Hat-trick of finals for Lee Chong at All England Badminton

Lee Chong Wei moved to within one win of his third successive All-England Open title when he edged past an old rival, Lee Hyun-Il 21-19, 21-18, on Saturday to reach the final.

Updated: March 10, 2012 21:28 IST
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Birmingham: Lee Chong Wei moved to within one win of his third successive All-England Open title when he edged past an old rival, Lee Hyun-Il 21-19, 21-18, on Saturday to reach the final.

No men's singles player has achieved that since Rudy Hartono, the Indonesian great 38 years ago, but Lee's movement and ability to respond quickly to changing situations suggest he is well capable of it.

The world number one from Malaysia established an early four-point lead over the former world number one from Korea, but was caught at 17-17 and again at 18-18.

Ching Wei was patient and accurate at the net and with clears at that stage, but he had to deal with an even greater comeback from Hyun-Il in the second game.

Often defending brilliantly, and finding unexpected angles with his left-handed slices, the Korean came back from 9-18 to 16-18 before Chong-Wei managed to force some smashes through and close the match out.

"I was well prepared today, but I have to improve my attacking," the champion said. "I woke up with some pain in my hand today - I don't know why - but I managed to play through it all right."

Chong-wei predicted that he would have a repeat final with Lin Dan, the four times former champion from China, who saved a match point and beat him in one of the greatest world finals of them all at Wembley August.

Earlier however the women's singles defending champion lost her title.

That happened when Wang Shixian, the third-seeded Chinese, was beaten 20-22, 21-18, 21-18 in the semi-final by her compatriot Wang Yihan, the top-seeded world champion.

It was a slow-paced encounter, lasting 85 minutes, and was completed in the same time as two matches on the adjacent court.

Yihan, a good attacker, was surprisingly muted for much of the match, while Shixian, better known as a fine mover, often become more aggressive, in a strange reversal of their usual modes.

However at 16-14 in the final game, the match suddenly acquired more fire, with Yihan exploding into some fierce flat mid-court exchanges, and, almost for the first time, some good round-the-head smashes.

That carried her to 20-15, but Shixian saved three of the match points with good clears and lifts before Wihan finished it with a tight net shot.

"I was frustrated at times," Yihan admitted.

"But I knew it was going to be a tough match, and I wanted to win. I haven't had a chance to play Shixian much, so it was good to get to know a team mate better."

However China cannot now repeat its achievement of three years ago, when it became the first nation in the professional era to win all five All-England titles.

That is because its hopes of winning the mixed doubles for a seventh consecutive time ended with a semi-final defeat for the defending champions Xu Chen and Ma who were beaten by Thomas Laybourn and Kamilla Rytter Juhl, the seventh-seeed former world champions from Denmark, 21-16, 21-18.

Laybourn and Rytter Juhl were also runners-up here seven years ago, and their familiarity with the conditions, plus their unorthodox formations - the taller Rytter Juhl sometimes projecting more of the overhead attacks and the fast-moving Laybourn appearing in unexpected places - helped them cause their upset.

They only did so however after a second game recovery by the Chinese, who reduced a six-point deficit to one near the end, making a suitably tense finish.

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