “Maybe not so much to them either,” before adding: “But perhaps to the people of Taiwan.”
Hong Kong’s Yip Pui-yin beat English qualifier Fontaine Mica Chapman 21-12, 21-19 but faces a stern second round test against third seed Sung Ji-hyun of South Korea. HK’s other representative in the women’s draw, Cheung Ngan-yi, lost a tight match to Taiwan’s Hsu Ya-ching (17-21, 21-18, 21-18).
In the mixed doubles, Hong Kong’s Reginald Lee Chun-hei and Choi Hoi-wah reached round two with a 16-21, 21-16, 21-15 win over Irish siblings Sam and Chloe Magee. They face Chinese fifth seeds Lu Kai and Huang Yaqiong next.
Hong Kong’s two men’s doubles pairs, Or Chin-chung & Tang Chun-man and Law Cheuk-him and Reginald Lee Chun-hei, both went out in the first round, while there was no women’s team taking part.