ALL ENGLAND 2014 SF – Two repeat finals booked

The top players show their quality, as two repeat finals from last year’s Yonex All England will be played, in the men’s singles and mixed doubles. Lee Chong Wei will […]

The top players show their quality, as two repeat finals from last year’s Yonex will be played, in the men’s singles and mixed doubles. Lee Chong Wei will face Chen Long, and then Ahmad/Natsir square up against Zhang/Zhao. Meanwhile an all-China final was ensured as 2013 runner up Ratchanok Intanon lost to rival Li Xuerui.

By Michael Burke, Badzine Correspondent, live from Birmingham.  Photos: Raphael Sachetat & Yohan Nonotte for Badmintonphoto (live).

The first two matches on court saw Tontowi Ahmad and Lilyana Natsir (pictured left) book their final place as defending champions against last year’s runners-up, Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei.

The Indonesian pair came out clinically against a scratch Korean pairing of Ko Sung Hyun and Kim Ha Na, with the Koreans struggling to get the attack in the face of some commanding play.

Tontowi spoke after the match about reaching the final again, “We’re happy to win again today. The last time we played them [Zhang/Zhao] was in the World Championship final and we’ve not met them since.

“Despite us being the defending champions, they are very good so we have nothing to lose so we must be prepared and focussed tomorrow.”

The repeat final was confirmed after Xu Chen suffered a back injury in the second game of his and Ma Jin’s match against their compatriots Zhang/Zhao, however the third seeded pair had not looked like challenging last year’s runners-up before the curtailment.

Korean opponent Son Wan Ho (pictured right) pushed Lee Chong Wei hard in another tough three-game match, as the Malaysian booked his place in a sixth successive All England final. Son took the first game off the Malaysian and led for much of the second, only falling short as the first seed ground him down in long rallies.

Speaking after, the crowd favourite said, “Today is a very tough match, he played very well. I didn’t expect him to play so well.  It surprised me as he was very consistent and played some very good shots.”

Lee came into the All England with injury worries, and commented, “I’m happy with my recovery, I haven’t been training 100% so I was forcing myself to play and I have felt my condition improving.”

About the match up against last year’s winner Chen Long, he said, “Our level is both very good, but if I play well I can win it for my country, I just need to make sure I focus tomorrow.”

Wang Shixian (pictured left) beat compatriot Wang Yihan for the first time since 2011, the same year in which she won her sole All England title.

Talking about the semi-final, “It was alright for me, of course because we know each other we need to be extra prepared but once you start it is the same as against any player. She was a very strong opponent so I’m just happy to win.”

On the potential for an all-China final, “Of course I’m wishing to meet her [Li Xuerui] in the final. It’s all about beating the others so as long as China wins we’re happy.”

This was confirmed shortly after as Ratchanok Intanon (pictured right), who has struggled with an injury all week, could not repeat last year’s run as she bowed out to Li Xuerui (pictured right).

The pair last played in the final of the World Championships, a fact not lost on Li, “Compared to the three matches before, I was more relaxed. I played her at the Worlds and lost, so I was more relaxed as I knew I had to just give it all as there was less pressure.”

About Intanon’s injury, Li said, “Once I’m on the court, regardless of the opponent’s condition I need to try my best. Everyone is playing with some level of injury so it’s not an excuse to take it easy.”

Both players are young and it looks like this is the possible start of a long rivalry, but Li said, “I think there are many up and coming players, I try to play my best all the time as once you get on court, the score is always 0-0 regardless of who you play or what age they are.”

The full results for the day can be found here.

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About Michael Burke