KUCHING: It was a magical moment for Lin Dan, but not for record 11-time Malaysian Open champion Lee Chong Wei.
Yesterday, the 33-year-old Chinese maestro pulled off one of his best shows in recent times to dethrone world No. 1 Chong Wei 21-19, 21-14 in a 55-minute men’s singles final of the Malaysian Open at the Stadium Perpaduan in Petra Jaya.
It was Lin Dan’s first-ever Malaysian Open title after failing in his previous final attempts in 2005, 2006 and 2015. In the 2006 final in Kuching, Lin Dan took a 20-13 lead in the decider but Chong Wei stormed back for a 21-18, 18-21, 23-21 win.
Chong Wei bemoaned his messy finishing in the opening game, but took the defeat in his stride.
“I was doing fine before I made some errors and misjudged some of the shots. I lost focus after that,” said the 34-year-old Chong Wei.
Spurred on by a boisterous crowd, the Malaysian got off to a commanding start. He led 19-15 after pulling off all the right moves to keep the two-time Olympic champion at arm’s length.
But a determined Lin Dan stepped up the gas to level the score at 19-19. He then pulled off two spectacular net shots to take the opener.
And that gave Lin Dan a tremendous boost as he went on a rampage to take the second game as Chong Wei ran out of steam.
“Lin Dan played with more confidence and boldly at the net. I’ve to accept this defeat. I’m just sorry to disappoint all the fans here,” said Chong Wei, the winner of the All-England last month.
“It looks like these two old players – Lin Dan and I – are going to stay on a little longer,” added Chong Wei, who will next take part in the Asian Badminton Championships in Wuhan, China, from April 26-30.
Lin Dan was emotional after his 25th career win over his arch-rival in 36 meetings.
“I get all pumped up whenever I meet Chong Wei. Playing against him brings out the best in me ... and I get emotional whenever I win against him,” said Lin Dan.
“And what more than to beat him in his backyard. It’s special for me because it’s my first (Malaysian Open title) and the fans were very supportive.
“Everyone keeps reminding me that I’ve never won the Malaysian Open. Now, I have ended the wait,” added Lin Dan, who took off his shirt and fell on the floor to celebrate his win.
He then went on to exchange his shirt with Chong Wei and they hugged each other – a mark of their friendship that goes beyond a decade of rivalry on the court.
“It’s great that both of us are still able to play good badminton at this level and at this age,” added Lin Dan.
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