Kuala Lumpur: From “Super Dan” to “Lin first-round”, and now “Lin three-set”, after suffering nine first round exits in 2018, and crashed out in several early rounds since January this year, including at the Indonesia Masters, German Open and the All-England, almost nobody seemed to believe Lin Dan has much gas left in his tank in twilight of his career.
Everybody thinks this will be Kento Momota or Viktor Axelsen’s year, if it’s not, it’ll probably be Shi Yuqi or even Chen Long’s year again.
However, at the 2019 Malaysia Open, we saw arguably one of the best performance from Lin Dan in the last two years, as he showed some stellar play by fighting through four three-setters in five matches to claim his second Malaysia Open title on Sunday.
In a nail-biting 78-minute match against Rio Olympic champion Chen Long, the world number 16 fought back from dropping the first set to beat Chen 9-21, 21-7, 21-11 for a long-awaited title win.
After losing an easy first set to Chen Long, with the backing of vociferous crowd, Lin showed no signs of slowing down as he launched quick cross court smashes while pushing Chen Long’s patience by lifting more shuttlecocks towards Chen’s back court. That strategy seemed to be working as Lin was able to claim the second game in 29 minutes.
Chen Long has clearly lost both his confidence and patience in the decider, while Lin was riding on his momentum to force Chen to make mistakes with strong defense together with some beautiful net shots.
An emotional Lin Dan squat down for a moment after he hit a body smash at Chen Long to clinch the match point.
“My 2018 results was not that great, I was facing some pressure and I even began to doubt my own abilities,” said Lin Dan.
“I hope the fans can be more understanding, after playing badminton for so many years, it’s inevitable that I am going to experience some ups and downs.”
“I attribute my Malaysia Open success to the increase in my overall competitiveness and athleticism compared to previous tournaments. I was able to execute my game plan better,” said Lin Dan after the match.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist received a US$49,000 cash prize presented by his long-time Malaysian nemesis, Lee Chong Wei, who withdrew from the tournament as he needed more time to recover from his cancer treatment.
“We definitely will play against each other again on the badminton court. I’m glad to see Lee is in fabulous shape.”
“I was excited to receive the award from Lee. Frankly, I have never had the chance to present any awards to anyone,” said Lin jokingly.
In men’s doubles, No. 2 seeds Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen overcame defending champions No. 3 seeds Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda of Japan 21-12, 21-17 in 42 minutes to win China’s fourth title of the day.