MALAYSIA MASTERS Day 1 – ‘Final chance’ has promising start for Vittinghus

Having given himself an ultimatum of sorts, Hans-Kristian Vittinghus got 2020 off to an auspicious start with two convincing wins in qualifying to reach the main draw of the first […]

Having given himself an ultimatum of sorts, Hans-Kristian Vittinghus got 2020 off to an auspicious start with two convincing wins in qualifying to reach the main draw of the first event of the season.

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

After a disappointing year in 2019, Denmark’s Hans-Kristian Vittinghus resolved to make 2020 count…or else.

“I see this year as kind of a final chance to show that I have the level to compete with the best guys,” said Vittinghus after winning his opening match.  “I think last year I showed that I can be close with them and I can have my chances but I missed almost all of them so I need to show this year that I still have a few big results left in me.  If I don’t, then there are other things in life as well.  So I’m going to take this last opportunity and then I hope that this opportunity is going to be for another few years.”

In his opening match of the , and indeed of 2020, the Dane needed 3 games to see off 18-year-old Indian Lakshya Sen.  He was dominated in the first game, but stayed in it and won the decider convincingly.

“The level of the qualifying here is just insane,” said Vittinghus.  “I think any of the guys playing qualifying here could just as well play main rounds so I kind of prepared as if this were a normal first-round match because Lakshya is certainly around that level as well.  He won four tournaments in a row in Europe in the autumn last year so he’s a guy you should respect and I’m sure he has a bright future.  I just happened to get through this first one.

Asked about his teenaged opponent’s strengths, he said, “First of all, he’s really fast.  His footwork is really nice and his defense is the best part of his game.  It’s really difficult to get it to the floor against him.  And because he’s so fast, he’s good at counter-attacking  If he gives you the attack and he survives, then he’s quite dangerous.  Maybe he’s still missing a little bit in terms of power but he’s only 18 or 19 so without putting too much pressure on him, I think he’s going to be one of the best players at some point.

“I was actually hoping he would be more uncomfortable with the arena because it can be quite windy but it wasn’t too windy today. One of the sides is a bit fast, making it difficult to play the back with a lot of pressure but he seemed like he got comfortable really quickly.

“I deliberately chose to start on the worse side because I was hoping he would take some time to get comfortable and take advantage of that but as you saw, he got up 5-0 in the first game, so he got comfortable faster than I did.  I didn’t feel that it was his first Super 500 but maybe he will say something different if you ask him.”

Vittinghus confirmed that his goals for the coming year have nothing to do with the Tokyo Olympics: “To be realistic I have about 0.001% chance of qualifying.  I’m not really pursuing that.  Viktor and Anders are top 5 in the world so they’re pretty certain of going.  No, it’s a chance to first of all, get back into the top 20 but my goal this year is also to win at least a Super 300.

“Talking about it as a last chance is more in the sense that I have a family as well and I have a wife who’s also very ambitious in her dressage career.  We’re putting that one in the background to pursue my dream.  If that’s not going well then I don’t want to waste her time.  I need to prove also to her that it’s worth it and then she can pursue her career a little bit more in a few years’ time.”

Asked about his own experience with horses, Vittinghus said, “I’ve only been on a horse once, to impress her.  That was before we started really dating and I succeeded in that one and I haven’t felt the need to get back on a horse again.  We actually have three horses now together that we own so I’m trying to get involved that way to make it more exciting for me as well to be a part of that world because it’s very different from badminton.”

Elaborating further on his preparation for the new year, he said, “I had one week of holiday shortly after the Hong Kong Open and I haven’t played any tournaments since.  It’s always nice to get your mind away from the game and recharge and set new goals and think everything through.  I think you need that holiday every now and then but right now, I’m just motivated to keep going but I’m not going to have a holiday for some time, I hope.”

Vittinghus was able to follow up his victory over Lakshya Sen by beating Korea’s top-ranked player, Heo Kwang Hee in straight games.  He will proceed to the main draw and take on Lu Guangzu on Wednesday.

In fact, the Dane was not the only veteran on a rebuilding mission to win his first match but two others in the men’s singles qualifying stumbled at the second hurdle.  Both Soong Joo Ven of Malaysia and Korea’s Lee Dong Keun started 2020 by having to adjust to no long being part of their respective national team setups.

Lee, who withdrew from national team tryouts last month and turned up in KL already with a new sponsor, took down Loh Kean Yew, last year’s season-opener champion at the Thailand Masters, but then lost out to China’s Sun Feixiang.  Soong, whose removal from the national team setup was announced just last week, was impressive against former top ten player Wong Wing Ki but couldn’t get stay with Koki Watanabe in their deciding game.

“I think I’ll comment more on my status after the tournament,” said Soong Joo Ven after his first match, insisting on deferring any other questions regarding new sponsorships and the like.  “I’ll certainly try to work harder.  Whether I’m with BAM or as an independent, I’m still representing Malaysia.  I’ll always try my best.”

Asked if his commendable performance in his opening match was related to him having something to prove, Soong said, “Actually, before the SEA Games, I spoke to somebody who inspired me a lot and he gave me some tips and I just tried my best after that.  Right now, I won’t say his name yet but I would like to thank him.”

The fourth qualifier in men’s singles was former French Open winner Liew Daren.  The 2019 semi-finalist won both of his matches in straight games and he took his place in the main draw, where he and Lee Zii Jia will be the only Malaysian singles representatives, of either gender.

Click here for complete Day 1 results

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 @