BAC SF – All-Chinese Finals in the Singles

Chinese youngster Li Xuerui has Saina’s number, Lin Dan in line for first Asian title. Dev S Sukumar / DNA live in New Delhi.  Photos: (archives) China arrived at […]

LIN.Dan-09-CHN-ST-AllEngland2010Chinese youngster Li Xuerui has Saina’s number, Lin Dan in line for first Asian title.

Dev S Sukumar / DNA live in New Delhi.  Photos: (archives)

China arrived at the without most of its top-ranked Wangs. And yet, little-known Li and Liu ensured a title in the women’s singles for China as they disposed of the top two seeds, Saina Nehwal and Zhou Mi (photo, right).

The story was much the same in the men’s event, where Lin Dan (photo, up) played a few pranks on court and left world No.9 Boonsak Ponsana (photo) looking like he’d seen a ghost. Lin will take on his ardent fan, Wang Zhengming, in the final.

The Chinese have a shot at a third title in the women’s doubles, where they’ll meet a Malaysian pair. The other finals will offer some respite from the Chinese.

ZHOU.Mi-09-HKG-YN-AllEngland2010Saina, backed by strong home support, kept close in the early part of the match, but it was obvious that Chinese youngster would be a handful. The 2008 Asian Junior champion steadily kept up the pressure and the lead, and although Saina went ahead at 17-15, the Chinese powered from there to leave Saina trailing.

The wiry Xuerui packs surprising power in her smash, and the steep angles often had Saina scrambling. The Indian’s pace and power is usually sufficient to keep less-endowed opponents flat-footed, but Xuerui was returning everything, and Saina’s morale slowly dipped.

A whippy smash breached Saina’s defence time and again, while the steeply angled half-smashes homed in with deadly accuracy into the Indian’s forecourt. Saina tried gamely, but Xuerui had come with a plan that she executed to perfection.

“She played well,” sighed Saina. “I’m aggressive and fast, but today she was faster than me. Her attacking tosses were very fast. In the second game, for a brief period I played the right strategy and won a few points, but it was too late by then.”

In an earlier semifinal, Zhou Mi, the Hong Kong player who used to turn out for China earlier in her career, demonstrated how to handle freshly-blooded Chinese. She constantly had Liu Xin off-centre with an eclectic mix of strokes. Zhou fell because of her ageing legs, which were unable to sustain the pace.

Master versus Disciple

Wang Zhengming adores Lin Dan. The two train together at the national camp, and Wang admits that beating Lin would be a near impossibility. Nevertheless, how expertly he dismantled Kenichi Tago, the recent All England finalist!

Tago had beaten two top Chinese on the way to the All England final, showing great athleticism and a ferocious smash. Against Wang, he barely got a chance to use his feared weapons. Wang outplayed him in the very departments he is so good at – rearing up time and again to crack smashes down Tago’s flanks; Boonsak.PONSANA-02-THA-YL-KoreaOpen2010dominating the net, and sending forth a variety of strokes to which the Japanese had no answers.

Boonsak Ponsana (photo) briefly troubled three-time World Champion Lin Dan in the other semi-final, and even had first game point. That was about as far as he got, for once the great Chinese had warmed up, he brushed past his Thai challenger. After taking the first game he toyed with Ponsana, staying in the mid court and making him run around.

A couple of times Lin Dan fooled around. First at 13-5, assured of victory, he pretended to allow a high lift to fall down, turned his back to the net, and as the shuttle fell, flicked it back to Ponsana’s court. He lost the point, but the statement was of supreme confidence. Then at 16-7 he lifted the shuttle back and invited Ponsana to pose his best questions – the Thai flicked, dribbled, lifted, smashed – and the shuttle just kept coming back, even though Lin Dan was playing at half his pace.

Ponsana is world No.9.  To treat a top-ten player with such contempt was something only Lin Dan could have done.

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