Lee Cheuk-yiu’s giant-killing run at the Hong Kong Open ends in the semi-finals
- Hong Kong youngster beaten in straight games by Japan’s Kenta Nishimoto as he fails to match Angus Ng’s exploits of 2016
Lee Cheuk-yiu’s hopes of emulating Angus Ng Ka-long’s badminton exploits at the Yonex-Sunrise Hong Kong Open ended in failure when he lost to Japan’s Kenta Nishimoto 21-18, 21-12 in the men’s singles semi-finals on Saturday night.
Up-and-coming Lee was hoping to become only the second Hong Kong player to reach the final of the home tournament – Ng won the singles event in 2016 – but despite showing signs of promise in the first game, the 22-year-old was unable to put up a stern challenge and was beaten in 47 minutes at the Coliseum.
Lee was pleased he had reached the last four at the Hong Kong Open – his best result to date – but was disappointed he didn’t give it a better game of it.
“I had a bit luck in this tournament but today I discovered there was a big gap between the top players and myself,” said the world number 47, who played in the qualifiers before losing to the Asian Games bronze medallist from Japan.
“Thanks to the huge support from the fans. Many came to cheer for Hong Kong. I let them down.”
However, the Hong Kong player took out some positives from his straight-games defeat.
“I learned how to cope with the pressure in a major tournament and I did it quite well tonight,” said Lee, who will compete in next month’s Korea Masters, his last tournament for the year. “My ranking will certainly go up a bit after the event, and hopefully it can form a stronger base for me to challenge for Olympic qualification beginning next year. The 2020 Games is always my target.”
Nishimoto will meet South Korea’s Son Wan-ho in Sunday’s final. The Korea pulled off a stunning victory over top seed Kento Momota, of Japan, in the earlier semi-final at the HK$3.12 million event.
The 30-year-old Korean prevailed after a 90-minute battle, winning 18-21, 21-16, 21-19 and said life has become easier with the likes of Malaysia hero Lee Chong Wei and China’s Lin Dan now playing in the twilight of their careers.
“When I was a young player, Lin and Lee were at their peak and it was always difficult for an inexperienced player like myself to compete against them,” said Son, who twice won in Hong Kong at the 2009 East Asian Games and the 2014 Hong Kong Open.
“But now I have got more international exposure and I’ve become more composed while Lin and Lee are gradually fading out. But of course there are still many other quality players such as Momota and Viktor Axelsen and we still have to work hard for good results on the tour.”
Momota, who beat the Korean player in straight games on his way to winning the China Open in Fuzhou last week, was a spent force having played a hectic schedule this year.
“He started to get tired after the first game and I took the opportunity to launch a successful comeback,” said Son.
In the women’s semi-finals, Ratchanok Intanon, of Thailand, came back from one game down to beat Sung Ji-hyun, of South Korea, 10-21, 21-11, 21-17 to reach the final.
World No 1 Tai Tzu-Ying, of Taiwan, retired in the second game against Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara. Tai lost the first game 21-12 and was trailing 3-1 before she called it quits.
“I don’t want to aggravate my back injury as I want to play in the World Tour finals in December,” she said. Okuhara will now meet Ratchanok in the final.