I must admit that I haven't been following the US Open closely and was therefore pleasantly surprised to find out that our shuttlers Kendrick Lee and Xing Aiying will appear in the MS and WS Finals.

Well, I suppose if more sponsors could be convinced to support US Badminton and raise the prize money from its present 1-star status US$30,000) to attract more world-renowned shuttlers, not many badminton fans will be able to enjoy the proceedings. We will luckier in Singapore when the Aviva Singapore Open 2004, with a prize-money of US$170,000, plays her in November. I expect the top shuttlers in the world to be represented.

For Kendrick to have gone this far is not totally unexpected as he has just won the Cheers Asian Satellite Badminton Champioships 2004 at home. But for young Aiying to proceed this far is quite an encouragement for her. She has been training more for doubles with her Indonesian-born partner, Sari, but they were knocked out earlier by the Taiwanese. Aiying came to Singapore about three years earlier as she was not expected to be selected in her own country's, China, junior team as she was considered too short then. But if you see her in person now, she has grown much taller and stronger than the average girl her age.

If Kendrick should win the Open against the very experienced Dane and former World Champion, Peter Rasmussen, he will be the first Singapore-born shuttler to win an IBF Grand Prix event. I think Kendrick is now in the best frame of mind to play good badminton, having just won the Satellite and perhaps now free from full-time National Service (military) commitment. I wish him well.

The following report from the Sunday Times (the Sunday issue of the Straits Times) tells a better story of their encounters during the US Open. Ronald's success at Athens has made the hitherto disinterested newspapers sit up to report more on the badminton prowess of our shuttlers.


SEPT 26, 2004

Kendrick in first GP final

With Ronald and Li Li skipping the US Open, he and Aiying show there is depth in Singapore team

By Alvin Foo

WHILE Kendrick Lee was bursting his guts out to become the first local-born Singapore badminton player to reach a Grand Prix final, Ronald Susilo was busy letting his fingers do the talking.

Lee and Xing Aiying showed that there is more to Singapore badminton than Olympians Susilo and Li Li when they qualified for the men's and women's finals of the US$30,000 (S$51,000) US Open in California yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Fourth-seeded Lee beat unseeded Dane Joachim Fischer Nielsen 5-15, 15-12, 15-7 to set up a meeting against former world champion Peter Rasmussen in this morning's final at the Orange County Badminton Club.

In a telephone interview, Lee said: 'It will be our first meeting. Rasmussen's more seasoned, but I am not overawed. I'm drawing inspiration from Ronald's upset win over world No 1 Lin Dan of China at the Athens Olympics.'

The 2002 World Junior runner-up continues his impressive progress this year, rising from 110 to 46 in the world rankings.

Susilo was down not only to play in the US Open but also to act as mentor-coach to Lee, but pulled out to allow his niggling injuries to heal completely in time for the Singapore Open in November.

Two weeks ago, with Susilo in his corner, Lee won the Cheers Asian Satellite, his second tournament win after the Thailand Asian Satellite in May.

Thanks to the short message system (SMS), Susilo was still able to provide much help.

Said Lee: 'After every match, I would SMS Ronald the name of my next opponent and he would then give me advice on how to tackle him.

'For the final, he said that Peter's an aggressive attacker, so I should try to wear him down.'

Susilo, who is a little shy about being tagged 'coach', initially declined to comment but later said: 'I told Kendrick to play with more confidence. He has nothing to lose, and should not be afraid.

'Kendrick has trained extra hard this year, and I'm glad that his hard work has paid off.'

Equally impressive was Xing. The China-born permanent resident strengthened her case for Singapore citizenship when she beat American Johanna Lee 11-7, 11-3 in their semi-final.

Xing, who is unseeded, will face another American, Zhou Lili, in the final.

'I'm overjoyed,' she said. 'Zhou's more experienced and is good at rallies and drop shots. I had to be patient and determined.

'I'm hoping to follow in Li Li's footsteps and become a citizen. That way, I can compete in bigger tournaments.'

But Singapore's quest for a hat-trick of titles ended when Jiang Yanmei and Li Yujia lost their women's doubles semi-final 15-9, 12-15, 6-15 to Taiwan's Cheng Wen-hsing and Chien Yu-chin.

Other Singapore shuttlers who crashed out included Liu Fan, who lost 9-11, 6-11 to third seed Susan Hughes in the quarter-finals, and the pair of Xing and Shinta Mulia Sari, who succumbed 8-15, 11-15 to Taiwan's Ku Pei-ting and Chou Chia-chi in the same round.