Dev S Sukumar. Birmingham
Malaysian world No.1 Lee Chong Wei finally buried his personal demons at the 100th All England Badminton Championships, staving off a strong challenge in the final from Japan’s Kenichi Tago 21-19 21-19 at the NIA on Sunday. Denmark’s Tine Rasmussen won the women’s singles over Wang Yihan, 21-14 18-21 21-19 to regain the title she won in 2008. China will go home with two gold — in the women’s doubles, and in the mixed.
For Chong Wei it was a particularly emotional moment, for this was the biggest prize he has won in his career, and demolished all accusations of being a ‘choker’ in the big tournaments. Despite being in the world’s top 3 for several years, Chong Wei has never won the titles that mattered — the World Championships, the Olympics, or the All England. When he eventually shook off that jinx, he couldn’t have done it at a more appropriate moment.
Coming in to this tournament, Lee maintained that this was the big one — the 100th All England. The loss of his principal rivals — Lin Dan and Taufik Hidayat in the quarterfinals — convinced him this could be his year. But across the net was Kenichi Tago, giant-killer and possibly the next big name in the game. Tago had shown astonishing resolve in reaching the final, disposing off top-ten players Chen Jin and Bao Chunlai despite facing match points, and having played three three-setters in his four matches.
Perhaps the effort had slowed him down, for he wasn’t at his best. Lee’s game is built on fleetness of foot, a sound defence, and a useful smash. His speed and reflexes gave him the edge against Tago, but it was far from an easy battle. At times the play was brilliant; both smashed steeply and returned thunderbolts, but eventually, Lee’s greater pace and fitness prevailed.
“There are three big tournaments,” Lee said. “The All England, the World Championships and the Olympics. Now that I’ve won the All England, I have proved a point.”
Even as the match was over, Lee received a call from the Malaysian Prime Minister, who had stayed up late to watch the match.
Rasmussen powers past Yihan
Earlier, Tine Rasmussen weathered her own erratic form to power past Chinese world No.1 Wang Yihan. After a surprisingly easy first set, where she used her big smash and fine skill at the net, she fell into an indecisive phase in the second. Yihan steadied things and engaged her in long rallies, sending the deep toss to her backhand to prevent the smash from coming. Rasmussen made things worse by misjudging several shuttles that fell in. The third set was close all the way, but the big Dane’s smash again came to the rescue, helping her win her second All England. “This is the best tournament,” said Rasmussen. “I know I’ve won it earlier, but it’s still special.”
MS: Lee Chong Wei (Mas) bt Kenichi Tago (Jpn) 21-19 21-19
WS: Tine Rasmussen (Den) bt Wang Yihan (Chn) 21-14 18-21 21-19
MXD: Zhang Nan/ Zhao Yunlei (Chn) bt Nova Widianto/ Lilyana Natsir (Ina) 21-18 23-25 21-18
WD: Du Jing/ Yu Yang (Chn) bt Shu Cheng/ Zhao Yunlei (Chn) 20-22 21-16 21-13