World champion Carolina Marin is on a winning spree. She defeated Saina Nehwal in the All-England Championship last month after losing the first game and on Sunday she downed the top seeded Li Xuerui in another tough final. She was a bit unlucky at Delhi but out of the three super-series premier tournaments, she has still won two. After her world championship victory in Copenhagen last August, the 21-year old Marin is on a roll. Her achievements are rare for a country famous for football, tennis and bull-fighting. Moreover, it is not easy for the Spaniards to switch their loyalties from football and tennis to badminton, a sport that has not produced a single Spanish player of world standards. Viewed in such backdrop, the stupendous rise of Marin has made the country take notice and Marin’s feats could work as great inspiration for those wanting to take badminton as a serious career option. It was just fate that drove Marin to the shuttle sport as she wandered into a badminton court at the age of 8 with her friend and she took an instant liking to the game. At age 14, she had to move out of her home much to the concerns of her parents as she was the only child. She had to practice in Thailand, Indonesia and Denmark since Spain didn’t have facilities for training in badminton. For someone, who wanted to be a Flamenco dancer, it has been a great turnaround. But now she is fearlessly challenging the biggies with her explosive and expressive brand of badminton. In her final with the no.1 seeded Chinese at the Putra Stadium at Kuala Lumpur, the Spaniard fought hard and emerged victorious in three games. The men’s title was also taken by the top-seeded men, when Chen Long won against compatriot Lin Dan. China also bagged the women’s and mixed doubles titles while the men’s doubles crown was lifted by the Indonesian pair of Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan.
In the women’s singles final against the top-seeded Chinese, Marin felt at home with Malaysian fans backing her all the way. They kept waving the Spanish flags and Marin derived inspiration from seeing her country colors. Li also played well and took the first game 21-19. Then the Spanish woman fought back in the second game, which went neck-to-neck but pushing the Chinese at crucial times, Marin leveled the games and took the contest to the decider. Their battle continued in the third game and both players produced some exquisite shots. In the end, it was Marin, who held her nerves to edge out Li 19-2, 21-19, 21-17 in 71 minutes and emerged the new champion at Malaysia. This year, the world championships will be held at Jakarta in August and Marin has set her sight on retaining the world title for the second year running.
The men’s final was also a hard-fought affair between two world-class Chinese players. The double Olympic champion and 5-times world champion, Lin Dan has won nearly every other title under the sun in his long career but the Malaysian title has remained elusive to him. One strong reason was Lee Chong Wei, who held an iron-grip by winning 10 titles in 10 years. Somehow, the level of Dan’s performance has dipped recently and his progress to the final in the Maybank Malaysian Open has been a saga of struggles against opponents, who used to be scared of him in the past. In the final against Chen Long, however, Lin Dan was not found wanting in the first game, which was decided at 22-20 in his favor. But Chen Long bounced back to mount pressure in the second game to open a 12-3 lead before Dan woke up from sleep to narrow the gap to 10-13. Long, however, checked Dan and reeled off several points to close the game at 21-13. In the decider, Long controlled the game from the beginning and despite Dan trying to undo the damage, finished the match with a 20-22, 21-13, 21-11 championship victory in 78 minutes.
Other than men’s singles, China bagged two more titles. In women’s doubles the Chinese combo of Lou Ying/ Lou Yu beat Chang Ye Na/ Jung Kyung Eun of Korea 21-18 21-9 and in the mixed doubles no.1 seeds Chinese Zhan Nan/Zhao Yunlei defeated compatriots Xu Chen/ Ma Jin 21-16 21-14.
The men’s doubles became a see-saw affair in the third game with both Indonesian and Korean players holding championship points towards the end. Finally Indonesia’s Hendra Setiawan/ Mohammad Ashan prevailed to hold off top seeds and world no.1 Lee Young Dae/ Yoo Yeon Seong of Korea 14-21, 21-15, 23-21 and walked away with the trophy.