Battling Lee into seventh All-England final

The Malaysian World No. 1 defeated Chou Tien Chen of Taiwan 10-21, 21-14, 21-9.

It was a wonderful turn-around by Lee after an indifferent first game and a tournament preparation hampered by injury.   -  AP

World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei reached the final of the All-England Open for a seventh time on Saturday after rallying past Chou Tien Chen of Taiwan 10-21, 21-14, 21-9.

Lee increased the possibility of a dream showdown with defending champion Lin Dan who takes on fellow Chinese Shi Yuqi in Saturday's second semifinal.

It was a wonderful turn-around by Lee after an indifferent first game and a tournament preparation hampered by injury, so much so that the 34-year-old revealed that his retirement has been postponed yet again - it has been mooted at least three times - and that he will be back next year.

But for a while he could not repel the heavy attacks of his unseeded but impressively aggressive Taiwanese opponent. It was only after Lee deftly tied up more rallies at the net, that he induced sufficient false strokes from his opponent and created enough openings to prevail.

"I'm still not a hundred percent recovered," said Lee, referring to the left knee injury sustained with a trip on a badminton mat back home in Kuala Lumpur last month. "I just focus myself and do what I can. I just came here to enjoy it."

Enjoying it he clearly is, as first he skillfully warded off danger, and then cunningly worked half openings from which he began to risk round-the-head angled smashes and overhead fast drops. That accelerated him towards victory, to the accompaniment of rapturous noises.

It may have been this reception which partly decided Lee to return here one more time. He is also clearly pleased with the way his spare and wiry body has responded to an increasingly heavy load after many weeks without competition.

Was it also that he misses playing Lin Dan in a final, he was asked. The answer was a curt "no!"

But the chances of a climactic meeting with Lin, his great rival and his even greater nemesis looked strong. The three-times Olympic champion was also due to face an unseeded semifinal opponent, Shi, a 21-year-old Chinese compatriot.


Meanwhile the women's final will be between Tai Tzu Ying, the top-seeded Taiwanese player and Ratchanok Intanon, the pleasingly creative Thai who has been both the youngest world champion and the youngest finalist here, at the age of 18.

Now four years later Intanon, like Lee, has recovered from injuries which placed her participation in doubt. She came from 12-16 in the first game and 13-15 in the second to win 22-20, 21-16 against Akane Yamaguchi, the teenaged sixth seed from Japan.

Tai was also in difficulties for a while, losing the first game 21-11 and going 6-5 down in the second before finding the more creative patterns which loosened the grip of Sung Ji-Hyun, the Korean, and fashioned a 11-21, 21-14, 21-14 success.

Ratchanok says she has grown more experienced at handling the stress of a big final.

Intanon reckons it is better to treat it as just another match. Both are skillful enough to make their philosophies work, and both are sufficiently unpredictable to get themselves into a rough ride before that happens.

Intanon, the former world champion from Thailand, recovered brilliantly to defeat Olympic champion Carolina Marin in a crucial three setter 22-20, 13-21, 21-18 on Friday.

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