LEE Chong Wei apologised to Malaysia and Malaysians following his surprise first-round defeat at the World Badminton Championships in Scotland.
The 34-year-old’s bid to finally become a world champion was ended by Frenchman Brice Leverdez in Glasgow, Chong Wei losing 19-21, 24-22, 17-21.
Twice the Asian men’s singles champion, the world title has continued eluded Chong Wei, who was beaten in the final in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
He has also lost three Olympic finals, in 2008, 2012 and 2016, but has won four Commonwealth Games golds across the singles and team events.
Chong Wei, the No 2-ranked men’s singles player in the world, had been expected to ease past Leverdez and set up a second-round meeting with Croatia’s Zvonimir Durkinjak, before challenging for the title.
But his World Championship dream is over – at least until next year in Nanjing, China, if not for good – and he wasted little time in apologising for his defeat.
“Today I didn’t manage to play my best,” he posted on Facebook. “Sorry for letting you down. Sorry [Malaysian flag].”
Defeat was Chong Wei’s second loss to Leverdez, the world No 31, having gone down to the Frenchman at last year’s Denmark Open.
This time, the match at the Emirates Arena lasted one hour and 15 minutes, with Chong Wei looking well placed to win after drawing level.
Instead, Leverdez finished the match strongest, leaving Chong Wei’s bid to become a world champion in tatters.
In his 10th World Championship appearance, it was the first time he had ever lost before the third round.
While Chog Wei exited, all of the other seeded players – including South Korea’s world No 1 Son Wan-ho – advanced to the second round.
In the women’s singles, Hong Kong’s Cheung Ngan Yi will meet India’s Pusarla Venkata Sindhu in the third round, while Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi – the world No 1 – takes on Chen Yufei of China.
Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand will meet China’s Chen Xiaoxin and another Chinese player, Sun Yu, takes on Beatriz Corrales of Spain as Asian players dominate the draw.