Lee enjoys first title since ban

US Open not top tier, but ex-world No. 1 ends 9-month wait for trophy

NEW YORK - Just a month after returning from an eight-month doping ban, and badminton's former No. 1 Lee Chong Wei is back to his winning ways.

While the US Open may be just a Grand Prix Gold-level tournament - below the top-tier Super Series and Super Series Premier competitions - the 32-year- old Malaysian still savoured a victory in his first individual tournament in nine months.

"I'm happy with my performance in the US Open, even though this is my (first) individual tournament after nine months. Thank you fans and supporters, I love you all," Lee posted on his Facebook page, after beating Hans-Kristian Vittinghus of Denmark 22-20, 21-12 in the men's singles final in Brentwood, New York on Sunday.

Badminton Association of Malaysia technical director Morten Frost had earlier given the thumbs up to the progress Lee had made in the United States.

After Lee bulldozed Rajiv Ouseph of England 21-9, 21-14 in 32 minutes to reach the semi-finals, Frost said he was happy to see Lee's determination in his bid to win a first title this year.

"Chong Wei came through the hard way against a youngster in the third round. In the quarter-finals though, he just upped the pace," said Frost.

"He defeated Rajiv in a convincing fashion. To me, that's good progress."

Perak-born Lee returned to the court only last month after he tested positive for dexamethasone at the World Championships in August last year.

Facing the prospect of a career-ending two-year ban, he argued that he gained no benefit from a supplement he had taken inadvertently, convincing the Badminton World Federation (BWF) to reduce his back-dated suspension to eight months.

His inactivity has led to his world ranking tumbling to 180th, but his first title since winning the Japan Open a year ago will give him hope of making an impression at the World Championships in August in Indonesia.

The US Open win, though, did not come easily as he had to withstand a spirited challenge from his Danish rival, reported the BWF official website.

Lee had to mix attack, guile and defence to subdue the third-seeded Vittinghus, who squandered hard-won opportunities, to take the first game.

The Dane surprised Lee with some piercing smashes, only to undo all his sterling work at 20-20, serving into the net and then smashing into the net to hand the game to Lee.

The Malaysian then imposed himself on the match, and clinched the honours with his trademark jump-smash.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2015, with the headline 'Lee enjoys first title since ban'. Print Edition | Subscribe