Sunday, August 16, 2015
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
Chen Long and Carolina Marin reaffirmed their position as the world’s best singles players with authoritative performances in the TOTAL BWF World Championships finals today.
There was to be no magical comeback for Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei after his eight-month layoff as he once again ran into a near-perfect Chinese opponent, just as he had last year. The Malaysian wasn’t given a whiff of a chance in the Men’s Singles final as Chen stood like a rock to everything Lee threw at him; the defending champion was too fast, precise and stable on the day to be dethroned.
The tone for the match was set early in the match, when Lee hammered three big smashes but each came back; that exchange seemed to have deflated the Malaysian, who is normally used to seeing his jump smashes find their mark past the opponent’s racket. His biggest strength thus nullified, Lee struggled even as Chen grew in confidence.
Lee sparkled in phases in the second game, but the amount of work required to gain each point was clearly taking its toll. Still, the former No.1 had his moments – firing his smashes and rushing like lightning to the net to cut off the return. Unfortunately for him, those moments were too few; his netgame too let him down, while Chen himself was able to regularly rack up points with his unreturnable smashes. It was a day when Lee just didn’t have the answers to the all-round superiority of the World champion (21-14 21-17).
“Today he played so well; he controlled the game,” said Lee. “I kept changing strategy; when I attacked, he defended; when I rallied, he made me run.”
Chen was more emotional this time compared to his first World title last year.
“Last year too I cried, but this year I cried even more because it was difficult to win. For many years, nobody from China has won a major Men’s Singles event in Indonesia, so I’m very happy to win the title here.”
Marin was expected to have a tough contest in the Women’s Singles final against Saina Nehwal. The Indian had knocked out former champion Wang Yihan (China) in an epic quarter-final, but in the final she played second fiddle to the Spaniard.
It was Marin who dictated the proceedings from the start; Nehwal showed no sign of the creativity that she had displayed against Wang. Instead, for the most part she scurried around trying to keep the shuttle deep. It was a reactive rather than a creative approach, and Marin was able to exact her toll with her steep lefty range of strokes.
Nehwal’s best phase came in the second game. At 8-5 came her first authoritative display, when she worked Marin around the court and fired a winner. With a 12-6 lead, the Indian had sufficient momentum to take it to a decider.
But Marin had displayed sterling fightback qualities all week, and yet again she launched a comeback. The mix of attacking pressure and her own fragility on the day saw some shakiness from the Indian; seven straight points helped Marin edge ahead. A misjudgement at the baseline gave Marin the critical lead at 19-18; not long after, she once again had her hands on the title (21-16 21-19).
“I knew she was more tired than me. I just kept thinking of each point, just wanted to enjoy the final and the crowd,” said Marin.
“I feel happier this time compared to last time. Both experiences have been great. I felt at home because the crowd was chanting my name. This year it was more difficult to win the title. I had a foot injury last month, I thought I couldn’t play. I started playing two weeks ago and just wanted to enjoy the tournament. I just didn’t want to make mistakes when I was down in the second game.”
Nehwal rued her missed opportunities but admitted she had lost to a better player.
“She was playing freely and not thinking of winning or losing. Today I didn’t play my best, I could’ve done better. In the second, I had a lead, but points went by very quickly and within no time she was level. I could’ve been more patient then during those four or five points. In the second set, I was on the slower side. I was trying to make rallies happen but the points went very quickly.”