SINGAPORE - It was fairy-tale stuff as local hope Derek Wong rode on his free pass to the main draw to stun Denmark's world No. 17 Hans-Kristian Vittinghus in the first round of the OUE Singapore Open yesterday.
In front of a raucous crowd of 3,300 fans at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the 25-year-old shuttler showed nerves of steel and lightning reflexes to win 21-16, 16-21, 21-16 in 53 minutes.
With the victory, his first over Vittinghus in three tries, Wong booked a spot in the second round of the Singapore Open for the first time in three attempts. He will take on India's B Sai Praneeth today.
Speaking after his win, the world No. 47 told The New Paper: "I've beaten top players like Sony Dwi Kuncoro and Taufik Hidayat, but being able to make it to the second round of the Singapore Open for the first time, in front of a home crowd, definitely ranks up there as one of my top moments.
"I hope to be able to continue this momentum and win my next match."
Former Singapore star Wong Shoon Keat would have been proud, as his son recovered from 2-9 down in the first set and staved off a late fightback by Vittinghus to seal the victory.
The rubber set was a gripping affair, with Wong staying calm when the line judge ruled against him to allow Vittinghus to level the scores at 5-5.
Wong then produced a series of pinpoint smashes and feathered drop shots to turn a 5-7 deficit into a 16-8 lead.
The Dane refused to give up, and pulled back to 16-16, only for Wong to step up a gear and kill off the match with five straight points.
"The most crucial point was definitely at 16-16 in the third set. It felt like whoever won the next point would go on and win the match," said Wong.
"Obviously, winning the first set was crucial, too. When I was behind by seven points, I stayed positive and took it one point at a time, both by attacking and getting him to make mistakes.
"I really have to thank both my former coach Luan Ching for changing my game, and my new coach Liu Qingdong for working on my weaknesses such as my defence and net shots."