BIRMINGHAM: World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei huffed and puffed his way past South Korea’s Son Wan-ho to check into the final of the All-England badminton championships.
Two-time winner Chong Wei, who has enjoyed an easy run so far, found the 25-year-old military man a sturdy wall as he slogged for a 14-21, 21-19, 21-15 win in the semi-finals at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham on Saturday.
Despite taking a 5-1 lead in the first game, Chong Wei was caught off-guard by Wan-ho’s steely determination as the Korean came back strongly to win it.
The two-time Olympic silver medallist then toyed with the prospect of a surprise – and painful exit – when Wan-ho led 17-15 in the second game.
Being the fighter that he is, Chong Wei managed to muster enough firepower in reserves to force a deciding rubber by the skin of his teeth.
He then stormed ahead to seal his place in his sixth straight All-England final after 71 minutes.
It will also be a repeat of last year’s title match after world No. 2 and defending champion Chen Long came through unscathed in his semi-final match against compatriot Wang Zhengming, winning 21-17, 21-14.
“He (Wan-ho) was playing really well ... really consistent and was making a lot of quality shots. That caught me by surprise a little,” said Chong Wei.
“I think that because I had the (ankle) injury before I came here, I was not fully prepared for the tournament and a tough match like this.
“But I’m really happy with the way I played ... having to fight back to beat him.
“Chen Long is my biggest rival right now and he is also the defending champion ... I’m looking forward to doing my best against him and win my third All-England title.
“I just need to be more focused and get a good rest before I face him tomorrow (today).”
Chen Long, meanwhile, acknowledged that he was getting back to his best and is not ready to surrender his title to Chong Wei.
“This was one of my better matches ... I’m feeling good and in good shape,” said Chen Long.
“It will be tough against Chong Wei but I learn from experience every time I face him.”
In the women’s singles, fourth seed Wang Shixian turned the tables on second seed Wang Yihan with a comprehensive 21-8, 21-15 win.
China’s Shixian will meet compatriot Li Xuerui in the final. Xuerui had beaten Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon 21-18, 21-8.