ALL ENGLAND 2012 Finals – Asia and Lin Dan dominate

The finals of the All England saw Asia take all 5 gold – amongst which 3 for China, leaving Denmark’s Laybourn and Rytter-Juhl with silver again. Lin Dan is back […]

The finals of the saw Asia take all 5 gold – amongst which 3 for China, leaving Denmark’s Laybourn and Rytter-Juhl with silver again. Lin Dan is back on track with a 5th title here in Birmingham after edging Lee Chong Wei, who pulled out citing injury after a great battle in the first game.

By Raphael Sachetat, live from Birmingham. Photos (live): Badmintonphoto

It was a packed NIA Arena that welcomed la “creme de la creme” of badminton on Sunday. And if the stadium had sounded like Kula Lumpur’s Bukit Jalil stadium the previous day, the colours had clearly been changed to bright red – like the numerous Chinese flags wavering in the stands. And for whoever had never watched a badminton game before, today was the day as both the men’s doubles and the first part of the men’s singles were amazing battles.

The men’s doubles final was – as often in the Yonex All England – a delight to follow, especially the first game. It was badminton at its best, between two of the greatest pairs of all time. Jung Jae Sung and Lee Yong Dae (photo) led all the way to 18-18 in the first game before losing it narrowly 22-24 to Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng. But the remaining two games were to go to the Koreans, who were much sharper, much fitter while Cai and Fu seemed tired towards the end – they nevertheless fought some impressive rallies for the public to enjoy. Lee and Jung took it home 22-24, 21-9, 21-14.

This feels very good to win here. We were a bit nervous in the first game after our loss at home against them in the final, but in the second and third games, we played with more confidence. We are in good shape but we are still wary of other pairs, from China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Denmark for the competitions coming up. We will not be satisfied until we reach our ultimate goal, which is to win the Olympics,” said Lee Yong Dae.

Lin takes over injured Lee

A few minutes later, the stadium was to burst out by cheering out loud for their two heroes – Lee Chong Wei (photo) and Lin Dan, with rumours spreading that the Malaysian was suffering from a slight injury. This was validated a bit later in the game when the Malaysian asked for the doctor to check his shoulder mid-way through the first game, but the Malaysian still played on – and well. Lin stayed in the lead most of the first game, but Lee closed up at 19-19. The Chinese took the next two points to finish it up 21-19. The next game clearly saw Lee Chong Wei struggle to win his points and after a 6-2 lead from the Chinese, he once again called the referee and went on to shake Lin’s hand, retiring and leaving a fifth All England crown to Lin Dan. Both players exchanged T-shirts, like football players would do, over the net while the public was celebrating Lin’s success.

I had pain in my shoulder since the beginning of the match even if I managed to play alright in the first game. I couldn’t attack anymore so I had to retire, unfortunately. I am disappointed but I tried my best today,” said Lee Chong Wei.

For Lin Dan, the victory was still sweet. “Of course, it would have been better to finish the game today, but I’m still pretty pleased with the first game that we played. It was a good level of badminton. For many years, now, Chong Wei and I have battled and he’s become like a brother to me on court. Each time we face each other is a good match and maybe that’s why we exchanged shirts this time. I wouldn’t have done it 4 years ago, but now, I’m looking at things a bit differently,” said the Chinese.

Tontowi and Liliyana end 33-year title drought

The mixed doubles event was Europe’s last chance to win a gold medal in Birmingham with the continent’s sole representatives on court when Kamilla Rytter-Juhl and Thomas Laybourn stepped on the court, against Indonesians Liliyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad (photo). Both pairs had won once against the other and with the form both had shown this week, it looked like an even match on paper. But the Danes did not expect a clear change in tactics from their opponents.

They played mostly at the net while we were expecting them to lift up the shuttles more and play at the back, so we got a little confused and panicked a little,” said Laybourn.  Banking on Natsir’s experience and mastering the net, the Indonesians clearly had the tactic right and they were on top of the match most of the time, leading from start to finish in a great game of badminton. Tontowi was doing the job at the rear, ending rallies when needed, and showing that he has now reached the maturity to win major tournaments, tightening his game when it matters.

The Indonesians went on to win the match 21-19, 21-17. “It’s probably one of the best wins together. Comparing with my old partnership with Nova Widianto and our finals in the All England in 2008 and 2010, we were able to close it up this time in straight games because Tontowi hits very hard from behind and that helped us win today. It’s the first time in 33 years that an Indonesian pair has won the mixed doubles crown here, so we are very happy and proud to have achieved it,” said Natsir, referring to the 1979 final won by Christian and Wigoeno.

This will clearly give us some confidence for the tournaments to come, especially for the Olympics,” added Ahmad.

Team strategy or just bad days?

As in the past, questions will be remaining unanswered about the women’s events held on finals day in Birmingham. Did Wang Yihan let her younger opponent Li Xuerui (photo) win because this victory simply puts her in front of Saina Nehwal in the world ranking, with now all Chinese in the top 4? Should the world ranking remain the same, this would make it possible for the Chinese officials to choose which 3 players they want to send to the Olympics, depending on the form or injuries. Whether it’s a very smart move from above, or just the fact that Wang Yihan misplayed, as sometimes happens when one plays his own compatriot, both players should be still congratulated for their amazing week, even if the final was not up to the standard. Wang Yihan played a magnificent semi-final, saving three match points against Tine Baun, while Li Xuerui definitely deserves to be in the limelight as her other compatriots – her grace, her shyness but her raw talent will make her a champion of the future for sure.

And Li was all smiles after her final victory: “This is amazing for me to win here. It was unexpected as this is a very important final. As for the future, I just want to do well in tournament, and I’ll be happy to be a back up for China in the Olympics if needed.”

The women’s doubles finals also raised questions in the public of connoisseurs as Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli seldom make unforced errors or lose by such a huge margin against anyone as they did against their compatriots Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei (photo), who won it 21-17, 21-12. This could have been an off day for the world number ones, who have been almost unbeatable since they paired up. This could also be a way of giving their compatriots a well deserved title and 11 000 points, which puts them in a position where they can almost relax until the Olympics with the insurance to be seeded first and second in London. But once again, these four players deserve the credit for a magnificent week of badminton and if they did not give their best on Sunday, they surely contributed in giving the spectators some great time this week.

Final results

WS: Li Xuerui (CHN) beat Wang Yihan (CHN)  21-13, 21-19
XD: Ahmad/Natsir (INA) beat Laybourn/Rytter-Juhl (DEN) 21-17, 21-19
WD: Tian/Zhao (CHN) beat Wang/Yu (CHN) 21-17, 21-12
MD: Jung/Lee (KOR) beat Cai/Fu (CHN) 22-24, 21-9, 21-14
MS: Lin Dan (CHN) beat Lee Chong Wei (MAS) 21-19, 6-2 (ret)

All Results here

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Raphaël Sachetat

About Raphaël Sachetat

Raphael is the Chief Editor of Badzine International. He is the founder of the website together with Jean François Chauveau. After many years writing for the BWF and many publications around the world about badminton, he now leads a team of young and dynamic writers for Badzine.