BIRMINGHAM, England : Chen Jin clung to his All-England title by the width of a net tape and amidst a storm of booing during a controversial finish to his quarter-final in the All-England Open on Friday.
It looked as though his unseeded Japanese opponent, Sho Sasaki, had come back from a five-point final game deficit to 20-20 when he leapt forward and dismissed a tight net shot from Chen with a lunging kill.
But the third-seeded Chinese player stood and pointed, objecting that there had been a foul, and umpire Mike Wright of New Zealand, after an agonising pause, and a slow gesture, agreed, calling the match to Chen by 14-21, 21-13, 21-19.
Sasaki was stunned, dropped his racquet and complained while Chen shook hands with all the officials.
This brought noisy hoots from the crowd and for a while it looked as though a major incident might blow up, as Chen had completed his formalities and began to make his way towards his kitbag.
But at the last moment, Sasaki got over his frustration, completed his circles of frenzied walking, and shook hands with the champion, and the umpire.
“His racquet definitely touched the net,” said Chen. “Though it wasn’t his fault. It was my game and I am happy to take the point. Just as long as I won it doesn’t matter to me how it happens.”
Earlier, Chen had been in trouble when he went a game and 7-12 down, but suddenly he achieved a better mixture of defence and attack and began coaxing errors from the nimble, patient Sasaki.
Chen was later joined in the semi-finals by Taufik Hidayat, the former Olympic and world champion who reached the All-England final when he was only 17 but in ten years since has never won it.
The controversial Indonesian was trailing by two points in both games against Peter Gade, the former world number one from Denmark, but raised his game brilliantly when it most mattered to secure a 21-17, 21-18 win.
“When he got back like that it made me feel a little insecure,” admitted the 32-year-old Gade, who is uncertain whether or not he will make one more attempt to win back the title he took in 1999.
“Normally I would make him make some mistakes, but I made a few and I’m disappointed about that. It was like a game of chess out there and he made some good decisions and played very well.”
Later one of his unseeded compatriots fared much better.
Nanna Brosolat, who upset Pi Hongyan, the world number four from France, to reach the quarter-finals, followed it with another confident performance and a 21-16, 21-16 win over Wong Pei Xian of Malaysia.