Singapore shuttler Derek Wong faces the unenviable task of having to beat Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei if he wants to make it past the group stage at the Olympics – and he’s been backed to rise to the challenge.
Wong will first have to defeat Suriname’s Soren Opti on Friday, but no doubt his biggest challenge will come on Sunday against Chong Wei, who has established himself as the man to beat this year after winning four titles in 2016.
Former Singapore shuttler Ronald Susilo conceded that Wong will struggle to topple Chong Wei, but added that it isn’t impossible for his compatriot to pull off an upset against the 33-year-old, who is aiming to win gold after being forced to settle for silver in his last two showings at the Olympics.
“In my honest opinion, it is really tough for Derek to beat Chong Wei,” Susilo, who beat Chong Wei at the Singapore Open in 2001 and the Swiss Open in 2007, told TODAY. “If Chong Wei performs at his peak and is full of confidence then most players, let alone Derek, will have a slim chance of defeating him.
“But having said that, anything can happen because, who knows, Chong Wei might be feeling the pressure to win gold after losing out in the final at the last two Olympics.
“When I beat him all those years ago, I had to be patient and slowly work out my strategy during the game and not go with what I planned beforehand. This is because it is really hard to find a weakness in Chong Wei’s game and you need to be alert enough to spot it only when you play him.”
In order for Wong to get the better of Chong Wei, Susilo believes the 27-year-old needs to match the Malaysian’s speed on the court and be patient if he initially fails to put Chong Wei on the back foot.
“First, Derek needs to be mentally and physically strong,” Susilo said. “In terms of stroke skills, everyone is equal so it boils down to how well you are willing to adapt during the match.
“Second, he needs to be able to match Chong Wei’s speed, ensure that his shots are placed deep enough and run for every ball. In addition to this, he needs to be able to anticipate and read Chong Wei’s game carefully.
“Sometimes you try so hard, can’t find an opening and then just give up. Derek needs to be patient because Chong Wei is someone who cannot be finished off easily.”
Wong failed to get past the group stage at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, where he beat Israel’s Misha Zilberman, before losing to Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen, but Susilo expects him to put up a better showing this time around.
“Derek has progressed tremendously over the years,” he said. “While he has his weaknesses in terms of control and anticipation, his maturity is something I really like. He has proved over the years that he knows how to handle the pressure at tournaments and I’m looking forward to see how he makes use of that this time.”