Lee Chong Wei won the Malaysia Open for the 11th time but his victory was sweeter because he downed China’s world no.1 Chen Long in the final by producing his best performance since returning to badminton courts after an 8-month doping-ban related hiatus. Women’s singles final expectedly saw another scintillating show from Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon, who stymied the challenge of Taiwan’s Tai Tzu Ying without much effort. Similarly, men and women doubles finals also did not provide much thrill and if there was any battle fought on Sunday; it came in the mixed double final. Indonesia’s Tontowi Ahmad and Lilyana Natsir needed 80 grueling minutes before they could edge out the determined Malaysian pair of Peng Soon Chan and Liu Ying Goh.
The men’s singles final on Sunday took home spectators to the Malaysian Open final of January 2011, when local hero Lee Chong Wei had played against Chen Long. The passage of 5 years has changed things completely and the Chinese today is the biggest force in men’s badminton. But Lee brought back 5-year old memories, when he had summarily outplayed Chen Long. The 2016 men’s singles final was literally a repeat of that match. The celebrated Malaysian was at his vintage best against the world no.1 right from the word go. Playing magnificently, Lee changed pace at will, controlled the game at net and kept hitting winners regularly. It was the kind of assault Chen Long had not faced in a long long time. The Malaysian moved around with great agility and always reached the right spot at right time, when shots came back to him from the other side of the net. The jump smash from the Malaysian left his racquet like a guided missile and Chen Long looked stranded on his spot.
In the first game, there was little Chen Long could do against his charged up opponent and by the time Lee wrapped up the game, the Chinese was already a bundle of nerves. Chen Long’s second game performance became even worse as the Lee steamrolled in the same fashion as the first game. Even luck favored the Malaysian as many winners clipped the net first before the shuttle dropped on the Chinese’s court. With the crowd rooting him every inch of the way, Lee romped home with a nearly one-sided victory and took the coveted title for a historically unprecedented 11th time.
In women’s singles final, Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon played like a magician. It was like continuing from where she left off at India Open in Delhi last week. Intanon’s precision and superb control left her Taiwanese opponent Tai Tzu Ying completely flummoxed. The match was over in 39 minutes with a score-line of 21-14, 21-15. Intanon had played the same way in the semifinal against China’s Wang Yihan and her performance in the final looked like a replica of that match. The Thai woman’s power-packed game became too much in the end, when she held 9 match points against the erratic Tai. However the Taiwanese managed to save three of them before Intanon could convert a championship point and claim her second Super-series title in one week.
The men’s doubles title was won by Korea’s Kim Gi Jung/Kim Sa Rang, who played a better second game against China’s Chai Biao/Hong Wei. While the first game went on equal terms, the Koreans didn’t let the Chinese get a foothold in the second, before sealing the match 21-19 21-15. The same was the case in women’s doubles, except that the nationalities of finalist were reversed. The Chinese pair of Tang Yuanting/Yu Yang packed too many guns for their Korean counterparts Jung Kyung Eun/Shin Seung Chan in scoring a 21-11, 21-17 victory in 40 minutes. The Chinese women kept the Koreans running helter-skelter and completely destroyed the defenses of Eun/Chan in a nearly one-sided match.
The mixed doubles was the lone big battle on final day with the home combo of Chan Peng Soon/Goh Liu Ying fighting a neck to neck with Indonesia’s Tontowi Ahmad/Liliyana Natsir. Riding on an enthusiastic home support, the Malaysians almost won the first game but the tenacity of Ahmad/Natsir prevailed in the end for a 23-21 result in their favor. But Soon/Goh dominated the second game and forced the decider by winning it easily. However, despite Goh’s brilliant play, the Malaysian pair found Ahmad/Natsir difficult too hot to handle as the Indonesians took the match 23-21, 13-21, 21-16 after 80 minutes.
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