World number one Lee Chong Wei earned himself a revenge attempt with All-England champion Chen Long after escaping from close defeat to achieve a breathtaking victory.
BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom: World number one Lee Chong Wei earned himself a revenge attempt with All-England champion Chen Long after escaping from close defeat to achieve a breathtaking victory.
The Malaysian did that with a 14-21, 21-19, 21-15 win over Son Wan Ho, the in-form world number 11 from Korea, after being close to the exit at a game down and 15-17 and 17-18 down in the second.
In those difficult moments, Lee played his most controlled badminton, either deep to the back-line or tight to the net, and picked his moments perceptively to apply the sudden moments of pressure which took him to his sixth successive All-England Open final.
Son, by contrast, tended to over-press in the crises after playing a superb match in which he took advantage of Lee's error-tinged first game and also pushed on to an early four-point lead in the final game.
"Son played very well," admitted Lee. "I saw his match yesterday (when he beat the fifth-seeded Kenichi Tago) and I saw how well he was playing.
"But I am also playing well - playing well for myself, playing for my country, and also enjoying being at the All-England."
Lee was asked if his late-night match with Kento Momota of Japan, followed by a 1pm start the next day had affected his performance in the first half when he lost 15 out of 20 points at one stage to relinquish the first game.
"It was okay," he said diplomatically, although his wide grin had suggested it might have been a problem. "And I hope I will be okay tomorrow."
The final will see him against Chen Long for the second successive year, and the world number two from China is likely to be at least as formidable as when he surprised Lee last time.
He was masterful in defence against compatriot Wang Zhengming, the rising world number nine, winning 21-17, 21-14 and was patient in working openings to attack.
Chen also responded well to danger situations, and when Wang produced an audacious backhand cross-court short angle to reach 17-19 Chen punished him with two of his best rallies.
It was a slightly bloodless match, but it was a skilful one parading the abilities of two very fine players, which should have warned Lee supporters what to expect.
"I was aware of what was happening on the next court," said Chen, when asked whether Lee's struggle might prove an advantage to him (Chen).
"But we will begin tomorrow on equal terms, and it will be a question of who performs better on the day."
Lee felt similarly. "I am very proud to be in the final again," he said. "And I believe I can win the title again this year." If he does it will be his third.