Lee Chong Wei played like a true champion to outwit another Malaysian Liew Daren in his first appearance for Mumbai Masters in the Vodafone Indian Badminton League here on Tuesday.
The 30-year-old may not have been in peak health condition, but put up a master-class performance. Tine Baun consolidated the home team’s position with a second win against Arundhathi Panthawane before the World No. 4 doubles pair of Koo Kien Kent and Tan Hoon Hoeng pulled one back for Krrish Delhi Smashers.
Marc Zwiebler spent anxious moments before winning a humdinger against Sai Praneeth as Mumbai sealed its second victory of the IBL.
Lee took the first point off his second stroke with a precisely directed smash and dominated the first game, but was made to run and retrieve a lot in the second with Liew raising his game a few notches and scoring points with some smart shots.
After playing catch-up, the diminutive Lee disrupted Liew’s tempo after the second 90-minute interval. The two Malaysians exchanged a series of powerful shots towards the final stages of their opener before Lee settled the issue with a down-the-line winner.
Lee, the biggest catch at the auction for Mumbai Masters, was greeted with a thunderous applause by an almost packed venue, with a seating capacity of around 5,000.
The presence of Sunil Gavaskar, the brand ambassador of Mumbai Masters, Sachin Tendulkar, his wife Anjali, cricketers Ajit Agarkar and Paras Mhambrey and tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi, livened up the mood.
Lee raced to a 7-2 lead and made it 14-9 by the second break before wrapping up the opening game in 15 minutes.
But, even in this one-sided contest, during which he opted for a gentle touch of the shuttle except on occasions when a weak stroke from his rival forced him to go for the overhead smash, Lee showed he was prone to making mistakes.
It was an even battle till 13-all in the second game, before Lee cut Liew’s serve at the net with a winner. There were hints of a duel, but once Lee took a three-point lead at 16-13, the game and match drifted decisively in favour of the top-ranked player in the world.
The results: Mumbai Masters bt Krrish Delhi Smashers 4-1 (Lee Chong Wei bt Liew Daren 21-12, 21-16; Tine Baun bt Arundhati Panthawane 21-11, 21-13; Sumeet Reddy & Manu Attri lost to Koo Kien Keat & Tan Boon Hoeng 14-21, 21-15, 11-7; Marc Zwiebler bt Sai Praneeth 18-21, 21-10, 11-9; Lee Chong Wei & Tine Baun bt V. Diju & Prajakta Sawant 21-18, 15-21, 11-5).