Sunday, March 8, 2009

Chinese clean sweep in All England finals

China claimed an historic clean sweep of all five All England titles at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham - the first time the feat has been achieved since Denmark in 1948 - on a day which saw Lin Dan claim his fourth singles title while unseeded Yihan Wang became women's champion at the first attempt.

XD: [3] He & Yu (Chn) bt Ko & Ha (Kor) 13/21, 21/15, 21/9 (55m)
MS: [2] Lin Dan (Chn) bt [1] Chong Wei Lee (Mas) 21/19, 21/12 (43m)
WD: [7] Zhang & Zhao (Chn) bt Cheng & Zhao (Chn) 21/13, 21/15 (48m)
WS: Yihan Wang (Chn) bt [1] Tine Rasmussen (Den) 21/19, 21/23, 21/11
MD: [7] Cai & Fu (Chn) bt Han & Hwang (Kor) 21/19, 21/15


The first match of the day was the Mixed Doubles final, with Korean qualifiers Ko & Ha taking on the third-seeded Chinese pair, Olympic bronze medallists He & Yu. The young Koreans got off to a great start, taking the first game as the errors piled up for the Chinese pair.

They struck back in the second though, attacking strongly and despite some tremendous defence, the Koreans were always behind as the match was levelled. The onslaught continued in the decider, with the Chinese taking the first ten points, and there was no coming back from that as the first title of the day went China's way - the fourth time in a row they have taken this title.


This was the much-awaited rerun of the Beijing Olympic final, with World & Olympic champion Lin Dan out to capture his fourth All England title and to prove he is worthy of the number one ranking - and with a 10/3 head to head record in his favour few were willing to bet against him.

Lin Dan threatened to run away with the first, opening up an 8-2 lead, but a number of errors allowed Lee to stay in touch, and at the interval the second seed led just 11-9. The Malaysian pulled level at 17-all, even led 19-17, but Lin Dan finished the stronger to take the lead.

The world champion held sway in the second, leading 11-8 at the interval and extending that to 18-12. A crosscourt smash found the line, Lee left one that just landed in and it was match point. A tremendous diving recovery from Lin Dan, Lee pushed it long, and Lin Dan had regained the All England title, his fourth victory in six years.

Lin Dan, who was eager to celebrate by going shopping, said: “I felt I played quite well but we both did and the real winners had to be the fans who saw the match.

“There were a couple of times in the first set when I let him get an advantage but I recovered and I thought I played well.”

Lee said: “It was a better match than our Olympic meeting but he has improved! He has got a psychological advantage now after beating me three times in a row recently. Next time I need to break up his rhythm. He is a good attacker and plays very fast.”


A Chinese victory was assured in this match, and it was the the experienced pair of Zhang & Zhao who made the better start, leading 11-5 in the first and getting the better of some tremendous rallies - including one at 96 shots - to take the first 21-13.

Trailing 11-10 in the second, the elder pair made their experience pay as they pulled ahead, reaching match point on 20-13. Two were saved, but on the third the the youngster's shuttle was erroneously called long to finish the match. A third title for China and third time lucky for Zhao Ting Ting, after two runners-up medals in previous years.


Another experience v youth clash, and it was the 21-year-old former World Junior Champion who made the early running, holding her nerve at the end of a tight first game to take the lead.

Top seed and defending champion Tine Rasmussen wasn't going to give up her title easily though, and the Dane tightened up her game, contined to get the better of the net exchanges, reached the second game interval leading 11-9 and looked to be getting on top as she extended the lead to 15-12.

Some careless errors let her opponent back into it though, and at 18-all, then 19-all it was in the balance. Some incredible defence from Rasmussen took her to game point, but two smashes from Wang gave her a championship point. Some tremendously determined from the Dane, and three rallies later we were heading for a decider.

Wang kept the pace high, and although Rasmussen was still finding some winners, she was under constant pressure, and the Chinese led 11-5 at the interval. At 16-9 Rasmussen was in need of another miracle comeback as in her semi-final, but her young opponent continued to pile on the pressure, and three consecutive errors made it 19-9. Another mistake gave Wang ten championship points. She needed just two of them, and as Rasmussen's final shot sailed long China was within one win of an unprecedented clean sweep in the open era..

Wang said: “In the third game I felt physically stronger. It was a pity I didn’t take the match point in the second game but I really enjoyed myself out there.

“I had secretly imagined what it would be like to win the title but when I started the match I just focused on what I had to do. I think I played in my peak form today.”


Only another victory by unseeded players could spoil China's day, but the seventh seeded Chinese pair, former world champions, started the last match of the day as overwhelming favourites.

The Korean pairing made a good start, reaching the first game interval 11-10 in the lead, but the Chinese started to get on top with some tremendous play in attack and defence, and a 19-15 lead was a good enough cushion to see them take the lead, 21-17.

Cai & Fu were always ahead in the second, and although the Koreans competed well they could never close the gap. A final midcourt smash and the Chinese pair went down on their knees in celebration.