Copenhagen (AFP) – Spain’s Carolina Marin pulled off a monumental upset as she beat Chinese world number one Li Xuerui to win the women’s singles title at the Badminton World Championships in Copenhagen on Sunday.
But Chen Long restored Chinese pride by winning the men’s singles, inflicting a third successive final defeat on Malaysia’s world number one Lee Chong Wei.
Marin, the 21-year-old ninth seed, recovered from dropping the opening game to the top seed and Olympic champion to complete an incredible 17-21, 21-17, 21-18 victory and earn her country its first ever major title in the sport.
“I don’t have any words…it was a fantastic match,” said Marin.
“She played amazing rallies in the first set and her strokes are so good.
“My coach told me if I wanted to win I had to fight until the end. I fought to the end, that’s what I did. I feel so excited.”
Asked whether she felt nerves with victory in sight, Marin replied: “Not so much. I wanted to enjoy it in my first final and I did that.”
Li had rarely looked in trouble during her run to the final and she again looked at ease with her terrific stroke play proving too much for the tenacious Marin in the opening game.
However, the Spaniard, reigning European champion, was undeterred and came out positively at the start of the second set as she established an early lead before Li reeled her back in.
This time though Marin responded by taking the attack to her opponent for whom the nerves perhaps began to take hold as Li began to misfire more regularly.
From 15-all Marin upped her standards and carved out three set points at 20-17 before levelling the contest as Li hit wide.
The Chinese regrouped in the third game but a cross-court pass moved Marin to within two points of an improbable victory.
Li then drilled long to make it 20-18 in favour of Marin who then fell to the court in delight on the subsequent point as Li planted her shot into the net with the Spaniard becoming the first European women’s world singles champion since Denmark’s Camilla Martin in 1999.
For Li it was yet another agonising defeat after she fell at the final hurdle a year ago on home soil in Guangzhou to Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon.
Later, the top-seeded Lee went down 21-19, 21-19 to Chen, the second seeded Chinese player.
Lee held an early lead and looked good up till 9-8. But there were two ominous rallies immediately after that, in which his best manoeuvrings were unable to wear down Chen’s athletic defence.
The final rally of the first game was an outstanding one, and ended with a net shot floating slightly too high by Lee, enabling Chen to put it away.
Nevertheless Lee almost pulled back a six-point deficit in the second game. When it really mattered his deft combinations of net shots, clears and ambushing attacks were not quite robust enough to survive the tenacious defence and sudden fierce smashes of his physically more powerful opponent.
At match point Chen found a perfect tumbling net shot which touched the top of the net before falling over.
“I am not yet the world number one. I will take some rest and get ready for the Asian Games,” said Chen.
Lee felt moved to apologise.
“I am sorry that I didn’t win for my country,” said Lee. “I tried my best but I made too many mistakes.
“But I shall go on. I shall choose the major tournaments carefully and try to go on to the next Olympics.”
Earlier, China extended their dominance in women’s doubles as Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei claimed the country’s 12th straight gold medal in the event by defeating compatriots Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli 21-19, 21-15.
Meanwhile South Korea struck gold in the men’s doubles as Ko Sung-hyun and Shin Baek-choel, the 12th seeds, beat fellow countrymen Lee Yong-dae and Yoo Yeon-seong 22-20, 21-23, 21-18.