WONG Mew Choo completed her stunning run in the China Open in terrific style when she shocked World No 1 Xie Xingfang to win her first international title in a nerve-wrecking final in Guangzhou yesterday.
Mew Choo's never-say-die attitude made all the difference as she matched Xingfang, China's former two-time world champion, point for point before wrapping up an impressive 21-16, 8-21, 21-17 win in 62 minutes to secure the Super Series title.
The Malaysian World No 8 had given a sneak preview that she was capable of achieving the unthinkable when she toppled China's reigning world champion Zhu Lin in the quarter-finals, then sent Olympic champion Zhang Ning, also of China, packing in the semis.
It is by no means an easy feat to beat China's top three players in the same tournament but what makes it even more remarkable is that Mew Choo did it in her rivals' den.
Mew Choo started the match as the underdog but the pressure was on Xingfang as she was aware that the home fans would not accept anything less then an outright win.
Mew Choo also held a psychological advantage as she had beaten Xingfang in the second round of the World Championships in August and this was evident in the final.
Mew Choo used the simple strategy of keeping her opponent engaged in long rallies not allowing her to dictate the pace.
As expected, Xingfang started losing her patience as Mew Choo returned everything thrown at her and gradually won 21-16. However, Xingfang set a terrific pace in the second game and gave Mew Choo no chance, but the strategy actually could have cost her the title.
Mew Choo continued to engage the by now exhausted Xingfang in long rallies and it was just a matter of time before her top ranked opponent gave up the battle.
Xingfang struggled to a 16-14 lead but Mew Choo stepped up a gear and scored six points on the trot to hold match point at 20-16.
Xingfang saved a match point but Mew Choo remained calm to collect the winning point and US$17,250 for her effort.
Mew Choo, in a telephone interview from Guangzhou, said that the victory is proof that women are also capable of producing results on the big stage.
"When I beat Xingfang in the World Championships, many said it was a fluke but I have proved my ability again today (yesterday). The win is also an eye-opener that women can match the men in producing results at the big stage," said Mew Choo.
"My place in the Beijing Olympics looks secured but I am not just thinking about competing. I must keep improving and also try to win a medal in the Olympics.
"I still can believe what I have achieved and it's like in a dream. However, I must remain focused and aim for a good outing in the Hong Kong Open."
An ecstatic Wong Tat Meng, who has been coaching Mew Choo for the last three years, said by telephone Guangzhou that his charge's victory will now be an eye-opener to other Malaysian players that they can push for a medal in next year's Beijing Olympics.
"The victory was significant in so many ways. Beating three top players from China is a rare feat but for me, the killer blow was that Mew Choo achieved it in China," said Tat Meng.
"I was not worried after the second game as I expected Xingfang to be exhausted in the decider and Mew Choo took advantage of the situation.
"The victory has not happened overnight as Mew Choo has evolved into a more complete player. She used to be a retriever but now she is also capable of finishing off the rallies, a weakness that made her struggle against the top players previously."
Mew Choo next plays in the Hong Kong Open which starts tomorrow.
China clinched the women's doubles title through Gao Ling-Zhao Tingting who beat compatriots Du Jing-Yu Yang for the women's doubles crown.
Indonesia secured the men's doubles crown when world champions Markis Kido-Hendra Setiawan edged China's Guo Zhendong-Xie Zhongbo 21-12, 21-19.
Nova Widianto-Lilyana Natsir secured a second title for Indonesia when they defeated Thailand's Sudket Prapakamol-Patapol Ngernsrisuk 15-21, 21-18, 21-11 in the mixed doubles final.
Results, Finals — Men's singles: Bao Chunlai (Chn) bt Lee Chong Wei (Mas) 21-12, 21-13.
Doubles: Markis Kido-Hendra Setiawan (Ina) bt Guo Zhendong-Xie Zhongbo (Chn) 21-12, 21-19.
Women's singles: Wong Mew Choo (Mas) bt Xie Xingfang (Chn) 21-16, 8-21, 21-17.
Doubles: Gao Ling-Zhao Tingting (Chn) bt Du Jing-Yu Yang (Chn) 17-21, 21-15, 21-8.
Mixed doubles: Nova Widianto-Lilyana Natsir (Ina) bt Sudket Prapakamol-Saralee Thungthongkam (Tha) 15-21, 21-18, 21-11.