For Lee Chong Wei, the only way to prepare an assault for the elusive world championships is by winning the ongoing Malaysia Open for a record 12th time.
Lee began his campaign on home soil by cruising to a 21-13, 21-10 triumph over Japanese Kazumasa Sakai in 33 minutes on Tuesday at the Axiata Arena.
But the world number six Malaysian warned there will be no pushovers as he prepares to reign supreme again.
“Top players have to be wary in the opening rounds, because young players are progressing fast and sometimes it takes time to get acclimatized to the court conditions,” Lee told FOX Sports Asia.
“But I am happy with my performance today. I was just focused on every point. I will be consulting with my coaches to prepare for the next game,” added the shuttler, who takes on South Korea’s Lee Hyun-Il in the second round.
Lee was in his element against Kazumasa with his excellent court control to dictate the tempo from the get-go.
But he is right not to be overconfident even in Malaysia, especially judging by his recent track record.
The 36-year-old was denied by Chinese ace Lin Dan in last year’s Malaysia Open final.
Earlier this year, he was shockingly ousted by Japan’s Kenta Nishimoto at the Malaysia Masters first round.
Lee faces a tough hurdle should he overcome his South Korean opponent on Wednesday, as world number one and tournament top seed Viktor Axelsen could await in the quarterfinals.
A good outing for Lee here will set the tone for him at next month’s world championships, which has eluded him time and again.
Lin, also a major crowd puller in Malaysia, joined his arch rival in the second round after dispatching Hong Kong’s Vincent Wong 21-17, 21-8.
The two-time Olympic champion will take on compatriot Shi Yuqi in the second round.
“The organisers had only told us about the draw late yesterday (Monday), so we had to prepare as fast as possible. It won’t be easy against Shi in the next round, because he is a young player with great potential,” Lin said.
Photo credit: Badminton Association of Malaysia Facebook