BIRMINGHAM: Lee Chong Wei produced one of his finest performances despite an ankle problem to regain the All-England Open title doing so with an impressively emphatic straight games win over Chen Long in Birmingham on Sunday. The world number one from Malaysia beat the titleholder from China 21-13, 21-18 – revenge for his loss to Chen in the final last year – for his third All-England trophy and then admitted he may not be back to try and win a fourth title. The variety of the 31-year-old’s game was often mesmerising, and his focus was steely enough to resist determined second-game fight-backs by Chen from 4-10 to 9-10 and from 13-18 to 17-18 and to within the width of the net tape of getting to 18-all.
Lee, however, said he may not be back – not because he is retiring but because this tournament has underlined that preserving his body for another Olympic bid has become increasingly problematic. “I didn’t know how well I would be able to play, but I feel very happy with what I did,” Lee said. “I had this injury before I came here and I just relaxed because I think it maybe my last time. “I think I did my best. Now I want to go home and talk with my coach (Rashid Sidek, a former All-England finalist) and go back to doing some rehab.” Chen was gracious in defeat. “He played some amazing points,” said Chen. “I can accept winning or losing today.”
Earlier China won the women’s singles when Wang Shixian, the fourth-seeded former All-England champion, beat Li Xuerui, the top-seeded Olympic champion, 21-19, 21-18. It was a match, which never caught fire, though Wang did enough to suggest she possesses a wider range of strokes and tactics than when she won the title three years ago. Li, who sometimes walked gingerly as if she was not in the best shape, led 19-17 in the first game and 14-13 in the second, but could not press her slight advantages home. “It wasn’t too difficult playing a colleague because these days it happens in finals lot,” said Wang. “I hope we will win more matches as a team.”
Yu Yang’s improbable rehabilitation continued in dramatic fashion also on Sunday as she and her women’s doubles partner Wang Xiaoli saved a match point to complete a successful defence of their All-England Open title. Yu, who had said she was quitting after she and Wang were among those banned during the match-fixing scandal at the London Olympics, was again a bundle of renovated self-belief and forecourt energy as the top-seeded pair edged out their unseeded compatriots Ma Jin and Tang Yuanting 21-17, 18-21, 23-21. “We really wanted to win again this year,” said Wang. “We were quite scared about coming here because we were getting challenged by all the other players, but we managed to adjust and it was really just about playing to the right level.”
Indonesia regained the men’s doubles title after an interval of more than a decade when top-seeded Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan followed their August capture of the world title with a 21-19, 21-19 win over Hiroyuki Endo and Kenichi Hayakawa. The Japanese pair led 16-15 in the first game and repaired a three-point deficit in the second, and were not far from becoming their country’s first All-England champions since 1978. Tontowi Ahmad and Lilyana Natsir, the titleholders from Indonesia, beat China’s top-seeded mixed doubles pair of Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei. It left China with just two titles, its smallest all-England haul for six years.
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