All England Championships: Lin Dan wins sixth title; Nozomi Okuhara first

The sixth championship by Lin Dan came 12 years after his first, and four years after his last, when he went into semi-retirement for two years.

By: AP | Birmingham | Updated: March 14, 2016 12:01 am
Lin Dan, Lin Dan matches, Lin Dan records, Lin Dan records, All England badminton title, All England scores, sports news, sports, Badminton news, Badminton Lin Dan defeated Tian Houwei 21-9, 21-10 in the final to win All England badminton title for the sixth time. (Source: Reuters)

Lin Dan earned his sixth All England badminton title when he routed Chinese teammate Tian Houwei 21-9, 21-10 in the final on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Nozomi Okuhara of Japan marked her 21st birthday with her first All England title after beating two-time champion Wang Shixian of China 21-11, 16-21, 21-19 in their thrilling final.

“This is the best birthday of my life,” she said.

The men’s final lacked any tension, as Lin bolted to 4-0, enjoyed the same margin at the changeover, and pulled away.

There were no yells of joy or frustration, just a couple of fist pumps, and Lin could afford to play to the crowd and still win the next point. The near full house encouraged Tian, who was trying to beat Lin for the first time at his seventh attempt, but an air of inevitability crept over the 45-minute proceedings.

“I was surprised it was that easy,” Lin said.

That was fine with him. He said he was tired before the final, having won the German Open last week, then averaged an hour per match to reach his ninth All England final. A winter of hard training has built up a reserve of energy that the only two-time Olympic men’s champion hopes to translate into a third gold in Rio de Janeiro.

Even though China head coach Li Yongbo said in December he considered Lin and top-ranked Chen Long to be the team’s “double insurance” for the Rio men’s gold, Lin wasn’t taking anything for granted he will be in the team. The Olympic qualifying period ends on May 1, and with teams restricted to two singles players, Lin was China’s No. 2, just ahead of Tian.

“You will never be selected (by the China coaches) just because you’re the Olympic champion last time,” Lin said. “All the Chinese coaches are sitting in the corner and I just want to show them that even though I’m 32, I can still do it.”

The sixth championship by badminton’s greatest player came 12 years after his first, and four years after his last, when he went into hiatus until two years ago.

“When I decided to come back, I wanted to prove to the rest of the world I’m still the best,” Lin said.

In the women’s final, Okuhara was behind for most of the decisive game and looked tired, but found the energy to come from 17-14 down to 19-17 ahead, watch Wang tie at 19, move ahead with her first match point, and win it when Wang netted a forehand. Okuhara collapsed at the net in joy, the first Japanese singles winner in 39 years.

Wang said she lost the final, rather than Okuhara winning it, and once again was unhappy with the umpiring and line-calling. She has complained this week of a bias against Asian players, but at the same time said the line-calling wasn’t a factor in her results. She was red-carded in the final for wasting time, and Okuhara felt she was lucky herself not to receive any penalties.

“It was strange, the timing issues,” Okuhara said.

The final was the longest women’s singles of the tournament at 99 minutes, and Okuhara acknowledged the crowd probably got tired watching it, but she expected that. It took her 76 minutes to beat Wang for the first time last month at the Asia team championships.

So focused was Okuhara that she said she forgot it was her birthday, and didn’t remember until she walked on court and a small section of the crowd serenaded her with “Happy Birthday To You.”

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