Changing partners: Lee Chun-hei and Chau Hoi-wah end alliance at the Hong Kong Open
- Once ranked as high as sixth in the world, the pair have found new partners
- Lee says changing partners is one way of improving as professionals
After a successful six-year partnership, Hong Kong’s badminton mixed doubles pair, Lee Chun-hei and Chau Hoi-wah, played their last game together before calling time on their alliance.
Lee and Chau have decided to move on, dissolving their partnership that saw them become the first Hong Kong mixed doubles pair to win a superseries title on the world tour.
One of Hong Kong’s most successful teams – they were Asian champions in 2014 and bronze medallists at last year’s world championships – the pair will continue their careers with new partners when they compete at the Korea Masters at the end of the month.
On Tuesday, Lee and Chau couldn’t win one last time for old time’s sake as they succumbed to China’s Wang Yilyu and Huang Dongping in the first round of the Yonex-Sunrise Hong Kong Open at the Coliseum on Tuesday. It was a sad end to the pair who were ranked as high as sixth in the world.
“I give it my all ... it doesn’t matter whether I was playing with Lee or another player,” said 32-year-old Chau after losing 21-16, 15-21, 21-15. “It wasn’t a bad performance but our opponents were just too strong.
“Looking back, we have fond memories playing together over the last six years; the Asian Championships, the 2015 Australia Open when we won our first super series title and the 2014 Canadian Open when we recovered from a series of poor performance to win in front of my family and friends. But there comes a time when we need something new so we can keep improving.”
Lee said he had approached Hong Kong coach Tim He Yiming with the idea of changing partners in order to break new ground as a professional player.
“We need some kind of stimulus and if we don’t try we will never know,” he said. “Of course, we are looking for better results or there isn’t any point in forming new pairs. The standard of the game is improving all the time and you can’t look back in the past.”
Lee will now combine with up-and-coming Ng Tsz-yau, while Chau’s new partner is Mak Hee-chun, a former Malaysian player now representing Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, Tang Chun-man and Tse Ying-suet, Hong Kong’s leading mixed doubles pair and third seeds in the tournament, advanced to the second round following a 21-9, 21-10 victory over Denmark’s Niclas Nohr and Sarah Thygesen.
“We have never played them before but we were well prepared for the match,” said Tang. “We set no target but of course something like a semi-final would be ideal as we are playing in front of the home fans.”
The Hong Kong pair are hoping to reach the World Tour finals in Guangzhou next month but they must reach the last four in Hong Kong to have a chance of joining the big guns.
“They didn’t do very well in Europe nor the China Open and now they have to work hard if they want a place in the [Guangzhou] final,” said He.