It will be a blow to the Singapore Open if badminton superstar Lee Chong Wei is unable to play in next year's edition, according to top local shuttler Derek Wong.
Lee, the 32-year-old Malaysian and world No. 1, is among the biggest names in the sport and a guaranteed crowd puller for any competition, especially in this region.
However, the two-time Olympic silver medallist is embroiled in a doping scandal and was provisionally suspended by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) yesterday. Should he fail with his appeal, he could face up to a two-year ban from the sport.
Said Wong: "There are a lot of Malaysians here and Singaporeans who like to watch him play. If he is not able to compete in next year's Singapore Open, it will be a loss for us."
His sentiments were shared by Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) president Lee Yi Shyan, who sympathised with Lee's predicament, and called him "a great icon of the sport who has been a great ambassador for Malaysia".
Both men were speaking on the sidelines of yesterday's announcement of property developer OUE extending its Singapore Open sponsorship for three more years.
Having replaced apparel company Li Ning as title sponsors of the US$300,000 (S$388,000) tournament this year, the new deal is worth $2.2 million and its partnership continues until 2017.
Next year's edition of the BWF World SuperSeries leg will be held from April 7-12 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, though Mr Lee did not rule out moving the marquee event to new arenas at the Singapore Sports Hub.
He said: "Now we have an alternative to consider, whether part or the entire tournament can be held in the new facility."
The Sports Hub will also host the SEA Games next June and with fewer than two months separating the biennial competition and the Singapore Open, it represents an important period for local shuttlers like Wong.
With the recent retirements of several senior members of the national squad, he is expected to be the Republic's leading hope in both events.
"There's more pressure but I've learnt to deal with that," said the 25-year-old, who clinched a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games a few months ago.
Having never made it past the second round of the Singapore Open, he is aware of the challenge, even in the possible absence of the top-ranked Lee.
Said the world No. 48: "There will still be other world-class players coming for it, and I know I cannot stop working hard and have to keep improving, if I want to do well."
This article was first published on Nov 12, 2014.
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