It is not for nothing that Lee Chong Wei is ranked as World’s No. 1 badminton player. In his 5th appearance on Sunday in the Men’s Singles Final of the 104th edition of All-England Badminton Championship in 10 years, Chong Wei performed brilliantly to record a 21-13, 21-18 straight sets victory over Chen Long, the defending champion from China. Chong Wei was suffering from a nagging injury to his ankle but he didn’t allow that to become evident in the crunch game and mostly controlled the events from the very start. Chong Wei has been talking about retirement for some time and after the final, he told the media once again that there was little possibility of his returning to Birmingham next year for another go at the prestigious tournament. In his comments, Chen Long was full of appreciation for Chong Wei, saying he had always been impressed by the mastery of Chong Wei’s game, every time he had played against him.
In the championship match, Chong Wei took the first set without a whimper but in the second set, he was up against the doggedness of Chen Long, who wouldn’t want to give up. At one time the Chinese reeled off 5 points in row and recovered from 4-10 to 9-10 but Chong Wei held him off. In another sudden burst, a little while later, Long rallied from 13-18 to make it 17-18 but Chong Wei countered him with nerves of steel. Anyone watching the Malaysian supremo in action on Sunday, was bound to be thrilled by the superb focus and temperamental solidity of the world’s best player.
Earlier both Chong Wei and Chen Long had entered the tournament final in different styles. While Chen Long easily overwhelmed fellow Chinese Wang Zhengming 21-17, 21-14 in 33 minutes; Chong Wei lost the first set in a tough semifinal against Korean Son Wan Ho. The world no. 1 had to fight hard against Wan Ho in the second set set to finally prevail 14-21, 21-19, 21-15.
The women’s singles and doubles matches were completely dominated by the Chinese, pointing to the enormous influence that China’s badminton factory continues to have in world events in the game. In the women’s singles, tournament’s fourth seeded player Wang Shixian defeated the top-seed and Olympic Gold Medalist Li Xuerui 21-19, 21-18. The match was devoid of any fireworks, as the two women could not produce the range of shots befitting a final. In the doubles final for women, defending champion pair of Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli overcame a match-point deficit to win the title for the second successive year, against compatriots, but unseeded pair of Ma Jin and Tang Yuanting. Yang and Xiaoli won 21-17, 18-21, 23-21.
In the men’s doubles final, the top-seeded Indonesian pair of Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan beat the Japanese duo of Hiroyuki Endo and Kenichi Hayakawa 21-19, 21-19. Ahsan and Setiawan reinforced their supremacy in the event, after their victory last August in the World Championship. Indonesia also won the mixed doubles final, when titleholders Tontowi Ahmad and Lilyana Natsir overpowered the Chinese no. 1 seeded pair of Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei 21-13, 21-17.
The ever amazing Chinese, thus entered the finals of every event, except the men’s doubles, though they had to remain content with just two titles. For the first time in the last six years, this was the lowest number of All-England titles that China won. Indian shuttlers disappointed the fans, since most entrants couldn’t progress beyond the first rounds. World no. 7, Saina Nehwal, however, reached the quarterfinal, where she lost tamely to the ultimate champion Shixian Wang, 17-21, 10-21. Saina was unable to raise her game anytime in the 43 minute encounter.
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