The Malaysian star fell 21-19, 22-24, 21-17, for the first time losing in the opening round in 10 worlds, and to a non-seed. "I put more pressure on myself and I made a lot of mistakes," Chong Wei said.
Runner-up at three worlds and both Olympics since 2011, Chong Wei put off retirement after the Rio de Janeiro Olympics to try and win an elusive world championship. He even lured back his old coach, Misbun Sidek, in July after a six-year separation to work on his mental side. Sidek guided him to No. 1 in the world for the first time in 2006.
But Chong Wei looked nervous and was outplayed at the net for much of the 75-minute match with Leverdez, against whom he had a 7-1 record. Chong Wei led 19-18 in the first game but lost it with three consecutive unforced errors.
In the second, he came from 18-13 down to lead 20-18. Leverdez levelled, then had two match points and thought he won the second. But Chong Wei challenged the "out" call against him on the line at the umpire's feet, and was saved by video replay which showed the shuttlecock was in by a millmeter.
Chong Wei had momentum in the third game, and won a rally including a shot between his legs from the baseline. But he couldn't shrug off the unfazed Leverdez, who went ahead on three unforced errors by Chong Wei and finished off the second seed with another smash at the net. Leverdez said the difference was in his head.
"Usually I put pressure on myself, 'You have to play well, you have to try your best,' but I told myself, 'Play your game, talk to yourself on court, and it will be fine.' And it happened," he said....