JAKARTA (AFP) - Lee Chong Wei claimed his first proper scalp at the badminton world championships in Jakarta on Wednesday, defeating 12th seed Marc Zwiebler so convincingly the German declared his Malaysian opponent ready to win his first world crown.
Lee, who lost in the final at the last three world championships, blew away Zwiebler 21-14, 17-21, 21-8 to book a spot in the third round.
Lee only returned to the badminton circuit in May after being slapped with a ban for doping, and enters the world championships unseeded for the first time in years.
But his clinical dismissal of Zwiebler, capped off with a string of unanswered smashes in the third set, has the Malaysian looking top of his game and hungry for his maiden crown.
Zwiebler, who is close friends with Lee, said the Malaysian had clearly returned to former glory during his eight-month hiatus and was the "best player" in the field to take on the Chinese juggernauts Chen Long and Lin Dan.
"He is an almost perfect player. He doesn't have a weak spot," he told reporters.
"If he is ready to put away the pressure, and focus on his strengths, then definitely he can be champion."
World number one Chen's bid to defend his world crown got off to a strong start, as he dismissed Estonia's Raul Must 21-15, 21-7.
The top seed is expected to encounter little trouble until the quarter-finals, where he will likely face seventh-seeded Dane Viktor Axelsen.
There were upsets elsewhere, with local hero Tommy Sugiarto unable to fend off wily Hong Kong shuttler Wei Nan in a gripping three-set contest.
"It is hard to accept this defeat," the 27-year-old told reporters after the match.
It wasn't all bad news for the hosts on Wednesday, with local shuttler Lindaweni Fanetri upstaging 13th seed Minatsu Mitani from Japan in the women's singles.
Back in the men's game, unseeded Vietnamese Nguyen Tien Minh also ejected 10th seed Indian Kashyap Parupalli 17-21, 21-13, 21-18 and will take on Japanese fourth seed Kento Momota on Thursday.
Indian H.S. Prannoy, the 11th seed, was more fortunate, taking a place in the last 16 with a routine victory over Uganda's Edwin Ekiring 21-14, 21-19.
He will face Axelsen on Thursday, a match the Dane is approaching warily.
"He's a tricky player," Axelsen said of his Indian opponent.
World No. 2 Jan Jorgensen will face ninth-seeded South Korean Son Wan Ho in the third round on Thursday, while women's second seed Saina Nehwal must see off 14th seed Sayaka Takahashi of Japan.