Lee shocked by world No. 37 in first round
LEE Chong Wei, the former world No. 1 who has been making a sensational comeback at age 33, suffered one of the biggest shocks of his career when he was dumped out in the first round of the All-England Open.
His stunning defeat, by 24-22, 22-20, was inflicted by B. Sai Praneeth, an Indian ranked at No. 37 in the world, who looked to have little chance when he slipped to deficits of 3-11 and 6-15 in the first game.
But once Lee made a few mistakes, Praneeth's hopes grew and his game showed itself capable of winning rallies of the highest standard. He was fast, sometimes brilliant in defence, and had nothing to lose when launching sudden attacks.
"I can't believe I lost in the first round," said Lee who has won the All-England title three times. "I prepared very well and I won four tournaments recently.
"Maybe I have got a lot of pressure on myself to win this tournament. I made a lot of mistakes. I was also shocked at how well Praneeth played.
"But it is all a learning process. I am sad to lose at a tournament like the All-England but my aim is the Olympics."
Lee had looked to have regained control with his clever tactical varieties when he advanced to lead 17-12 in the second game.
He also had game points at 20-19 in both games, with the first being foiled by Praneeth's diving defence and later missing his chance to take the match to a third game by narrowly putting a smash wide.
Two rallies later, the 23-year-old from Andhra Pradesh took his first chance to win the match, making a sudden fast mid-court jab which forced Lee to block the shuttle long and caused Praneeth to hurl his racket away in joy.
"It's a big shock for me too," Praneeth said.
"After the last rally, I couldn't believe it. For a long time, I have been waiting for a big result. I've had close results against top players before."
Said Hendrawan, the Malaysian national coach: "This defeat means a lot to Malaysia.
"Everyone has been putting pressure on him to win the (Olympic) gold medal. But this defeat means he is human."
The upset also appears to open up an inviting opportunity for Kenta Momota, the fourth-seeded Japanese player who won the Super Series finals in Dubai in December, to go all the way to the final, though he struggled to beat Christie Jonatan, an Indonesian qualifier, in three games.