“Blast from the Past” – this is what BWF commentator Steen Pedersen aptly named the Korean pair of Lee Yong Dae and Kim Gi Jung on his twitter handle.
We last saw doubles superstar Lee Yong Dae on the top of the podium back in 2018 at the Macau Open. Him and his partner Kim Gi Jung had not won any titles thereafter. Even though they played a number of tournaments, the results were not good enough. Reaching the semi-final at the US Open 2019 Super 300 event was the best they could produce.
But everything finally clicked into place for the duo at the Malaysia Masters last week. The duo emerged as the Champions when no one in the world expected them to.
Lee Yong Dae glided around the court like he has never been away. His drives and overall flat game attracted the praise of the commentators time and again. The crowd at the Axiata Arena chanted his name in unison and it felt like the Koreans were playing on home turf at times.
Kim Gi Jung told BWF, “I’ve played in Malaysia many times, but this time it seemed like the cheering was some of the best. When we came to the hall the cheering gave us a boost and it made us want to win the tournament. That we were able to win makes us want to thank the crowd that much more.”
This is their first BWF World Tour Super 500 title and the third one in total ever since they paired up. In doing so, Lee and Kim became the first Korean pair to claim the men’s doubles title at the Malaysia Masters.
The entire tournament was a fairy tale ride for Lee and Kim. They were promoted from the qualifying draw into the main draw following the withdrawal of Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi. They did not find any trouble in defeating the Chinese Taipei pair of Lu Ching Yao and Yang Po Han in the first round.
The surprises then started coming in from the second round. They saw off world no. 3s Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda in two straight games. Many might have thought it was a fluke up until this point.
Then they went on to defeat home favorites Teo Ee Yi and Ong Yew Sin in a thrilling quarter-final match with a score of 19-21, 21-15, 22-20.
They were up against Asian Games Silver Medalists Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto in the semi-final. After having lost the first game, they were 18-19 down in the second game. It seemed like it was the end of the fairy tale run for the Korean duo. However, they surprised everyone yet again and came back to win the match 14-21, 21-19, 21-15 in three games.
The final was a totally different story though. The Chinese ‘Twin Towers’ – Li Jun Hui and Liu Yu Chen were completely dominated by Lee and Kim. The Korean duo’s impenetrable defence and variations in the game saw them through the final.
Winning the first BWF tournament of the year – what a great start it is for Lee Yong Dae and Kim Gi Jung. LYD fans around the world are hoping that they qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“This is an Olympic year, we don’t have the points yet, but there is still time. We’re going to keep training and working hard and see what we can do in the rest of the season,” said Kim.
We do not know for sure if Lee Yong Dae & Kim Gi Jung can return to the top again. 2020 has only just begun. Much is yet to be unfolded.
Author: Daungjai Tangsayan, Co-Author: Koijam K