Li Xuerui had pipped Shixian Wang when Chinese coaches picked their three challengers for the Olympics women’s singles two seasons back, despite being ranked lower given the former’s sturdier mental strength in the qualification period.
On Sunday, Shixian announced she could display the same ruthlessness as the Olympic champion, as she beat her Chinese team-mate 21-19, 21-18 employing a fine mix of dogged defending and deception.
Twice in the course of the final, Shixian’s cocked wristed, deft drops left Xuerui scrambling to reach the shuttle, and the World No 1 was down on all fours — palms and knees, as she fell back on the big points. Shixian’s new-found aggression supported her superior fitness as the London Games champ failed to find chinks to exploit as Shixian — seeded fourth, ranked 3 — picked her second All England title.
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However, the most exciting match of the day saw Malaysia’s No 1 ranked Lee Chong Wei beat Chinese World No 2 Chen Long in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation that saw much drama at the net where the two took turns hovering menacingly over each other. The Malaysian 33-year-old prevailed in most of those to claim his third All England title.
Chong Wei, playing in what could be his last All England (he could retire end-season), brought his experience into the game, wearying out his opponent’s patience in the longer rallies and exacting revenge for times past when the Chinese, his junior, had outmuscled him in finals, including last year’s championship match here.
Chong Wei, who has long been second-best to Lin Dan, was easily the tactical master showing the younger Chinese he wasn’t fading out soon. This was the strongest final line-up at the All England in years, with all five categories boasting of the respective World No 1s in the summit clash.
Chinese women’s doubles’ world top-ranked Xiaoli Wang and Yang Yu got the better of Jin Ma and Yuanting Tang 21-17, 18-21, 23-21 in a marathon 1 hour 20 minute encounter, while Indonesian World No 1 pair Hendra Setiawan-Mohammad Ahsan beat Japanese No 2 combine of Hiroyuki Endo-Kenichi Hayakawa 21-19, 21-19. Indonesian Tontowi Ahmad was brilliant in the company of his mixed doubles partner Lilyana Natsir as they spat out some power-packed smashes to get the better of Chinese World No 1 Nan Zhang – Yunlei Zhao 21-13, 21-17. The Indonesians won with an identical scoreline as last year, for a three-peat at All England.