With a new physicality and patience not commonly associated with him, Lee Cheuk Yiu made his first HSBC BWF World Tour Super 750 final after a hard slog that went 84 minutes. That he did it against Kodai Naraoka, he of the tireless legs and unrelenting spirit, says much about the qualities that Lee has added to his game.
These qualities were on view in the semifinal today at the YONEX SUNRISE India Open 2024.
Naraoka had taken the match to favoured territory in the third game, from where he could wear down his opponent, but Lee was up for the challenge – injecting pace at opportune moments, and not hesitating to stay in the rallies when Naraoka tested his durability.
At four match points though, the occasion seemed to get to Lee and he made a few nervous errors to help Naraoka come to within a point at 19-20. Having drilled a winner that was challenged, Lee slumped by the advertising boards near his coach, too nervous to look at the screen. But his shot had indeed been a winner, and the celebrations followed.
“In the end I was really nervous. The last point was a challenge, and I was really scared to see the screen. I was hoping it was a winner. It’s my first Super 750 final, so I’m very excited,” said Lee.
“I tried not to think too much. Just run. Just play one shot by one shot. Trust myself and my coach. These last three matches were good for me, I’ve surprised myself.
“I haven’t arrived yet. This tournament I’m performing better, but I think I can be better and stronger. I still feel it’s not enough, I haven’t arrived at that level, but I’m starting to feel it now.”
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