Top-ranked Lee Chong Wei won his fourth All England Open crown yesterday and changed his mind about it being his 13th and last visit to badminton’s oldest championship.
After swatting aside first-time finalist Shi Yuqi of China 21-12, 21-10, Chong Wei said he will return to defend the title of his favorite tournament.
“Every year I come here I feel like I am playing at home,” the Malaysian said.
Before the event, he said this would be his last All England, then almost didn’t make it. He tore a cruciate ligament in his left knee on Feb. 4 when he slipped on court mats in training, and wasn’t cleared until nine days before the tournament. He still played in pain and with the knee heavily strapped and yet, despite all the pre-tournament drama, sliced through his draw — dropping just one game.
No. 10-ranked Shi knocked out Chong Wei’s great nemesis, Lin Dan, in the semifinals. He won his maiden Superseries final in Paris in October. But he’d been well beaten in his two previous matches with Chong Wei and never looked like hurting the Malaysian in this final.
Chong Wei outmaneuvered Shi, made him scramble, and smashed winners to his left and right. He was behind only once, by a point early. He won five straight points for 18-10 and an air of inevitability enveloped the final.
Late in the second, Shi earned a net kill to trail 18-10 but rolled right over his right ankle and needed strapping. Two unforced errors gave Chong Wei match point, and the latter took it with a smash winner to Shi’s forehand.
His fourth All England title tied him with countrymen Wong Peng Soon and Eddy Choong, who won theirs in the 1950s when the All England was the unofficial world championship.
Chong Wei didn’t retire after the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where he won a third straight silver medal, to fulfil his dream of a world championship with his Olympic chance gone. He’d suggested the worlds in Glasgow in August would be his swansong, but at 34 and on a less-
than-perfect knee, he remains a formidable opponent who will play on next year. AP