SINGAPORE - Simon Santoso's road to the final of the OUE Singapore Open has often felt as long as his fight back from injury.
The Indonesian yesterday belied his world No. 52 ranking and status as a qualifier to upset China's Du Pengyu 16-21, 21-17, 21-17, booking a showdown with Lee Chong Wei today.
Du, the world No. 7, was the second-highest seed in the draw. World No. 1 Lee, the top seed, beat India's K. Srikanth 21-19, 21-18.
"It's been a tough journey coming back," said two-time SEA Games champion Santoso, who has struggled with illness and injuries to his thigh and back in recent years.
"Du is a very agile player and I knew it wasn't going to be easy to beat him. I had to play a very patient game."
Santoso's previous ailments had seen the former world No. 3's ranking nosedive to outside the top 100.
But Santoso, fresh from winning last month's Malaysia Open Grand Prix Gold, is now riding high in both confidence and form.
So much that even this repeat of the 2008 final - which Lee won 21-13, 21-5 - fails to intimidate the Indonesian, who has only beaten the Malaysian once in 10 meetings
He said: "It's going to be a good chance for me to measure how well I can perform against Chong Wei, to see the level that I'm at now compared to him."
Lee, meanwhile, admitted that he was tested for the first time in the week-long tournament yesterday.
"I think it's a good thing that it was a tougher for me," said the two-time Olympic silver medallist.
"The past few matches have been too easy. I don't think I played particularly well this time but it was good that I still managed to win."
Lee is looking to win back-to-back Singapore Open titles. He lifted his third trophy of the season at last week's India Open Super Series.
Meanwhile, in the women's singles, world No. 1 Li Xuerui will play team-mate Wang Yihan in a repeat of last year's final.
Li got through her semi-final with ease, beating Sung Ji Hyun 21-13, 21-13 for her fifth straight victory over the South Korean.
"This match felt a lot easier than the earlier rounds," said the 2012 Olympic champion, who just two days ago was two points from an early exit at the hands of Japan's Minatsu Mitani.
Mixed doubles world No. 1 Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir survived a scare against China's Liu Cheng and Bao Yixin, coming back from a game down to win 17-21, 21-11, 21-19.
They will play compatriots Riky Widianto and Puspita Richi Dili (No. 13).
In the women's doubles, China's No. 17 Luo Ying and Luo Yu handed a walkover to team-mates and second seeds Bao and Tang Jinhua after Luo Ying suffered an injury to her left knee.
The Chinese world No. 3s will play top seeds and No. 2-ranked Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl of Denmark.
The men's doubles will see a contest between new pairing Cai Yun and Lu Kai of China (No. 360) and Lee Sheng-mu and Tsai Chia-hsin of Chinese Taipei (No. 7).
This article was published on April 13 in The Straits Times.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.