South Korea's doubles specialist Lee Yong-dae may just be reflecting on his phenomenal Malaysia Masters victory in January as a turning point in his career when badminton resumes post Covid-19.
Lee was featured as this week’s 'Genius In Action' by the Badminton World Federation, who described him as "a superb all-round player with exceptional qualities at the front court who often dictates play and sets-up opportunities" for his partners.
Winning in Malaysia put Lee’s return from retirement into perspective: He is not a spent force just yet.
The reception Lee received from the Malaysian fans played a crucial role in his and Kim Gi-jung's 21-14, 21-16 triumph over Chinese pair Li Junhui-Liu Yuchen in the final.
The reception Lee got was almost akin to what Lee Chong Wei or even Lin Dan got in Malaysia, and he responded by capturing his first title since making a comeback from retirement in 2017.
"I have played in Malaysia many times, but it seemed this time the cheering was the best. When we walked into the arena and I heard the fans chanting my name, it really made me want to win.
"The fact we won made me cherish the Malaysian fans much more. This year is big as it’s an Olympics year. We don’t have the points but we are going to keep trying hard," Lee told Stadium Astro in January.
It would take a mammoth effort for Lee to qualify for his third Olympics in Tokyo, which has been rescheduled to 2021.
The Koreans are ranked 31 in the race to Tokyo, with only the top 16 pairs guaranteed a spot (Two pairs in the same country get a spot if they are ranked in the top eight).
But with the qualifying process now set to be revised, a couple of gallant performances like the one in Malaysia could give Lee and Kim hope.
Till that happens, Lee can look back to the win in January to draw inspiration and reinvent himself once again, as a force to be reckoned with.