Beaten Malaysia misses Lee Chong Wei in Sudirman Cup opener

Malaysia battles to defeat against powerful host China on the opening day of the tourney.

Lee Chong Wei’s career appears to be nearing a sad conclusion after he was diagnosed last year with early stage nose cancer.   -  AFP

A young Malaysian side shorn of legend Lee Chong Wei battled to defeat against powerful host China on the opening day of the Sudirman Cup on Sunday.

Lee is one of the finest badminton players of all time but his career appears to be nearing a sad conclusion after he was diagnosed last year with early stage nose cancer. The 36-year-old former World No.1’s absence is a severe blow to Malaysia’s hopes of making an impact at the Sudirman Cup, the world mixed-team championships.

In his place, Lee Zii Jia, aged 21, faced China’s World No. 2 Shi Yuqi with Malaysia already trailing 2-0 to the host in the city of Nanning. Shi was an easy 21-12, 21-11 winner in 35 minutes and China ran out 5-0 victor in the tie.

Not one-sided

But the Chinese, who along with top-seeded Japan are the favourites, did not have it all their own way against the brave Malaysians.

 

Soniia Cheah, ranked 34 in the world, pushed third-ranked Chen Yufei to three games. The men’s doubles also went to a deciding game with Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen saving match point for the Chinese.

Prior to their daunting opener, Lee Chong Wei issued a rallying call to his countrymen. “Play out the last bit of your sweat. Play for your pride, your team-mates, your family and the flag you wear at your chest,” he wrote on Instagram.

Only three countries have ever lifted the Sudirman Cup since it began in 1989 — 10-time winner China, holder South Korea and Indonesia.

Indonesia began its campaign with a 4-1 win over England.

Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik of Malaysia (in picture) fought hard before going down to China's Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen in men's doubles on Sunday. Photo: AFP

 

South Korea and Japan — the latter looking to win the Cup for the first time — launch their tournaments on Monday.

The Koreans stunned China two years ago on Australia’s Gold Coast to win the prestigious tournament, which is held every other year and this time involves 32 teams.