All England Open Badminton Championships (pic)


Lee has it tough but may get it easier

BIRMINGHAM: Lee Chong Wei, the favourite, and Chen Jin, the titleholder, reached the quarter-finals of the All-England Open at Britain’s national indoor arena in very different moods on Thursday.

The Malaysian had to fight very hard for the second successive day before getting past Marc Zwiebler, a tenacious left-hander from Germany, by 21-18, 21-16, thanks to a late surge in both games. The Chinese player by contrast eased through against his younger compatriot Gong Wei-jie by 21-10, 21-10, sometimes barely needing to exert himself much beyond a canter. This may help the third-seeded Chen, who is likely to have a hard job hanging on to his title in a half which includes the Olympic champion, Lin Dan, but who now has a better chance of reaching the later stages with fuller reserves of energy.

He rarely attempted aggressive attack, but was impressive in moving the shuttle around from one back corner to the other before pouncing on something short or too high at the net. Gong however provided less of a test than Japan’s Kenichi Tago on the first day, and Chen himself seemed unsure of what this augured for his current form. Asked if he were playing well enough to win the title, he replied: “I’m not too sure, because I face either Lin Dan or Bao Chunlai (the former world number two) – and that is going to be tough. I know Lin Dan wants to regain the title.” And Lee Chong Wei has expressed his wish to prevent Lin from doing so by beating him in the final. That possibility is however three days away, and the top seed may need to develop momentum and preserve his physical resources during that time.

Lee trailed by a game and 13-15 before surviving 19-21, 21-16, 21-11 against Lu Yi of China, and now against Zwiebler he was made to work hard again. Lee trailed 7-9 in the first game against an opponent who cleared and lifted accurately, moved well, and played lots of long rallies – despite still suffering from the injury between his thumb and forefinger which made it hard to grip the racket and prevented him from competing in last week’s German Open. Zwiebler was not able to launch penetrating attacks however, but from 16-16 in the first game and especially from 14-14 in the second, Lee could, producing several jump smashes and sudden attacking switches of directio which got through.

Lee may now have a less formidable hurdle to clear to reach the semi-finals, because Sony Dwi Kuncoro, who won an Olympic bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Games, withdrew. The fifth-seeded Indonesian injured his back during a practice session, allowing Ville Lang, the world number 27 from Finland to go through for the quarter-final tomorrow (Friday) with Lee. afp


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