World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei steered Malaysia to a first win at the Thomas and Uber Cups in Wuhan, China, on Monday, where the injury-hit shuttler hopes to regain his form before the London Olympics.
Lee made quick work of South Africa’s Jacob Malieka, effortlessly switching play from smash drives to delicate drop-shots and showing no sign of the flu that had hindered his preparations.
“Today was very important, even if the opposition was not strong,” Lee said afterwards, between shouts from adoring fans in the crowd.
Malaysia beat South Africa 5-0.
Lee arrived in Wuhan with a point to prove. After an injury-plagued season and a run of poor results, his closest rivals, particularly Lin Dan of China, are eyeing Olympic success ahead of the Malaysian.
In the evening session, all eyes were on Indonesia’s men as they played their first tie against England.
England’s Rajiv Ouseph had pushed Lin surprisingly hard on Sunday and again the Briton, ranked 19 in the world, looked confident and showed some nifty footwork to return everything Indonesia’s Simon Santoso could fire at him, but the world No. 9 proved his class, winning all the key points to close the match out after two games in just over half an hour.
“This is the third time I’ve played Rajiv. He is not easy to play against because he has a habit of taking control of the match,” Santoso said. “He did it in the first game and I knew from experience that I had to take back control.”
Santoso was picked for the first men’s singles ahead of his teammate and world No. 12 Taufik Hidayat, who came on for his match to the loudest roar of the night from an animated crowd.
The popular former world No. 2 further delighted his fans as he beat England’s Carl Baxter, 21-12, 21-16.
In the women’s Uber Cup, traditional European powerhouse Denmark started well against the US when Danish veteran and world No. 7 Tine Baun took just 24 minutes to see off Rena Wang in two games.
One of the best women players outside of China and with a fighting chance of a medal at the London Games, Baun’s win marked a good day for Denmark as they won 4-1 in their first match in Wuhan.
“It’s a young and talented team. The players will enjoy the atmosphere,” the 32-year-old said.
However, Baun was tight-lipped about competing in her last Olympics, saying only: “Let’s see about that.”