OLYMPICS MS SF – Duel of Legends

4 men.  2 matches.  Only the victors will have the right to the finals while the defeated must ready themselves for a bronze match. By Kira Rin.  Photos: Yves Lacroix […]

4 men.  2 matches.  Only the victors will have the right to the finals while the defeated must ready themselves for a bronze match.

By Kira Rin.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live).

It was an epic match worthy to be told in the halls of heroes forever.  For Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei, this is their 3rd semi-final appearance, but it was new for both of them as they’d previously only met for the gold.

2 great men met once again on the Olympic stage, though only a step further from the finals.  Both men had already set records by being the first men’s singles players to have 2 consecutive Olympic medals, and once again are seeking to extend their reign with yet another medal.

Both Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei started off testing each other’s reaches, though Lin Dan set the tempo of the match, whipping up a combination of quick flick smashes and extremely tight net shots.  Net play itself turned into a battle of dominance, with both sides seeking to elicit from the other a shot just even a tiny bit too high.

Even so, both sides found the time to add deception to their shots, but it would be quickly read once the shuttle had left the racquet.  Lee was never far behind, utilizing accurate smashes and forcing Lin’s straight lifts out.

After dropping the first game, Lee slowly shifted the tempo to his side, using his seemingly unlimited stamina to jump for every shot to the back.  Roaring off to a 5-point lead before Lin even got a single point in the second game, Lee only extended the distance further with each successive rally, with his furthest difference being a 12-point lead.  Lin could only help muster a few points from punishing short lifts with s smash and deceptive net play

Once again, as in the of the years before, it came down to the final game to hold the fate of the match itself.  This time, both sides went at full tempo from the beginning of the game, sparing no quarter for each point.  Each kept an eye out for the other’s classic rally-ending shots, Lin’s power smash and Lee’s fast forehand cross drop.  Each side took turns holding a 2-point lead before the game went tit for tat, with no side being able to get an obvious clear point advantage.  Each player had to fight for each point, keeping the opponent moving around the court while patiently waiting for a chance shot to end the rally in their favour.

Alas, all good things must come to an end.  Lee was the first to break away from the stalemate with 19-16, and with that had the initiative at the 20-point mark.  Lin Dan however was not an easy man to shake, and with an out, a straight flick smash, salvaging a failed net-kill attempt followed by a tactical set up into another straight smash saw Lin even the score into 20-all.

An exchange of lift, drops and net, was followed by tight net play before Lin hit the shuttle out and Lee held his 4th match point.  Playing defensively, Lin kept the shuttle in the air with lifts, but on the third lift, Lee responded with a seemingly smash that turned into his classic forehand cross drop that left Lin defending the wrong side of the court.

Even after final shot that led to Lee’s victory, the 2 men shared a hug of friendship, and in a true nod to their history together, once again exchanged shirts.

Roar of China’s dragon

With Li Xuerui conceding a walkover to Nozomi Okuhara, Chen Long was up next playing against Viktor Axelsen for a spot in the finals.  Both sides started out with their guns blazing, as points were exchanged in rapid fashion.

While Viktor momentarily held the lead with his fast and furious attacking from the back court, Chen slowly adapted to the pace until he could accurately predict Viktor’s attacking lines.  Once Chen took the lead, he extended it further by returning Viktor’s offensive shots quickly while making his own attacks hit home.

Thoroughly shaken at watching his own attacks having no effect in gaining points, Viktor was left at a loss of how to play his own game.  That loss of concentration saw him hit shots out while Chen calmly implemented his game plan of controlling the pace, mixing in fast shots to gain points.

Win or lose in the finals, Chen Long will finally have an upgraded medal from his previous bronze back in 2012, while Lin Dan will have to defeat Viktor if he wishes to once again stand on the podium with his team-mate and his friends.

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