Indonesia’s Taufik Hidayat rolled back the years to reach the final of the world badminton championships with a 21-10 22-20 victory on Saturday over South Korean 13th seed Park Sung-hwan.
Hidayat, Olympic gold-medal winner in 2004 and world champion in 2005, has not hit those heights since for a variety of reasons, on and off court.
He signalled he was back on track by disposing of world number one Lee Chong Wei in the quarter-finals on Friday, then beat Park, a giant-killer himself after beating titleholder Lin Dan in the last eight.
Hidayat, 29, breezed through the first game but trailed 20-18 in the second as Park battled on but once he saved game points and levelled at 20-20 the Indonesian was not to be denied.
The fifth seed told a media conference: "When it was 20-18 I knew I had to go on and when it was 20-20 I was confident I would win."
Park’s cause was not helped by a battle against "drift" — a slight breeze in stadiums which can carry the shuttle just out of play.
He suffered at least four such errors in the second game, including, critically, on the first match point he faced.
The Korean told reporters: "He was the better player but at the end it was too many unforced errors that cost me. He put too much pressure on me."
In Sunday’s final, Hidayat plays fourth seed Chen Jin of China who came from behind to beat Denmark’s Peter Gade 19-21 21-8 21-11 as European hopes of a title died.
Gade, 33, a world finalist in 2001, got off to a flying start in the hot and humid de Coubertin stadium but Chen, beaten finalist in 2009, fought his way back and in the end was fully in control.
Chen has expressed his wish to oust Lin Dan as China’s No. 1 and on Saturday’s form he could achieve his goal. Tenacious in defence and with an impressive armoury in attack, he looked very much a world champion in the making.
Gade, seeded two, told a media conference: "In the first game I started very fast and it was difficult for me to keep the speed."
Chen said: "My first aim was to make the final and I will be all out to win to make up for my defeat in last year’s championships."
China are assured of gold in the women’s singles after Tine Baun’s defeat by Lin Wang as the second semi-final later on Saturday is an all-Chinese affair between third seed Wang Xin and Wang Shixian, seeded six.
Baun, twice an All England champion as Tine Rasmussen, was clearly hampered by an elbow injury which had been building up during the week and she was below her best against seventh seed Lin.
The tall Dane told reporters: "I think she gained confidence when she saw I was not as sharp as usual and could not smash so well. I felt early on it was going to be very difficult."
Like the women’s singles, Sunday’s mixed doubles final will be an all-China battle and gold in both the men’s and women’s doubles is also perfectly possible.