Chen Long wins All-England title
BIRMINGHAM (AFP) – World number one Lee Chong Wei, who deferred retirement after the Olympics to make a few last attempts on the major titles, found himself denied in Sunday’s final of the All-England Open.
Lee also found himself with an impressive new rival, Chen Long, a 24-year-old from Shashi, who fought off brave fight-backs by the favourite in each game to triumph 21-17, 21-18.
Last year Lee lost the title to Lin Dan. Now the Chinese legend may have a good successor, on the evidence of Chen’s marvellous containment and rallying ability, and increasing patience and judgement on when to make pouncing attacks.
Chen also carried himself like a champion. He never panicked when the match got tight, and handled the pressure like a player who may go on to win many more big titles.
“This is very important – a top, world class tournament, and winning it has given me a lot of experience,” he said. “I am very excited about that.”
It suggests that Lin may not need to come out of semi-retirement and make an attempt to defend the world title in Guangzhou in August for China to win it again.
For Lee this was a disappointment. The 30-year-old started both games slowly. He was 0-7 down before he got going, and 1-6 down in the second game, and both deficits proved a little too much to make up.
He moved beautifully as usual, but could not force his attacks through Chen’s brilliant defence when he tried to ambush the second seed, and did not have quite enough energy in the tank to apply pressure with a few extra-fast rallies.
He did fight hard, getting back to 17-19 in the first game and to a brief lead at 15-14 in the second.
But Chen’s speed and consistency never slackened or wavered and proved decisive, as Lee conceded.
“This was my best,” said Lee, “I was frustrated that there were certain shots which appeared impossible (to return) but Chen Long got to them when I thought I had deserved the point. He played very well.
“But I won’t be down about it. I will try and try and try to get back at him.”
Earlier, Tine Baun became the oldest All-England women’s singles winner of the open era when she beat the youngest singles finalist, Ratchanok Intanon, in an uniquely emotional final.
The 33-year-old’s 21-14, 16-21, 21-10 win over the 18-year-old brought to an end the career of one of the outstanding players of the past 10 years, and the only one to threaten Chinese dominance.
The Dane decided to compete this year as a “last adventure” but instead, as seventh seed, surprised herself by winning the All-England title back and taking it a third time.
Her young Thai opponent, the youngest world junior champion at the age of 14, was not far from spoiling the script with her wonderful movement and wide range of strokes.
Intanon was ahead early on, and began to move Baun around much more in the middle of the match. But she was, she admitted, nervous, and could not play her best in the decider.
To a significant extent she was prevented from doing so. Baun did that by clearing the shuttle into difficult positions, getting many of the rallies played at the net, and varying the rhythm of the action. Nevertheless, Intanon is a name which looks likely to be on the champions’ list soon.
But the real drama was in Baun’s life story. She might easily have decided not to play this, her favourite tournament, again. She had already decided she would like to start a family, with her physio, Martin Baun.
And when she played, it was principally with ideas of leaving the sport with a flourish.
“What’s happened is absolutely amazing,” she said.
“It’s exceeded all my expectations. I am not sure of all my emotions right now. But of all the successes, I think this feels the best.”