China’s Lin Dan, a two-time Olympic champion, engineered a brilliantly ruthless strategy against arch-rival Malaysian world number one Lee Chong Wei to win his first ever Malaysia Open badminton title.
Showing no sign of fatigue, 33-year-old Lin pushed Lee, one year his senior, from back to front, forcing the recent All England Open winner into unforced errors to bag a win 21-19, 21-14 in 55 minutes.
The two badminton veterans started cautiously, and Lee, the favourite in the tournament, began securing points with his killer cross-court smashes.
But Lin kept his calm, resorting to long rallies, swift returns and precision net play to defeat Lee. With the unexpected victory, Lin has now won every major title the sport has to offer.
“My main target was to break my jinx at this Malaysian Open. We both played well and showed a high level of badminton. Me are Lee are both ageing, and so I cherish every moment we play each other in a big tournament,” he said.
Although partisan, the crowd cheered both ageing icons, boosting the morale of the shuttlers who demonstrated agility and power play and reminded critics that they are not ready to retire.
Lee began the contest as the attacking player, pushing Lin to make unforced errors, but he could not hold on to his 19-15 advantage in the first game.
This allowed Lin to storm back into contention with six straight points to win 21-19.
Lin continued his domination in the second game, staying focussed and sticking to long rallies to build a lead of 11-8.
Lin’s strong challenge for points saw Lee in the final shot hitting the shuttle wide, allowing Lin to take the second game 21-14.
As has become the norm for the Chinese player, Lin dropped his racket, flung off his shirt and collapsed to the floor to rejoice in a victory that had eluded him in 2006.
The Chinese star has never been able to win in Malaysia. Lin reached the final three times but was defeated by Lee in 2005 and 2006 and by Chen Long in 2015.
In 2006, Lin was one point away from the title as he led 20-13 in the deciding game, but Lee staged a phenomenal comeback to win 23-21 at the same venue.
Although he went down in straight games this time, Lee vowed to return stronger.
“It wasn’t my best performance today. I lost some confidence after losing the first game, but overall I am satisfied with my overall performance to have made the final,” he said.
The Malaysia Open began Tuesday in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak state on Borneo island.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Tai Tzu Ying emerged champion in the women’s singles.
The world number one was, however, made to work hard for her win, defeating Spain’s Carolina Marin 23-25, 22-20, 21-13 in a 85-minute triumph.