Malaysian badminton legend Lee Chong Wei is fretting over the quality of Men's singles players in the country after disappointing results recently that exposed their inability to win medals at international tournaments.
In the absence of defending champion Lee, none of the Malaysian singles shuttlers reached the final stages of the competition in the season-opening Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold. National number two Iskandar Zulkarnain was unable to participate in the tournament after failing to recover from a back injury and third-ranked Zulfadli Zulkiffli bowed out of the tournament in the second round.
Since the world number one won the Japan Open 2016 right after his third Olympic silver at the Rio Games, no Malaysian has been able to clinch a title. Also, barring Chong Wei, no shuttler from the country is in the top 25 of Men's singles rankings.
The 34-year-old, who is in the twilight of his career, concedes that there is hardly anyone in Malaysia who can take it forward from him and achieve success at the highest level. Lee conceded that Men's singles is in "Intensive Care Unit" and that he will be spending more time with the youngsters to help them improve their game.
"Our singles players did not do very well at the Malaysian Masters [in Sibu last week]. The Men's singles is the weakest department now. I have spoken to the singles coaches [Hendrawan, Tey Seu Bock and Indra Wijaya] and I will be more involved in guiding the shuttlers. I will be spending more time with the players," Lee said, as quoted by the Star.
"BAM deputy president [Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria] had earlier stated that our Men's singles is in ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and I could not agree more.
"Iskandar is 25 years old and is struggling to make the top 10. I was in top 10 when I was 25. We may have the best coaches and training methods but the players must have the will and desire to be successful."
Notably, the Malaysian Men's singles unit have had another disappointing campaign at the ongoing Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold tournament in India, with only Zulkiffli reaching the quarter-final. The world number 30's chances are also not looking bright as he will take on defending champion Kidambi Srikanth in the last-eight round on Friday.