Chong Wei old­est win­ner of All-Eng­land, his­tory for Tai­wan

The Borneo Post (Sabah) - - SPORT -

BIRM­ING­HAM (United King­dom): Lee Chong Wei, Malaysia’s vet­eran world num­ber one, cap­tured the Al­lEng­land Open on Sun­day with a tram­pling 21-12, 21-10 win over China’s unseeded Shi Yuqi.

It was Lee’s fourth Al­lEng­land ti­tle, which equals the achieve­ment of Morten Frost, the Dane who is his coach­ing di­rec­tor in Kuala Lumpur.

His tally is more than any sin­gles player of the Open era ex­cept Lin Dan, the Chi­nese ge­nius who is the only op­po­nent con­sis­tently to get the bet­ter of him.

The women’s sin­gles also pro­duced a record, with Tai Tzu Ying, the top seed, be­com­ing the first All-Eng­land cham­pion in any dis­ci­pline from Tai­wan.

But there was mis­ery for China who suf­fered their worst tour­na­ment for two decades.

At 34, Lee is the old­est sin­gles cham­pion of the Open era.

Lee dis­closed af­ter­wards that he al­most didn’t make it to Birm­ing­ham, un­sure whether his dam­aged left knee heav­ily strapped would tol­er­ate com­pet­i­tive stresses.

“When I de­cided to come -which was a very close de­ci­sion -- I never at all thought that I would win the ti­tle,” said Lee.

“Yes, I am very sur­prised. I came be­cause it might be my last, and I just wanted to come and en­joy it.”

Af­ter two matches he was al­ready feel­ing more con­fi­dent about the in­jury, al­though he claims it was “never a hun­dred per­cent”.

His 21-year-old op­po­nent had found a path past Lin Dan, who ap­peared like an avun­cu­lar com­pa­triot dur­ing their semi­fi­nal rather than the most fear­some player of his era.

It pre­sented Shi with his first ma­jor fi­nal, whereas Lee has had seven at the All-Eng­land alone, and many oth­ers, and the vast dif­fer­ence in ex­pe­ri­ence showed cru­elly.

When the new­comer tried to keep the shut­tle away from the net, where Lee had scored so heav­ily in his ear­lier matches, he found the vet­eran as bril­liantly light-footed as ever, punch­ing clears and, for the first time this week, launch­ing pun­ish­ing aerial at­tacks.

From 8-7 in the first game it was mostly one-way traf­fic, with Shi try­ing dif­fer­ent ways to re­di­rect the flow, but find­ing that Lee was now able to un­leash a com­plete and un­stop­pable all court game.

“I re­laxed my mind,” Lee said, ad­mit­ting it was a by-prod­uct of no longer ex­pect­ing to win.

That is a men­tal skill he will try to re-cre­ate at Glas­gow in Au­gust for the world cham­pi­onships, a ti­tle which has nar­rowly eluded him.

Tai Tzu Ying, the women’s top seed, be­com­ing the first All-Eng­land cham­pion in any dis­ci­pline from Tai­wan.

She was un­pre­dictable but dan­ger­ous, with a smash clocked at 223 mph, and over­came Ratchanok In­tanon, the gifted for­mer world cham­pion from Thai­land, de­spite trail­ing by five points in the sec­ond game.

The match also had a twist in the tail. Ratchanok seemed about to level the match at 2018 in the sec­ond game when her sliced smash was called in. But a video re­play ap­peal sum­moned an im­age show­ing the shut­tle one inch out and, buoyed by the adrenalin of this es­cape, Tai snatched three more points and the match, win­ning 21-16, 22-20.

China cap­tured only one ti­tle, the mixed dou­bles, through Lu Kai and Juang Yaqiong, which equalled the low­est to­tal in two decades for the sport’s most suc­cess­ful coun­try.

It left head coach Li Yongbo, who ear­lier claimed that the fal­low pe­riod “doesn’t mean we are go­ing to fall be­hind,” still seek­ing ev­i­dence to sup­port his as­ser­tion.

- AFP photo

Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei (L) poses with the tro­phy as China’s Shi Yuqi (R) poses with his run­ners-up medal and tro­phy af­ter the All Eng­land Open Bad­minton Cham­pi­onships men’s sin­gles fi­nal match in Birm­ing­ham, cen­tral Eng­land, on March 12, 2017....

- AFP photo

Thai­land’s Ratchanok In­tanon (R) and Tai­wan’s Tai Tzu Ying (L) pose with their tro­phies and medals af­ter the women’s sin­gles fi­nal match at the All Eng­land Open Bad­minton Cham­pi­onships in Birm­ing­ham, cen­tral Eng­land, on March 12, 2017. Tai­wan’s Tai Tzu...

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