Sunday, August 27, 2017
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
An incredible sixth World title is one win away for Lin Dan.
The Chinese Men’s Singles great continued to build on his legend by making his seventh World Championships final with a clinical victory over Korea’s Son Wan Ho, 21-17 21-14. Lin has lost only one of his six previous finals – in 2005, to Indonesia’s Taufik Hidayat.
China are in four gold medal bouts, with Chen Qingchen featuring in the Women’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles finals. The only gold that is out of their reach is Women’s Singles, as India’s Pusarla V Sindhu brutally dismantled World Junior champion Chen Yufei today.
It wasn’t that Son Wan Ho posed no problems for Lin. For long periods in the first game and until halfway in the second, the Korean stuck close, keeping tight control and preventing his great opponent from stamping his authority. Each rally was deceptively languid, until a sudden injection of pace from either side led to a flurry of action. Son’s dilemma was that the tempo of the match was to his opponent’s liking, but breaking it required him to thread the eye of the needle as it were – he had to convert the narrow windows of opportunity that he created, but each attack was a gambit given that his opponent was anticipating everything correctly. On the other hand, the five-time World champion found the lines every time he reared up for his feared jump smash on his forehand.
Son was more inventive in the second, showing greater urgency in trying to disrupt Lin’s suffocating patterns of play. Gliding into place, smashing with greater precision and darting forward to cut off Lin’s returns, Son enjoyed a brief spell on equal terms with his opponent.
The Korean undid all that hard work with a few indiscretions that decisively tilted the match the other way. Lin built on his small lead and soon was all over the Korean, uninhibitedly smashing from the deep and pouring on the pressure. Son’s discipline loosened, Lin’s genius extracted its full toll.
“I’m not satisfied with my game today,” said Son. “I made too many mistakes. We were close at times but I couldn’t control the proceedings the way he did. He was too strong technically.”
Lin (featured image) credited his record seventh final to his work ethic: “Everyone asks about my age, but it’s all about my hard work. I’m happy to practice every day and that’s why I play at a high level. Today, Men’s Singles has many strong players, there are a lot of X-factors. A player has to work hard to reach the final of a tournament like this.”
Pusarla Routes Chen
The run of China’s Chen Yufei came to an end, with Pusarla winning the semi-final 21-13 21-10.
Chen had made the last four beating players like Akane Yamaguchi and Ratchanok Intanon, but today Pusarla got her tactics spot on.
Initially, the Indian struggled to read Chen’s most potent weapon – her half-smash. But once that was countered with accurate length and some nagging drop shots, Chen had little to fall back on. With the Indian growing with confidence after every rally and unleashing her formidable attacking game, Chen was a picture of despair, the second game seeing her at 1-13 before she earned a few more points.
“Winning today was important as I wanted to change the colour of my medals” said Pusarla, who has two bronze medals from past World Championships.
“It’s a great feeling to be in the final, but it’s not over yet. Looking back, the win over Cheung (Ngan Yi) made a big difference as I came back from the brink of defeat.”
Young Japanese in Final
Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota underlined their status as the fastest-rising pair in Women’s Doubles, making their debut World Championships final. The duo were rock steady in countering Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl, achieving their first victory in five meetings: 21-17 19-21 21-14.
“It’s our first time in the World Championships and we’re happy we reached the final. We’re also happy to have beaten the Danish pair for the first time,” said Fukushima.
“They were very aggressive today and they changed their tactics. They didn’t give us speed… and we didn’t have the legs in the end,” said Rytter Juhl.
Zhang, Chen in Title Hunt
Meanwhile, Zhang Nan gave himself a chance for a fourth World title by making the Men’s Doubles final with Liu Cheng. The Chinese great, whose three World titles came in Mixed Doubles, also has two Olympic golds with different partners.
Zhang/Liu beat Chinese compatriots Chai Biao/Hong Wei 21-17 21-19.
Doubles star Chen Qingchen followed up her Women’s Doubles victory of the morning with another impressive role in Mixed Doubles later in the day with Zheng Siwei. The Chinese held off a late surge from England’s Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock 21-15 23-21.