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TOKYO (AFP) – Malaysia's world badminton number one Lee Chong Wei overcame the shock resignation of his coach to outlast Kenichi Tago of Japan 23-21, 21-17, in the Japan Open final Sunday.
Rashid Sidek, who was not in Tokyo, resigned on Thursday as Malaysia's singles coach.
Sidek reportedly accused the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) over their treatment of national coaches following a recent management shake-up.
"As a matter of course, this news had some impact on my performance mentally. It left me somewhat depressed," Lee said through an interpreter after taking 55 minutes to tame Tago at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. Lee had been forced to survive three game points in the first stanza.
"He (Rashid) is a fellow and coach with whom I have worked together for 10 years. Therefore, I feel very sorry that he is leaving," the 30-year-old told a post-match news conference.
Lee lifted the Japan Open men's title for a record fourth time and maintained his perfect run of having never lost to world number five Tago in their 14 encounters since 2009.
Lee struggled back from 20-17 down in the first game and at 21-21 the Japanese cracked as he smashed wide and netted a drive.
The two players stood 17-17 after tying the score 10 times in the second game. But Lee then took four straight points, jumping and smashing the shuttle into Tago's body to seal the match.
"Tago played very well in his hometown match. But I have prepared myself well to beat him and set a new record at the Japan Open," added Lee.
It was the Malaysian's fifth win in this year's 12-round World Superseries having previously won the Opens in South Korea, Malaysia, India and Indonesia.
"I realised I have a lot of work to do after failing to take the first game despite leading 20-17," said the 24-year-old Tago, a 2010 All-England Open finalist.
"Chong Wei gives me pressure just by standing out there."
The women's title went to 16-year-old Akane Yamaguchi as she beat fellow Japanese Shizuka Uchida 21-15, 21-19 in the final.
The women's tournament was depleted by the withdrawal of the world's top two players, China's Li Xuerui and Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand, due to injuries.