Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Yonex All England Championships 2011 - Finals

WS: [1] Wang Shixian Chn) bt Eriko Hirose (Jpn)              24-22, 22-18 (55m)

MD: [1] Boe&Mogensen (Dev) bt [5] Koo&Tan (Mas) 15-21, 21-18, 21-18 (62m)

WD: [3] Wang & Fu (Chn) bt Fuji & Kaakiwa (Jpn)                 21-2, 21-9 (27m)

XD: Xu & Ma (Chn) bt Prakapamol & Thoungrhonhkam (Ina) 21-13, 21-9 (36m)

MS: [1] Lee Chong Wei (Mas) bt [3] Lin Dan (Chn)             21-17, 21-17 (50m)

Lee gets the better of Lin Dan

Lee Chong Wei successfully defended his All-England Open men's singles title when he beat his greatest rival, Lin Dan, the Olympic champion from China, by 21-17, 21-17 in the final.

The top-seeded Malaysian's triumph came as a surprise to many people, for Lin had beaten Lee in three games the month before last at the world's first million dollar tournament, the Korean Open.

That was the Chinese legend's 15th success in 22 encounters with Lee, and he had seemed back to somewhere near his best after an abdominal injury.

But this time Lin rarely tried the fierce airborne attacks for which he has become famous, and Lee's superb movement and excellent shuttle control in the resulting game of cat-and-mouse proved marginally superior.

"I played safe today – I didn't go for the points at all," Lee said. "But I was mentally strong this time."

He immediately got a call from the prime minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Mohammad Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, who told him "good job".

It became evident that Lee might score a famous victory soon after the interval in the first game, when he surged from 11-10 to 17-10 and looked well in control at 18-12.

Some of the rallies were flat and fast, but many of them involve probing clears, lifts and drops, and clever manoeuvring. It was not till the second game that Lin tried to apply much force with his overhead. 

However he got back to 17-18 thanks to wonderful accuracy and consistency, and at that moment it seemed that Lee might be wobbling mentally.

But Lin unaccountably tried a clipped drop which fell too short and found the net, and that reduced the psychological pressure on his edgy opponent immensely.

Lee concluded that game with a squall of smashes and hurtled to a lead of 8-2 in the second game. It was then that Lin tried a few of his once-famous aerial bombardments, getting ceilingwards and levering the shuttle down more steeply.

But they were intermittent efforts, and gradually the match slipped back into its cagey patterns once Lin had got back on even terms.

From 17-all Lee made his final push. A disguised return and smash got him the lead again, an overhead drop got him to 19-17, and an amazing block winner from point blank range got him to match point which he converted when Lin was pressured into switching a net shot across court and narrowly wide.

"It didn't work out as well as I thought," said Lin. "I made more errors than usual."

The defeat means Lin failed to achieve a fifth All-England Open title, which would have been a unique achievement in the open era.

The next All-England, five months before the 2012 Olympics, will be his last before his retirement. 

China regains the All-England  (women's singles title)

Top-seeded Wang Shixian regained the All-England Open women's singles title for China, earning it for the seventh time in ten years for the sport's leading nation.

Wang did that with a 24-22, 21-18 victory in a fine final against Eriko Hirose, the Japanese player who attracted admiration and sympathy for her unseeded progress to the showdown.

Wang's speed about the court and experience of big finals – she was winner of the Malaysian Open and a finalist at the first million dollar tournament, the Korean Open in January – were crucial.

She did not panic when the determined Hirose pulled back a five-game first game deficit and held game points at 20-19 and 21-20.

Had Hirose sneaked either of those pivotal rallies, much may have been different. “I knew how important it was to win those,” said Wang.

She delivered a solid smash to the backhand on the first of them, forcing a defensive error. Then on the second game point conjured two delightful net shots, her delicate tumbler going for an untouchable winner.

“I had been a little bit nervous during some of the first game, especially when the score got close,” she admitted.

“But I was able to play those points okay and then I relaxed. I really liked the atmosphere of the final.”

However Hirose, the first Japanese women's singles finalist for 32 years at the All-England, more than achieved her aim of trying to put in a good show to cheer up a grieving nation.

