All-England Women titleAfter a huge build-up of expectations leading to the final of the Yonex 2015 All-England Open Badminton Championships, Indian sports community met with disappointment. In her title clash against Spain’s Carolina Marin, Saina Nehwal began promisingly to take the first game and opened a sizeable lead in the second. Just when everyone thought of a run-away win for Saina, Carolina Marin staged a marvelous turnaround to affirm her status as the reigning world champion. Changing her playing strategy, Marin began taking away points from the Indian and forced her opponent into errors. Saina found the pressure too much and yielded the second game in which she also committed errors of poor judgment. Having leveled the scores, Marin played brilliantly in the decider and ended up as worthy winner of the coveted All-England Open Badminton Championships.

There was no better way to celebrate the International Women’s Day at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena than watching two of the best women badminton players of the world. India’s Saina Newhal and Spain’s Carolina Marin are role models for women in their countries, where enhanced interest in badminton has been largely brought about by their successes in international events. Marin is passionate about badminton and she wears her heart on her sleeve and that brought her the world champion’s crown a few months ago. Saina Newhal is an undisputed star in India and despite setbacks in the last two seasons; she has begun playing the best badminton of late. Both Marin and Saina are gifted with speed and attack that pose as huge threats when they take on their opponents. On Sunday, Saina began impressively to take the first game 21-16 and raced away to a 6-1 lead in the second. But Marin was not finished yet. As Saina made judgmental errors on Marin’s overhead shots that fell on the lines, the Indian began gifting points to the Spaniard. That prompted a remarkable comeback for the world champion, who seized the opportunity with both hands. Marin scored points by intelligently playing her shots on Saina’s body and outwitted Saina in rallies. The world champion smiled and smiled and kept adding points to win the second game 21-14 after the Indian had led 10-6 at one stage. In the decider, it became a one-way traffic as Saina’s game crumbled and Marin’s confidence zoomed. Finally Marin took the match 16-21, 21-14, 21-7 in 62 minutes to add the All-England crown to her world champion’s title.

In the men’s singles final, China’s Chen Long had a very stiff challenge thrown at him by Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen. The Chinese world champion, who had beaten the great Lin Dan in two comfortable games in the semifinal earlier, showed poise and control despite losing the first game to the Dane. Jorgensen didn’t play a mean game either as he fought tenaciously and came up with some sublime net shots with disguise and attacked the Chinese with fierce smashes. But the patient Chen slowly imposed his familiar mid-court control in the game and mixed that with running counter-attacks. After Jorgensen took the first game 21-15, the Chinese bounced back in the second with renewed vigor. In an acrobatic moment in the second game, after Jorgensen had struck a sliced overhead that looked a sure winner, Chen dived and slid along the floor. He not only flicked the shuttle back to Jorgensen’s court but regained his feet in time to retrieve the resulting attempted kill and won the point. That took the second game score to 18-15 and finally the Chinese managed to take the match to the decider. In the third game, Chen led 10-5 and made it 16-10 a while later. As Jorgensen fought hard, Chen did even better and made it 20-11. After that, Jorgensen bravely saved four match points but Chen Long had the last laugh with a 15-21, 21-17, 21-15 title victory.

China won two other titles on Sunday. In the mixed doubles, Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei beat three-time champions Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir of Indonesia 21-10, 21-10 and in an all-Chinese women’s doubles China’s Bao Yixin and Tang Yuanting defeated  compatriots Wang Xialoi and Yu Yang 21-14, 21-14 in just over 39 minutes. However, the men’s doubles crown was taken by Denmark’s Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen. The no.2 seeded players were in inspired form against China’s Fu Haifen and Zhang, and did their country proud with a 21-17, 22-20 title victory.