Lee, the only defending champion at this edition, opened his campaign on Wednesday with a solid performance, seeing off Weng Hong Yang 21-13 21-15 in 38 minutes.
“I felt so excited (to step out), it’s been four years,” said the world No.17. “I became champion at the last edition, so now I have many fans. This is my home, that’s why I feel so good (playing here).”
At the last pre-COVID edition in 2019, promoted from the qualifiers, the Hong Kong China shuttler stunned Anthony Sinisuka Ginting 16-21 21-10 22-20 in the final to bag his solitary HSBC BWF World Tour crown.
He also defeated two other seeded players – Shi Yu Qi (No.3) and Viktor Axelsen (No.7) – en route to the title match. Lee remains the only promoted men’s singles player to win the competition since the SuperSeries era started in 2007.
“It’s a long time ago now. The memory from is still fresh, all the shouting and cheering, I loved it,” the 27-year-old said.
“But in these four years, I’ve not been a champion (again). That’s why I will try my best to get another title in Hong Kong.
“This is my stage to show off myself, to play well. Going all out is my way of saying thank you to the fans for coming.”
The return of the event also brought back the fans, with some 4,000 turning up to show support for the city’s players at the Hong Kong Coliseum.
Mixed doubles player Tse Ying Suet shared: “It’s been a while. We were looking forward to playing in front of our family and friends again. It was also a little nerve-wracking! But we enjoyed the experience very much.”
“That was special. We were still a new partnership but made the last four. Great times,” he recalled.
For 19-year-old Jason Gunawan, his home event bow will live long in memory. Drawing energy from the enthusiastic crowd, Gunawan cleared his first round with a dramatic 21-15 27-25 win over Israeli veteran Misha Zilberman.
“I could hear so many people shouting for me, I really appreciate their support. The fact my first big tournament came in Hong Kong, it’s an experience I can never forget,” he said.