World number one Lee Chong Wei and Chinese superstar Lin Dan on Saturday set up a gold-medal clash at the Asian Games as Wang Shixian won the women’s title in an all-Chinese final. Malaysian Lee came from a game down to defeat China’s world champion Chen Jin 14-21, 21-15, 21-7, while Lin breezed past South Korea’s Park Sung-Hwan 21-14, 21-10.
Lee and crowd favourite Lin, who has won world and Olympic titles but never an Asian Games crown, will go head-to-head on Sunday in the final badminton purists wanted to see.
“I’m not thinking much about tomorrow’s match,” said Lin. “I’m happy to play against Lee Chong Wei. He’s the best singles player and whoever plays against him will certainly need to go to great lengths.”
Lin, who has been trying to play down expectations he will win gold, added: “I’m not exceptional.” Lin suffered a shock loss to Park at the world championships in Paris in August, but he was unstoppable this time in front of a packed crowd. He pulled Park, who defeated reigning champion Taufik Hidayat in the quarters, all over the court in smashing him 21-14 in the first game.
And the Olympic champion was equally punishing in the second game, leaving Park down and out.
In contrast, Lee, who has suffered back and ankle injuries this year, made life hard for himself in battling past Chen. Chen bossed the early play, his superior power keeping the 28-year-old Lee firmly on the backfoot as the Chinese won the first game in convincing fashion.
However, Lee started the second game the better and went into the break 11-10 up, pulling away after that with some delicate and deft stroke play to win the second game.
The momentum was firmly with the athletic Malaysian now and he capped an impressive comeback to win the third and final game in decisive fashion, much to the disappointment of the home crowd.
“I lost the first one maybe because I was a little pressured. I couldn’t deal with it and I was a bit anxious,” said Lee. “Mentally, the turning point was in the second game when I gained a lead by four points and once I took the lead I got confident and I knew I could do it.” In the women’s final, Wang Shixian shocked top seed and world number one Wang Xin 21-18, 21-15.
Wang Shixian, the world number four, got off to a fast start, taking a 5-1 lead with ease against her more experienced teammate in the first game, and the 20-year-old hardly looked back to claim the title.
“I had a very good beginning to both games, which made a huge difference,” said Wang Shixian. “I can take a lot of valuable lessons from these Games, but I still want to improve a lot.” Asked if beating the top-ranked Wang Xin meant she was the best player in the world, Wang Shixian said: “All my peers are at the same level, but I’m not capable of leading them because there’s still a lot of work for me to do.”
An off-colour Wang Xin was never really in it, falling far behind in both games, and when she went down 3-15 in the second the match was effectively over, although she did mount a minor comeback. “I didn’t perform well, but I’m happy enough with silver,” said Wang Xin.