Birmingham, Mar 13: Top-ranked Lee Chong Wei won his fourth All England Open crown on Sunday and changed his mind about it being his 13th and last visit to badminton's oldest championship.
After swatting aside first-time finalist Shi Yuqi of China 21-12, 21-10, Chong Wei said he will return to defend the title of his favorite tournament.
"Every year I come here I feel like I am playing at home,'' the Malaysian said. "I will definitely come back next year.''
The top-ranked woman also triumphed, when of Taiwan won her first All England final after beating Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand 21-16, 22-20.
Before the event, Chong Wei said this would be his last All England, then almost didn't make it. He tore a cruciate ligament in his left knee on Feb. 4 when he slipped on court mats in training, and wasn't cleared until nine days before the tournament. He still played in pain and with the knee heavily strapped and yet, despite all the pre-tournament drama, sliced through his draw, dropping just one game.
"I am a little surprised I won the whole tournament actually,'' he said.
No. 10-ranked Shi knocked out Chong Wei's great nemesis, Lin Dan, in the semifinals. He won his maiden Superseries final in Paris in October. But he'd been well beaten in his two previous matches with Chong Wei and never looked like hurting the Malaysian in this final.
"I learned from Lee Chong Wei,'' Shi said. "He's better than me in both skills and tactics, and he always thought ahead of me.''
Chong Wei outmaneuvered Shi, made him scramble, and smashed winners to his left and right. He was behind only once, by a point early. He won five straight points for 18-10 and an air of inevitability enveloped the final.
Late in the second, Shi earned a net kill to trail 18-10 but rolled right over his right ankle and needed strapping. Two unforced errors gave Chong Wei match point, and the latter took it with a smash winner to Shi's forehand side.
Adding to his titles in 2010, '11 and '14 tied Chong Wei with countrymen Wong Peng Soon and Eddy Choong, who won their four in the 1950s when the All England was the unofficial world championship.
Chong Wei didn't retire after the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where he won a third straight silver medal, to fulfil his dream of a world championship with his Olympic chance gone. He'd suggested the worlds in Glasgow in August would be his swansong, but even at 34 and on a less-than-perfect knee he remains a formidable opponent who will play on next year.
Tai replaced Ratchanok as world No. 1 in November and beat her in December at the Superseries Finals.
Their first game here was tight until, at 16-16, Tai reeled off five straight points to take it. Ratchanok, who also made the 2013 final, led throughout the second and had two game points at 20-18. But Tai denied her the first on a successful video challenge and won the next three points for the victory.
"I kept telling myself not to give up,'' Tai said. "It was a very intense game.''