Malaysia Open: ‘Brilliant to be Here’

A big turnout on Day 1 of the first Malaysia Open in three years left the returning athletes purring and craving for more.

Olympic champions Viktor Axelsen and Apriyani Rahayu, who both played at the last HSBC BWF World Tour event Axiata Arena hosted in 2020 – the Malaysia Masters – led the praises for the fans.

“It’s amazing to be back in Kuala Lumpur with the Malaysian fans. Great, great support. I’m so thankful and I cannot wait to get back on court,” said Axelsen after seeing off Brize Leverdez 22-20 21-7 in his opening match.

Rahayu, somewhat surprised by the attendance, said: “Bigger crowd than usual on a first day. Thank you for supporting all the players regardless of nationality. I can’t stress enough how pleased I am to see so many fans.”

Her partner Siti Fadia Silva Ramadhanti added: “Even though most of them are Malaysians, they still supported us Indonesian players.”

Axelsen entertaining autograph hunters at the end of his match.

Local star Lai Shevon Jemie admitted her “sadness” at progressing at the expense of training mates Tan Kian Meng and Lai Pei Jing but her mood quickly changed when the fans were mentioned during the post-match interview.

“We were extremely excited stepping onto the court,” said the 28-year-old who won 21-18 19-21 21-18 alongside partner Goh Soon Huat. “When we heard the crowd screaming and shouting, it hit us that ‘we are back home’ and all our fans were here.

“It was a pleasure playing in front of them. We thank everyone for their support.”

Goh and Lai were boosted by the strong support.

Carolina Marin, winner in 2015, also enjoyed the atmosphere at the tournament that has not been held since 2019.

“It’s always great to have the spectators in the stadium. I’ve really missed it,” said Marin, who is just returning to the circuit after a 10-month injury layoff.

“When you have this amazing crowd, with everyone shouting for you it’s something special, especially when I couldn’t play for a year. It’s brilliant to be here in Malaysia.”

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