She often matched Wang for movement, and her focus was excellent. She also increasingly found ways to win points unexpectedly, occasionally with ambushing smashes but more often with cross court switches of direction from mid-court.

She led 8-6 in the second game, but after that found it hard to stay in touch with an increasingly confident opponent who began to unleash deft attacks with punched clears and overhead drops.

Wang took five points to lead 11-8 at the interval, and although that was reduced to one point, Wang soon surged to 17-12, then 18-13. Another Hirose fightback, reducing the deficit to two points near the end, proved only to be a heroic failure.

“I made some mistakes but I did my best and I am satisfied,” said Hirose, who in the quarter-finals had beaten the fifth-seeded Commonwealth champion from India, Saina Nehwal.

“I can take some confidence from this match and this tournament. I would like to help Japan to win the Uber Cup one day and go on to become world number one.”

With Lin Dan due to contest the other singles final against Lee Chong Wei, the titleholder from Malaysia, it kept China in with a chance of winning both men's and women's singles and of four of the five titles.

Crackling Danes give Europe its only title

Once again the match of the day, and possibly of the week, was the men's doubles. The ambience crackled, the rallies were often a blur, and the outcome, in which a nation of a mere five million people won another of imany All-England titles, was a bit of a fairytale.

Denmark has a long history of great deeds in this tournament and Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen added spectacularly to them.

Last year they had four match points in the final but couldn't get over the line. This time they not only achieved atonement, they managed one with a fantastic twist.

 Boe and Mogensen were a game and 11-14 down to Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong, the former world number one pair from Malaysia, and then 17-18 down before levelling at a game all.

They were in even bigger trouble in the final game - 11-16 down, apparently being outsmarted by a pair who had won a sensational match the previous day against Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng, China's world champions.

Faced with these deficits, Boe and Mogensen each time made amazing fightbacks - though nothing was quite as remarkable as their final surge.

This brought them six points up to 17-16, two more points from 17-17 to 19-17, and two more from 19-18 to the finish, and during these phases they began to look unstoppable.

Boe was outstanding at the net, and once Mogensen start to get smashes downwards from the back, the nimble left-hander picked off any suspect returns with kill after kill in the forecourt.

The Malaysians had previously had a phase where they tried to initiate flat mid-court rallies and little net exchanges, and sometimes that worked.

But having been in the driving seat for so much of the match they lost their tactical way. And as the match boiled up to its hectic finish, the Danish adrenaline was so high it was impossible to resist.

"Losing like that last year was a big disappointment, and to come back this way – well it's such a fantastic feeling," said Mogensen.

It certainly looked appeared so, for at the end the Danes darted around in circles as though chasing mosquitos and then rolled to the ground where they lay like corpses.

"It's unbelievable. You can't describe the feeling. You should try it for yourself," Mogensen said.

By contrast the women's doubles was an anti-climax, except perhaps for China's Yu Yang who won the title last year with Du Jing and came back to retain it, with a new partner, Wang Xiaoli.

They overwhelmed Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa 21-2, 21-9 and look as though they may well go on to prove themselves the best combo in the world.

The Japanese came through in the half in which their compatriots Miyyuki Maeda and Satoko Suetsana had been seeded to reach the final, but started nervously and were never allowed to settle.

But they had achieved something which had not been done by anyone from their nation in more than 30 years, and got a great hand when they received their medal.

No Thai player had reached an All-England final for almost 50 years; Sudket Prapakamol and Saralee Thoungthongkam found this piece of history hard to live up to in the mixed doubles as well.

They were beaten 21-13, 21-9 by Xu Chen and Ma Jin, which gave China its third title, and the result never looked in doubt.

Saralee once headed the shuttle back over the net in comic frustration at her inability to hit it where she wished, and Sudket, who had been so good in the quarter-final defeat of Tao Jiaming and Tian Qing, the fifth-seeded Chinese pair, could not replicate his best form either.

Sudket also brought the match to a bizarre finish, not attempting to strike Ma Lin's low serve on match point at all, but letting it land in, already walking towards the net to shake hands as he did so.

Ma meanwhile looked well pleased with the steep smashes and threatening presence of the tall Xu. Well she might: her partnership with him could go on to be as good as the one with Zheng Bo with which she won the world title in Paris last August.



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