Monday, March 9, 2009

YONEX ALL ENGLAND – Lin Dan Claims 4th All England Title

Lin Dan today claimed his fourth All England in impressive fashion as he reaffirmed his position as the greatest men’s singles player on the planet in beating world number 1 Lee Chong Wei in a repeat of the 2008 Beijing Olympic final.

By Mark Phelan (Live) Photos: (Live in Birmingham)

The crowd went wild as both Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei entered the stadium this afternoon in Birmingham, England. There was not a vacant seat in the house as all assembled were transfixed as they eagerly awaited the repeat of the Olympic final from Beijing last August. The boisterous fans were not to be disappointed as both players dished out a master class in professional badminton in what was a perfect advertisement for the sport in general.

The first set was a very competitive affair as it was clear from the off that both players were up for the challenge. Early on it was the Chinese Olympic Champion that set the pace as he eased into a 8-2 lead aided by amazing net play and pin point smashing. Lee Chong Wei fought back to the delight of the vast hoards of Malaysian fans in the arena and at the mid game interval only trailed by 2 points. Both players continued to amaze the crowd with rallies of exquisite badminton but it was Lin Dan who had the upper hand and at 16-12 looked to have the set in the bag.

Lee Chong Wei then hit the Olympic Champion with a counter punch and won 3 points to close to within 1 and after Lin Dan stopped the rot with a smash down the line, Lee Chong Wei once again pressed the accelerator to win 4 unanswered points to take the lead in the first set for the first time 19-17.

As if not to be outdone, it was now Lin Dan’s time to counter and from a seemingly hopeless position he went to win four straight points to clinch the opener 21-19 to the rapturous applause of the appreciative Birmingham crowd. It was clear to all assembled that winning here was vitally important to Lin Dan as he clinched his fist after winning the opening set.

“In the first set there were a few occasions where I let him (Lee Chong Wei) back into the set but I stayed calm and worked to my plan. It was a close game and it could have gone either way but I managed to stay focused and win,” commented Lin Dan on his opening set win.

In the second set, the Malaysian started off in positive form, and with a little help from a few unforced net errors by Lin Dan, eked out a slender 6-5 lead. Lin Dan then won the next four points to take a 9-6 advantage and had Lee Chong Wei hanging onto his coat tails at 14-12 where the destiny of the match still hung in the balance. It was at this point that the Olympic Champion proved to everyone assembled why he is the best in the world and went on a point-winning spree to take 7 points in a row to claim yet another All England title. As the match point shuttle dropped aimlessly over the end line, from a Lee Chong Wei lift, the Chinese star clenched his fists with joy and saluted the packed arena.

“I think we both played very well today and really the winner today was the game of badminton. I think we gave the spectators what they wanted and Lee Chong Wei was as much a part of that as I was. I have won everything there is to win in badminton now but I still have motivation to be the best ambassador for the sport I can. Without doubt this is a huge motivation for me,” said Lin Dan after his historic win.

In the first match on court the Chinese number 3 seeds He Hanbin and Yu Yang stumbled in losing the opening set to brand-new Korean pair Ko Sung Hyun and Ha Jung Eun. The Chinese pair hit back in the second to level the match at one set each and in the third just cruised away from the Koreans to take the 3rd 21-9 and with it the title of All England Champions 2009.

“The first game we were not good today but we corrected our approach for the second and managed to get ourselves back into the match at 1 set each. In the third we played very well and played to our strengths and we are obviously delighted to win the All England title. This is a great boast in confidence for us as we are only a new pair and we look forward now to going on and improving more and winning many more tournaments,” said He Hanbin after the Chinese mixed doubles win.

China claimed its third title on finals day as number 7 seeds Zhang Yawen and Zhao Tingting beat compatriots Cheng/Zhao in two sets 21-13, 21-15.