BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) – Unseeded Kenichi Tago saved a match point before beating Chinese sixth seed Bao Chunlai Saturday to become the first Japanese to reach the men’s singles final at the All England championships since 1966. If he overcomes world number one Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia Sunday, the 20-year-old will be the first Japanese to win the men’s title in a tournament dating back to 1899.
If he overcomes world number one Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia Sunday, the 20-year-old will be the first Japanese to win the men’s title in a tournament dating back to 1899.
Tago had claimed the scalp of third-seeded Chinese and former champion Chen Jin in the quarter-finals so his 18-21 22-20 21-18 victory over Bao was not a total surprise.
But he looked to be out of the tournament in the second set when Bao had match point only to hit a smash wide of the line.
Tago needed no second chance, clinching the set and then racing 9-2 ahead in the decider. Despite some late wobbles he managed to clinch a famous victory on his third match point, throwing himself to the floor in delight.
"The badminton court is my playground. I have been playing since I was three," he told reporters.
Bao, clearly upset, said: "In the second set I was getting frustrated and rushed and made some errors."
Only top seed Chong Wei now stands in Tago’s way.
The Malaysian made the final for the second year in a row with an impressive 21-17 21-14 win over Denmark’s Peter Gade.
Chong Wei lost last year’s final to world and Olympic champion Lin Dan but the Chinese second seed suffered a surprise defeat by Bao in the quarter-finals.
The way now looks clearer for Chong Wei to lift his first All England title though Tago will be a threat.
The Malaysian traded blows with Gade for the first part of the opening set but then stretched into a 17-11 lead which proved too much for the Dane.
In the second, Chong Wei took control from 15-13 onwards and the result was rarely in doubt. Heavy cross-court smashing and neat work round the net combined to confound Gade.
The 33-year-old, who won the title back in 1999, had come through a tough three-setter against ex-Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat Friday night and Chong Wei was one step too far.
"I’m really pleased to make the final. It’s very important for Malaysian badminton. We’ve not had anyone there for a while," Chong Wei told reporters.
In the women’s singles, Denmark’s Tine Rasmussen reached the final for the third year in succession after edging past gallant Indian seventh seed Saina Nehwal 21-19 21-17.
"I just had to stick to my tactics and keep calm in defence," the Dane told a news conference. "Most of the time I succeeded. She’s got great spirit, I respect her a lot."
Rasmussen won the title in 2008 but lost out last year to top-ranked Chinese Wang Yihan. The Dane will have a chance for revenge in Sunday’s final after Wang won 21-17 26-24 following a gripping tussle with compatriot Wang Xin.
(Editing by Ken Ferris)
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