Call it what you will – a dream, a fairytale, or simply destiny. But there he stood, Lee Cheuk Yiu, unbelieving, absorbing the waves of adulation from his home crowd. He had pulled off a feat at the YONEX-SUNRISE Hong Kong Open 2019 whose parallel would be hard to find in recent years.
With his 16-21 21-10 22-20 defeat of eighth seed Anthony Ginting, Lee Cheuk Yiu became only the second men’s singles player from Hong Kong China to win the Hong Kong Open.
It didn’t appear to matter to the 23-year-old that this was his first major final; that he had in fact been promoted from the qualifying round; that he had played full-tilt – and taken down – classy opponents like Shi Yu Qi, Viktor Axelsen and Kidambi Srikanth on his way to the final.
There were no nerves, no uncertainty, in whatever he did. Any lift in his range was met by a full-blooded smash; the variation was the softer drop that had caught out both Axelsen and Kidambi. Ginting was alert to the threat, was not as easily trapped, and so a crackling contest ensued – both quick-moving, both hard-hitting. Lee was unintimidated and stayed close to his opponent in the opening essay; once he settled in, the smashes were fierce and on target; quicksilver feet found him take the net early; soft touch keeping the shuttle dying over the tape.
Ginting refused to buckle despite trailing for most of the third game, and the best passage of play unfolded with some electric exchanges. The Indonesian caught up at the end, and when Lee rushed the net and blew his shot at 19-all, a collective groan was heard. Had he thrown away his best shot for match point?
But Lee has demonstrated all week a certain immunity in sticky situations. He caught out Ginting on his next return, leaving him scrambling with a trick shot. It was then Ginting’s turn to waver under pressure. Lee had match point, a close exchange ensured, Ginting killed the shuttle but the umpire ruled a fault.
The Indonesian was inconsolable. Lee Cheuk Yiu exploded in celebration. The crowd went wild.
“To win my first Super 500 title is such a great feeling, and that too in front of my home crowd,” said Lee. “I was so lucky. I was in the qualifying round and got into the main draw after someone withdrew. And now I got the title. I’m so fortunate. I want to thank my fans who came to watch me. They cheered me on for every point.”
“That I withstood all the pressure means a lot. I’m very excited to win my first major title.”
Ginting said he wasn’t caught off-guard by his opponent, who until now, hadn’t even played a top-tier final.
“I wasn’t surprised. I prepared well for this match, because I knew he would be confident as he was playing at home. I knew it would be tough. He has his own style. He was very confident, some of his shots were very weird, not usual.”
— BWF (@bwfmedia) November 17, 2019