Lin takes fifth All-England badminton title as Lee quits

by Richard Eaton
AFP Global Edition

Mar 11, 2012 15:10 EDT

Lin Dan became the first player of the open era to win the All-England men's title five times when defending champion Lee Chong Wei retired with a shoulder injury in Sunday's final.

The setback, which happened to the Malaysian with the score at 21-19, 6-2 to the Chinese player, denied Lee the chance of becoming the first man since the 1970s to win the title three times in a row.

Lee had also been complaining of a painful hand earlier in the tournament, and might have soldiered on longer had he snatched a very close first game which was influenced by a couple of marginal decisions.

However, Lee was facing an Olympic and world champion with more appetite for an All-England final than last year, when Lin himself was suffering from a stomach muscle injury.

Now Lin often took the attack to Lee, knocking the shuttle about with accuracy and variety, and moving with predatory stealth and economy.

When he attempted to get the shuttle on to the floor it was usually with unique deception, a Lin trademark.

"I don't think the injury affected his rhythm," Lin said through an interpreter during a brief on court interview, perhaps keen not to have the value of his win reduced in what could be his last All-England Open.

Later though he struck a more sympathetic note.

"I am very sorry for Lee Chong Wei," he said. "We have played against each other for almost ten years, since we were juniors, and we are very familiar with each other and have no secrets.

"The countdown is now on (till the end of their careers) and we don't know how many more times we will play each other, so we cherish each time. With the Olympics approaching maybe he made the right decision."

Well as Lin played, the match may have taken a different course had Lee not had moments of slight ill-luck.

At 4-5 he projected an overhead drop which landed very close to the line but was called out, prompting him to stand and stare for a long time.

An almost identical incident happened, but in a much more important context at 18-18, when Lee felt certain that his drop to the same sideline had actually touched the line.

That brought more staring from him, and his sense of injustice may have been compounded when at 19-19 Lin Dan's attempted kill took a crucial net cord which made the shuttle fall in an irretrievably.

Against that Lin had a moment of frustration too, when a kill at the net which he thought had earned him an 11-8 lead was denied him because the umpire ruled he had put his racket over the net.

This brought huge jeers from the crowd, a majority of whom supported Lin, regarded by many as the greatest player of all time.

Another strange moment occurred when a rally at 16-12 continued with an official still courtside making adjustments to the umpire's monitor.

The decisive tilt of fortunes came eleven rallies later, on a game point in which Lee's half-smash landed desperately close to the same sideline where he had previously been disappointed.

This too was called out, though it was maybe by no more than an inch, causing Lee to toss his racket behind him in disgust. Five minutes later he decided he had had enough.

"I'm very disappointed at what happened," said Lee. "I had the shoulder injury earlier, but I didn't want to disappoint the crowd so I came to play anyway.

"But when I felt the pain some more I didn't want to push the shoulder any more."

Without doubt Lee will have had his fitness for London 2012 in mind, when he is likely to be trying to atone for his one-sided loss to Lin Dan in the Olympics Games in Beijing.

Earlier another world number one, Wang Yihan, crashed to a shock defeat in the women's singles final as her 21-year-old compatriot Li Xuerui snatched the title with a remarkably composed performance in a 21-13, 21-19 win.

Wang's was a strangely error-strewn performance in the first game and then an unexpectedly flat one emotionally in the second when she had a 15-10 lead and seemed likely to take it to a decider.

If Li finishes in the world' top four at the end of next month, it gives China the maximum three singles players in this event at the Olympic Games in London.

The Chinese also won the women's doubles, giving them three titles, though this is their smallest All-England haul for eight years.

Source: AFP Global Edition

 

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