Fans' favourite. This could be Lee Chong Wei's third and last All-England title, as he plans to retire at the end of the year. - AFP
BIRMINGHAM: It was obvious that winning his third All-England crown still meant a lot to Malaysia’s world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei based on the way he fell to his knees in joy after the winning point on Sunday.
The 31-year-old, bugged by an ankle problem prior to the start of the tournament, was at his very best in the final, both physically and mentally as he romped to a convincing 21-13, 21-18 win over world No. 2 Chen Long of China.
It was the first time Chong Wei had beaten Chen Long since the London Olympics in 2012 and he really did it in style.
It goes to show that if Chong Wei gets his head in the game, Chen Long is still no match for him.
But the importance here is a first psychological strike for Chong Wei, especially since the All-England is still considered the most prestigious Superseries event.
With several more major tournaments lined up this year, Asian and Commonwealth Games and the World Championships, this could be just the boost Chong Wei needs, especially since he has been mulling retirement at the end of the year.
And the two-time Olympic silver medallist admitted that the thought of possibly competing in his last All-England, and the idea of getting one over Chen Long, spurred him on in the match.
“The All-England may be just a Superseries meet but it’s definitely the biggest Superseries in history in terms of prestige ... especially since it could be my last,” said Chong Wei.
“In that sense, it meant a lot to me to win this, and to beat Chen Long as well.
“Everyone keeps saying I always lose to him so to score a big win over him is just what I needed.
“In fact, I’m actually more relieved at winning especially since I wasn’t in the best of condition.
“The next order of business for me is to take a break, before focusing on the Thomas Cup.
“With the Asian and Commonwealth Games also coming up this year, I may also skip a few more Superseries events that I have registered for.”
The two-time Olympic silver medallist is registered for the India Open (April 1-6) and the Singapore Open from April 8-13 although it is likely that he will drop out of both.
Meanwhile, it was not just Chong Wei who bagged a third All-England crown as Indonesians Tontowi Ahmad-Liliyana Natsir also managed the feat after firing their way past China’s Zhang Nan-Zhao Yunlei 21-13, 21-17 in the mixed doubles final.
While it was disappointing for China in the men’s singles and mixed doubles, they still walked away with two titles – the women’s singles via Wang Shixian, and the women’s doubles through Wang Xiaoli-Yu Yang, who also won their third All-England crown.