KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian badminton great Lee Chong Wei has delayed his return to action after the shuttler withdrew from the 2019 Malaysian Open on Tuesday (Mar 19).
In a statement, the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) said that Lee had been given a clean bill of health and that his recovery process was progressing well.
"However, in order not to put his body under undue stress, Chong Wei has been advised to withdraw from the upcoming Malaysia Open."
The three-time Olympic silver medallist has been on the sidelines since July last year, when he was diagnosed with early-stage nose cancer.
He underwent a gruelling programme of specialist treatment in Taiwan but opted not to retire and resumed training in January.
Lee originally planned to play the All England Open in March but then delayed his return to the Malaysia Open, where he is the defending champion.
BAM president Norza Zakaria had warned fans to "lower their expectations," saying that lee had not "fully recovered physically".
“BAM’s priorities remain focused solely on Chong Wei’s health and we will continue to offer him unwavering support. We also urge everyone to give him the space and time required for his recovery,” the national badminton body said.
The opening round of the tournament, which will be held at the Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil from Apr 2-7, initially featured 12-time champion Lee against India's top shuttler K Srikanth.
Following the decision, the national badminton squad will now be counting on youngsters like Lee Zii Jia and Soong Joo Ven to perform in the US$700,000 (RM2.852 million) tournament.
Lee won the Malaysian Open from 2004 to 2006; from 2008 to 2014; and from 2016 and 2018.
He still hopes to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics but qualifying looks increasingly tough as other young Malaysian players are ranked above him.