MALAYSIA MASTERS Finals – Kim/Lee give the love right back!

Kim Gi Jung and Lee Yong Dae delighted the crowd at the Malaysia Masters, stunning world #4 Li/Liu to win their first Super 500 title. By Don Hearn, Badzine correspondent […]

Kim Gi Jung and delighted the crowd at the , stunning world #4 Li/Liu to win their first title.

By Don Hearn, Badzine correspondent live in Kuala Lumpur.  Photos: Mark Phelan / Badmintonphoto (live)

The last time either Lee Yong Dae and Kim Gi Jung played in a final, they faced Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen.  Kim Gi Jung was in a scratch partnership for his, playing with Ko Sung Hyun in 2016 and losing in straight games, while a week later Lee Yong Dae teamed up for one last time (or so we thought) and beat the Chinese pair to win the Korea Open.

But what happened today in Axiata Arena was more reminiscent of Kim Gi Jung’s last Superseries title.  It just so happens that that success came at the 2016 Malaysia Open.  Lee Yong Dae himself won that event in 2009 and both he and Kim have also featured in a total of 7 other finals in Malaysia at both the Open and all three Malaysian editions of the Superseries Finals.  And it was clear that Malaysian fans remember that well.

In the first game, the Koreans stubbornly refused to lift the shuttle and they seemed to match Li and Liu shot for shot in the driving rallies.  When they were forced to lift, the Chinese players seemed so surprised by their good fortune that they did not pounce on the opportunities to unleash their signature steep smashes.

Lee Yong Dae was faulted on his serve early in the match again but unlike in the quarter-final, it did not seem to affect the quality of his other serves.

The crowd was so ecstatic every time the Korean side scored that you could be forgiven for thinking a Malaysian team was playing.  Of course, they did have former local star Koo Kien Keat behind them on the coach’s chair; however, Lee Yong Dae has had a passionate and vocal fanbase here in Malaysia for many years and of course, Kim Gi Jung was the last Korean to win the Malaysia Open.

The match ended with Kim Gi Jung pushing and pulling the two Chinese giants about the court from the net and then finally slapping down the last loose return.  Kim and Lee took turns hurling their racquets into the crowd in celebration.

After the match, Kim Gi Jung said, “For Yong Dae and me playing together, this is our first Super 500 title and because it came in the first tournament in 2020, we are really, really happy and it feels like a great new start.”

“The Chinese players have a good attack and they are very tall so for us, we knew we had to concentrate on our net play and on our drive game,” said Lee Yong Dae.  “I think that was the right strategy and it worked out well for us.

“Also the crowd seemed to be cheering so loudly for us that I wonder if that didn’t have its effect on the Chinese pair.”

“Last year, we really couldn’t play and train the way we wanted to but we were really keen for more and we didn’t want to give up and wanted to show all we had,” said Kim, “so now that things are starting to come together, I think we are more comfortable in our minds.”

On their outlooks for the new season, Lee said, “We feel really great to have done well in the first tournament of the year but we really want to play the 2020 season without injury.  The Olympics are secondary.  Right now, although there are still a few months left, we are lacking in points so what we are focussing on is in each tournament, we are going to give our best and in the end if all goes well, we want to have a successful season.”

Asked about the vociferous crowd support, Lee Yong Dae said, “I’ve come for this tournament many times but especially this year, the fans have really been cheering for us.  When we first entered the hall, the cheers were so great and it really made us want to win and really wanted to play a good match so we are so happy to have had this crowd support and it gave us a real boost.  It’s been over a year since we’ve won a tournament so the cheering really helped us to focus on the match and lifted our spirits so I am so grateful to the fans.”

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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 @