Reigning Olympic and World Champion Lin Dan of China came back to international circuit in great style after 8 months of self-imposed abstinence from badminton. He announced his arrival by winning 5 matches in row without dropping a game and finally emerging as the champion of the China Masters Grand Prix Gold 2014 on April 20, 2014. The Super Dan played as if he had never stopped playing, when he easily defeated compatriot Tian Houwei 21-14 21-9 in the final, taking a mere 49 minutes. On the road to the final, Dan disposed of Singapore’s Derek Wong 21-16, 21-15 in the quarter-final and another compatriot and top seed Wang Zhengming 21-19 21-12 in the semi-final. Before he met the Super Dan in the last match of the tournament, even Tian Houwei had not lost a single game in the tournament. After easily coming through the early rounds, Houwei defeated Thailand’s Pannawit Thongnuam in the quarter-finals and then got the better of Nan Wei of Hong Kong in the semi-final.
One more Chinese player, Liu Xin, emulated Super Dan in winning her final match after a long break. Liu Xin, the former World no.5, played only in the China Grand Prix Gold 2013 and thereafter took a one-year break before coming back to the same tournament 10 days back. But Liu Xin appeared far from rusty in the tournament. Liu Xin has now dropped to no. 59 in the BWF world rankings on account of the year-long absence but she defended her title by easily defeating compatriot Shen Yaying, 21-12 21-18. In the four matches that Liu Xin played on her road to the China GP Gold title, she spent a combined duration of under 90 minutes on courts. There were 16 Chinese men and women in the five all-Chinese finals of all categories in the tournament.
The Super Dan then travelled to the city of Gimcheon in South Korea to participate in the $200,000 Badminton Asia Championships and displayed another marvelous performance before winning his second title within 10 days of winning the first. In the quarterfinal, Dan completely outplayed Wei Nan of Hong Kong 21-10 21-7 and despite not playing competitive badminton for eight months, showed no signs of any loss of form in beating compatriot Liu Kai 21-14 21-13 in the semifinal. Super Dan’s final opponent was the Japanese left hander Sho Sasaki, who had reached his first tournament final after a long time. In the semifinal played on the previous day, Sasaki stopped the fantastic run of the Korean Hwang Jong Soo, who had beaten all his opponents on the road to the semifinal. But in Sasaki, the Korean found a determined shuttler and lost 13-21, 15-21 in 55 minutes. When Sasaki came face to face with the Super Dan in the final, not many expected the Japanese to beat the great Chinese. But Sasaki played a remarkable first game and won 21-14. However, Super Dan changed gears at the right moment and played like old time in winning the next two games 21-9 21-15 to settle the issue in his favor. The domination of Dan was so complete in the second and third games that the Japanese was forced to commit a number of errors, as the champion shuttler controlled the game like a master. Super Dan’s court-craft and perfect footwork appeared to be drawn from the badminton rule-book. Lin Dan’s game can only be compared with two other living legends of badminton; the great Malaysian Lee Chong Wei and Dan’s Chinese compatriot Chen Long.
The Korean fans celebrated the victory of their woman star Sung Ji Hyun, who scored sensational straight games 21-19 21-15 victory over the Chinese favorite Wang Shixian in the Women’s Singles final. It was Sung’s first major title, after her Korea Open win of 2013. The world No.2 Wang Shixian has been in great form for the past couple of months and except for the tough semifinal against India’s PV Sindhu, her run up to the final was devoid of any major hurdles. She took on the Korean girl, against whom she had a 5-3 edge. Incidentally, the All-England champion Wang found the 18-year old Indian Sindhu a tough customer in the semifinal. In a marathon contest lasting 78 minutes, Wang lost the first game to Sindhu 15-21. In a remarkable second game, Sindhu almost won the match but the Chinese girl snatched the advantage to level the match by winning 22-20. Having lost the second game, Sindhu meekly surrendered in the third as the Chinese ran away to take the final game 21-12.
In other matches of the Badminton Asia Championships, Hong Kong’s Lee Chun Hei and Chau Hoi Wah won the mixed doubles title by beating the Korean pair Shin Baek Choel/Jang Ye Na 13-21 21-15 21-15; the Chinese women pair of Luo Ying/Luo Yu won the doubles title defeating the Korean pair of Kim Ha Na/Jung Kyung Eun 21-18 21-18 and in the men’s doubles, Korea beat China, when the pair of Shin Baek Choel/ Yoo Yeon Seong defeated Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen 22-20 21-17.
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