Simon Santoso is used to facing tough odds in his badminton career.
The 28-year-old Indonesian suffered a back injury in 2013. He worked hard to get back to full fitness but, soon after resuming play, decided to quit the national team to turn professional early this year, after hitting a plateau.
Yesterday, the former world No. 3 beat the odds again when he stormed past world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei 21-15, 21-10 to claim the OUE Singapore Open men's singles title at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
While the majority of the 9,500 crowd was roaring the Malaysian on, Santoso played the match of his career to notch only his second win in 11 outings against the overwhelming favourite.
Lee was slow off the blocks and clearly not in top gear, and he acknowledged it later in the post-match media conference.
The 31-year-old double Olympic silver medallist said: "There are a lot of competitions this year, I have to take care of myself and not get injured in competitions.
"I think Simon played very well today, I haven't seen him play so well before."
Asked if that meant he didn't push himself in the final, Lee replied: "Yes, I just try to enjoy (the match) and I had nothing to lose because this is just the Singapore Open.
"I haven't been here for the past few years because this is my recovery time.
"I joined this year because I haven't been here for a long time and I have a lot of supporters here."
Nonetheless, Santoso came out on top in a highly tactical match, and it was a fitting end to a fairy-tale run for the Indonesian, who was unseeded and had to come through the qualifiers.
The 2009 and 2011 South-east Asia (SEA) Games champion said: "This is my best performance in a long time. I was pleased to be able to execute my game, and Chong Wei made a few unforced errors as well.
"It's been a tough few years, especially with my injury last year."
"I am thankful that I was able to perform in this tournament and prove to people that I can come back," added Santoso, who also won the Malaysian Open Grand Prix Gold last month.
The boyish-looking shuttler acknowledged that he has a long way to go before he can hit top form.
He said: "I hope I can get back to where I was, but there's a lot of things to work out and a long way to go."
This article was published on April 14 in The New Paper.
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