All-England Open champ Lee Chong Wei: Success a surprise
All-England champion Lee had doubts if injured left knee would last the distance
He almost didn't make it to Birmingham, unsure whether his heavily strapped damaged left knee could tolerate the rigours of top-level competition.
Malaysian world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei proved all his doubters wrong, when he played through the pain barrier to win the All-England Open on Sunday with a 21-12, 21-10 victory over unseeded Chinese Shi Yuqi.
It was Lee's fourth All-England title, which equals the achievement of Morten Frost, the Dane who is Malaysia's coaching director.
His tally is two fewer than Chinese great Lin Dan, the only opponent who has consistently been able to get the better of him.
"When I decided to come - which was a very close decision - I never at all thought that I would win the title," said 34-year-old Lee, who is the oldest singles champion of the Open era.
"Yes, I am very surprised.
"I came because it might be my last and I just wanted to come and enjoy it."
After two matches into the tournament, he felt more confident about his fitness, although he claimed that it was "never a 100 per cent".
His 21-year-old opponent in the final had found a path past Lin Dan, who appeared like an avuncular compatriot during their semi-final rather than the most fearsome player of his era.
It presented Shi with his first major final - whereas Lee has had seven at the All-England alone, and many others - and the vast difference in experience showed cruelly.
WOMEN’S SINGLES FINAL
Tai Tsu-ying (x1) bt Ratchanok Intanon (x5) 21-16, 22-20
MEN’S DOUBLES FINAL
Marcus Gideon/Kevin Sukamuljo (x5) bt Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen (x6) 21-19, 21-16
WOMEN’S DOUBLES FINAL
Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee (x4) bt Kamilla Rytter Juhl/Christinna Pedersen (x2) 21-18, 21-13
MIXED DOUBLES FINAL
Liu Kai/Huang Yaqiong (x5) bt Chan Peng Soon/Goh Liu Ying (x6) 18-21, 21-19, 21-16.
When the newcomer tried to keep the shuttle away from the net, where Lee had scored so heavily in his earlier matches, he found the veteran as light-footed as ever and, for the first time in the tournament, launching punishing aerial attacks.
From 8-7 in the first game, it was mostly one-way traffic, with Shi trying different ways to redirect the flow, but finding Lee to be unstoppable in his all- court game.
"I relaxed my mind," Lee said, admitting it was a by-product of no longer expecting to win.
That is a mental skill he will try to re-create at Glasgow in August for the world championships, a title which has narrowly eluded him on many occasions. - AFP