Badminton: Malaysia's ageing star Lee fired up for 2017

Malaysia's badminton icon Lee Chong Wei.
PHOTO: Reuters

Kuching, Malaysia - After a phenomenal start the year, Malaysia's ageing badminton icon Lee Chong Wei said Monday he still has plenty of firepower as he aims for the elusive World Championship title in August.

Lee, 34, the veteran world number one, captured the All-England Open last month with a trampling 21-12, 21-10 win over China's unseeded Shi Yuqi and is primed to defend his Malaysia Open title this week.

"I am still keeping good fitness, good shape and good spirit, and I still have the fire to keep on playing," Lee told AFP.

He had hinted of retiring after the 2016 Olympics, but had a change of heart and has now made the world meet in Glasgow as his biggest target this year.

Despite sweeping through 66 titles, Lee lost in the finals of the World Championships in 2013 and 2015, as well as in the Olympics in 2008, 2012 and 2016.

But fresh off his fourth All-England Open win, Lee is confident of defending his title on home turf, having skipped the India Open to prepare.

The Malaysia Open begins Tuesday in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak state on Borneo island.

The badminton star on Monday looked good in training on the eve of the tournament but still had his injured left knee taped following a fall in February.

He said last month he almost didn't make it to the All-England event in Birmingham as he was unsure whether his damaged left knee would tolerate competitive stresses.

Lee, the top seed at the Malaysia Open, won the tournament a record 11 times, making him the most successful men's singles shuttler in the history of the event.

"I will also play in the Malaysia Open next year," Lee said casting aside any plans to quit in the near future.

But Lee admitted that other players will attempt to deny him a victory.

"I want to win for the 12th time. But there is some pressure because everyone wants to beat me at my home ground," he said.

The other players in the tournament are second seeded Jan O Jorgensen of Denmark and third seeded Chen Long of China, while Lin Dan also of China is seventh seeded.

"I am only focused on myself," said Lee when asked about Lin, the 33-year-old three-times Olympic champion.

Lin is regarded as the greatest badminton player in history owing to his five World championships and two Olympic gold medals.

But the Chinese star has never been able to win in Malaysia. Lin reached the final three times but was defeated by Lee in 2005 and 2006 and by Chen Long in 2015.

In 2006, Lin was one point away from the title, but Lee staged a shock comeback in the deciding game to win 23-21 and deny Lin the only superseries title missing from his trophy cabinet.