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Monday March 9, 2009

It’s Lin Dan again

PETALING JAYA: World number one men’s singles shuttler Lee Chong Wei’s hopes of winning his first All-England title were torn to pieces by a ruthless Lin Dan who led a China cleansweep in Birmingham yesterday.

The 27-year-old Chong Wei found his nemesis too hot to handle and went down 19-21, 12-21 in 43-minute match that saw the Malaysian struggling to keep up with the fiery pace set by the Chinese.

It was Chong Wei’s fifth defeat to Lin Dan since he prevailed over the Chinese at the Japan Open in September 2007.

Four in the bag: Lin Dan lifting the All-England trophy. — AP

Still, it was a better display from Chong Wei after his demoralising losses to Lin Dan at the Bei­jing Olympic Games and China Open last year.

The first game saw the speedy and attack-minded Lin Dan taking a healthy 8-2 lead before Chong Wei caught up — thanks mainly to uncharacteristic mistakes made by the China ace.

The only time that Lin Dan must have felt threatened was when the Malaysian led at 17-16 and 19-17 in the opening game.

But there was just no holding back the pumped-up Lin Dan, who bounced back to clinch the first game.

The second game looked to be a close affair, with leads exchanging hands until 6-6. After that, Chong Wei slowed down while Lin Dan continued to dominate the game, entertaining the crowd with his variety of leaping smashes.

This was mighty Lin Dan’s fourth All-England title in six years and it showed that a three-month break had done nothing to douse his fire.

If he can maintain his form, it will not be too long before Lin Dan regains the world No. 1 ranking.

Despite another defeat, national singles coach Misbun Sidek was not too disappointed with his blue-eyed boy Chong Wei.

“I have to give Lin Dan due respect for adopting the right strategy and tactics to beat Chong Wei today,” said Misbun in a telephone interview from Birmingham yesterday.

“Chong Wei played well but Lin Dan was just too fast. During the rallies, Lin Dan will just break away so fast that it was hard for Chong Wei to keep up.

“In terms of standard, I will still say that very little separates them. Lin Dan has variety in his attacking armoury and, maybe, this is one area Chong Wei will have to work on.”

Misbun, however, applauded Chong Wei for finishing as runner-up.

“It is still an achievement for Chong Wei to have reached the final for the first time. I know how much hard work he has put into achieving this breakthrough performance,” said Misbun.

And Chong Wei may get the chance to settle the score in next week’s Swiss Open in Basel. A final between Chong Wei and Lin Dan is on the cards if both can live up to their billing.

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