Lee Chong Wei wins Hong Kong Open title despite playing at '85 per cent'

The shout and salute to the crowd says it all, after Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia defeated Tian Houwei of China in the Hong Kong Open final. But he has not made the Super Series Finals and will rest and prepare himself for another assault on the Olympic
The shout and salute to the crowd says it all, after Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia defeated Tian Houwei of China in the Hong Kong Open final. But he has not made the Super Series Finals and will rest and prepare himself for another assault on the Olympic gold after two silver medals.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

HONG KONG • Ex-world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei won his third straight Super Series title at the Hong Kong Open yesterday, but said that he is not playing at his best.

The Malaysian, who has dominated world badminton for nearly a decade, was forced off court by an eight-month doping ban, which saw him drop as low as 180 in the world rankings.

He returned to competition in May, but suffered early exits from tournaments in South Korea and Denmark in September and last month respectively, prompting some to question whether the 33-year-old was past his prime.

Lee has since won three consecutive titles in France, China and Hong Kong, and clawed his way back to sixth in the world rankings.

But, despite his recent performances, the veteran does not think he is at the top of his game, and says he needs to regain some focus - and avoid injury - if he is to make a strong showing at next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"I know I'm not 100 per cent, maybe 85 per cent," Lee said after his 21-16, 21-15 win over Chinese world No. 10 Tian Houwei in Hong Kong yesterday. "I think I lost some concentration and focus."

Rio could be his last chance to win an elusive gold. Lee has two silvers - from London and Beijing.

The Hong Kong Open was his final tournament for this year as he has not qualified for the Super Series Finals, and he is now focused on readying himself for next year.

"I am very tired after back-to-back tournaments and now I will just focus on not getting any injury and qualifying for the Olympics," he said.

But he was coy about whether that top podium position was on his mind. "I know everyone wants to win gold but I try not to think too much as the pressure is too much," he said.

In the women's final, two-time world champion Carolina Marin of Spain took her sixth title of the year, beating Japan's Nozomi Okuhara in a tightly fought match.

The epic 84-minute final - the longest match in the women's competition in the tournament - saw the world No. 1 squander five match points before finally taking the crown 21-17, 18-21, 22-20.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2015, with the headline 'Lee wins HK crown despite performing at only 85%'. Print Edition | Subscribe