Chinese pin-up Lin Dan won his fifth All England men’s singles title on Sunday against Lee Chong Wei, but only after his chief rival from Malaysia was forced to retire with a shoulder injury in Birmingham.
There was to be no record, no congratulatory phone call from the Malaysian prime minister. Chinese pin-up Lin Dan won his fifth All England men’s singles title on Sunday against Lee Chong Wei, but only after his chief rival from Malaysia was forced to retire with a shoulder injury in Birmingham.
Lin had said before the final that he didn’t care who won the showdown everyone was hoping for. But the world and Olympic champion clearly showed compassion when the world No 1 offered his hand when 21-19 and 6-2 down in the second game.
Before Chong Wei’s injury – he played with his right shoulder heavily strapped – the Malaysian Datuk was perhaps slight favourite for a third successive All England title, a feat no men’s singles player had achieved since Rudy Hartono, the Indonesian master of 38 years ago.
At least there were glimpses during their brief 31-minute foray as to why these two are considered the best in their discipline by some considerable distance.
Both defend with remarkable agility – which the packed Birmingham crowd had earlier witnessed to superb effect in a men’s doubles thriller – while their speed and net play made sure of a 28th meeting. Lin has now prevailed in 19 of those encounters.
Despite their obvious ferocity on court, a unique bond exists between these two players off it, summed up when the two swapped shirts "on the spur of the moment" over the net, to the delight of the 8,000 inside the National Indoor Arena.
"We know each other very well," said a jubilant Lin. "We have been playing together since we were juniors. He has made my career more successful.
"We are both reaching the end of our careers and the game is not always about winning and losing. It’s something more important."
Some will now see Chong Wei’s defeat as another psychological dagger ahead of an anticipated Olympic final date later this summer.
Chong Wei, who lost out to his rival in a thrilling World Championships final at Wembley last summer, has had the measure of his opponent in recent months on the world tour. Lin, though, wins the pivotal matches when it matters.
Odds are that Chong Wei will retire after the Olympics. The Malaysian will now make sure of a full recovery before a final tilt at the biggest accolode.