SINGAPORE - For a good 10 minutes yesterday at the OUE Singapore Open, world No.1 shuttler Lee Chong Wei gave fans a huge scare.
Uneasy murmurs echoed through the Singapore Indoor Stadium as the Malaysian played catch-up to world No. 37 Chen Yuekun of China in the first game of their second-round match, falling behind 1-6.
But Lee, as it turned out, was simply warming up.
He sped to a ruthless 21-11, 21-6 win in 30 minutes against his unheralded opponent, booking a place against Thailand's Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk in today's quarter-finals.
Just as he was quick to complete the victory, Lee was also fast in eluding reporters immediately after his match.
Speaking to the media only about an hour later, he said: "I took time to find my rhythm since the draught in the stadium is quite strong.
"To me, the Singapore Open is not that important. There are too many tournaments this year and I can't expect to win everything.
"I don't want to give myself too much pressure, I just want to enjoy myself and play each match well for the fans who have waited many years to see me play."
His stance might have changed from just two days earlier when he said he wanted to win his fourth title of the season here, but there was still no denying the gulf in quality between Lee and Chen yesterday.
The Chinese, who had never met Lee on the Badminton World Federation circuit prior to yesterday, struggled for accuracy after losing his lead.
And just as they were silenced at the beginning of the match, the crowd could also do nothing to stop Lee from stamping his supremacy on his opponent in the one-sided second game. Lee's counterpart in the women's singles, however, had a much tougher fight.
China's women's world No.1 Li Xuerui squeezed past Minatsu Mitani of Japan 17-21, 21-19, 21-12, and admitted that she had "escaped death".
Said the 2012 Olympic champion: "I had chances in the first game but didn't do well enough, and it became harder after that.
"But I think I have a psychological advantage over my opponent since I also beat her in three games the last time we met at the All England Championships this year." Li plays sixth seed Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei today.
Women's singles defending champion Wang Yihan of China beat India's P. C. Thulasi 21-19, 21-7.
Vietnam's world No. 10 Nguyen Tien Minh was the only notable upset by press time yesterday, losing 21-18, 15-21, 8-21 to India's No. 25, K. Srikanth.
This article was published on April 11 in The Straits Times.
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