It is difficult to make out what would be going on in Lee Chong Wei’s mind right now. The Malaysian has the highest number of Superseries titles to show on his resume but he has always been the bridesmaid in bigger tournaments like the World Championship and the Olympics - no gold medals in those events till date.
And if he came to Glasgow with an aim to change that narrative, he hit a complete nadir when he crashed out in the very first round after losing to Frenchman Brice Leverdez 21-19 22-24 21-17 in an hour and 15 minutes.
“It’s ok, of course it is a disappointing result today but I am looking forward to the future,” was Chong Wei’s first reaction after coming out of the court. As he walked off from the mixed zone with a smile on his face one would have wondered whether Malaysia’s most recognised sportsperson wasn’t driven enough anymore.
Not getting any younger
After all Chong Wei will turn 35 in October and has had enough issues with the system back home ever since Dane Morten Frost was made the Technical Director.
It was because of his reservations that the Federation has brought back Misbun Sidek as the singles head coach and Chong Wei had said on the eve of the tournament that the presence of the former Malaysian legend was a good sign going into the championship.
But all that came to nothing against Leverdez where Chong Wei oscillated between the exceptional and the ordinary and even he wouldn’t know what had hit him in what was his 10th World Championship appearance.
He struggled through the first game and major part of the second game before winning seven straight points from 13-18 to earn two game points. He wasted that and was extremely lucky to take the perfect review to save the first match point against him and take the match into a decider.
One would have expected him to sail through after that and he looked in total control while leading 14-9 and 15-11 only to have the worst possible meltdown as he lost five straight points to hand Leverdez the lead and then just threw everything away at 17-17 with silliest of errors.
It was therefore imminent that the questions about his possible retirement were thrown at him and though composed the three-time world championship runners-up at one stage retorted saying, “I may just retire tomorrow. It’s probably just a blur for me right now,” explained the man who has won 66 career titles along with three Olympic and World Championship silver medals.
I never give up, I keep trying again. But today I did my best but it was not enough. It definitely hurts not to have won this title and that there is pressure on me and see I lost in the first round,” he said, adding “I will reassess the situation and decide where my future lies.”
The way Chong Wei is playing, he definitely has a few more years of badminton left in him in which he will continue to win more than he loses. But after this disheartening loss, it would be interesting to see how well the Malaysian can pick himself up and prepare for another World Championship next year.
And if he doesn’t, then one wonders how he will sum up his own career when he hangs up his racquet for good.
Do you prefer your favourite sports stories delivered straight to your inbox every weekday? We have got you covered. Subscribe to The Field’s newsletter.