Lee Chong Wei to head south, return as world #1

It was revealed on Friday that long-time world #1 Lee Chong Wei is set to travel from one end of the Commonwealth to the other next month.  The Malaysian star’s […]

It was revealed on Friday that long-time world #1 Lee Chong Wei is set to travel from one end of the Commonwealth to the other next month.  The Malaysian star’s name appeared at the top of the entry list for the Gold, published Friday by the Badminton World Federation ().  The final in Auckland will be played exactly two weeks before the welcome dinner in Glasgow, Scotland that is to precede the World Badminton Championships.

According to BWF records, this will be the first time for Lee Chong Wei to play at the New Zealand Open.  However, the tournament Facebook page announced back in 2012 that Lee and his then new wife, former China Open champion Wong Mew Choo, would be visiting Auckland that winter on their honeymoon as guests of SKYCITY, the hotel chain that a few months later began their five-year run as the tournament’s title sponsor.

Given that Lee’s world is currently based on only 9 of the maximum 10 events, simply stepping on court in Auckland will automatically put him back into the #1 spot as of August 10th and he will remain there until the Worlds kick off on the 21st.  However, before round of 16 is completed in Glasgow, Lee and many other players will lose all their points from the Rio Olympics, leaving Son Wan Ho on top once again.   In addition, seeding for the will be based on the August 3rd rankings, before which there are unlikely to be any changes in the top 5.  This means that Son Wan Ho and Lee Chong Wei, who are thus sure to be the 1st and 2nd seeds respectively, cannot meet in Glasgow before the finals but either player could find himself facing other top contenders such as Lin Dan, Chen Long, Viktor Axelsen, or Srikanth Kidambi in the semi-finals or earlier.

The New Zealand Open will be Lee Chong Wei’s first appearance in a Grand Prix Gold event since last year’s Malaysian Masters.  He is the all-time men’s singles title leader for this grouping of tournaments, with 9 in total.  However, his mark could be tied before he arrives in Auckland as Korea’s Lee Hyun Il is the top seed in the U.S. Open and the 37-year-old already has 8 career Grand Prix Gold titles to his name.

If Lee Chong Wei should reach the final in New Zealand, he will still have two weeks to cover almost the greatest possible distance to the venue of the World Championships.  One source puts the flying distance at nearly 18,000 kilometres between the two cities, which are separated by over 90 degrees of latitude and 178 degrees of longitude.  Part of the flying time will be cancelled out, however, by the 11-hour time difference between the New Zealand and Scotland.

Lee is far from the only player who will be having to make the mid-August trek.  Among the many others could be former women’s singles world #1 Ratchanok Intanon (pictured right), who is at the top of the entry list for her own discipline.  She is also another of the top players heading to the New Zealand Open for the first time.

New Zealand badminton fans will be in for a rare treat.  Two summers ago, Lee Chong Wei appeared in a Grand Prix event in Canada for the first time (pictured top).  That was just a week after competing in the United States for the first time in a decade.  In 2017, it will be New Zealand’s turn to get a first-hand glimpse of this particular man’s on-court greatness.

Photo: Yves Lacroix / Badmintonphoto


Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @ badzine.net