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Roundup: Lin Dan makes history, 5th XD loss for China

http://www.sports.cn/ 2009-11-23 08:49:00

    (Shanghai, November 22) The 2009 Li-Ning China Open, a BWF World Super Series event, concluded today in Shanghai, with host China clinching three of the five titles (men's singles, women's singles and women's doubles), and Lin Dan winning his fourth China Open title in history. Lee Yong Dae helped Korea win both the men's doubles and mixed doubles titles. Although China missed the mixed doubles title for five consecutive stops, chief coach Li Yongbo denied the existence of any crisis in his team.

    Since last week's Hong Kong Open players have complained about the great frequency of the tournaments which brought them fatigue and injuries. Prior to the China Open Cai Yun/Fu Haifeng pulled out due to injury, while Gade and Lee Chong Wei said they would not come to Shanghai. Some even predicted that Lin Dan might probably give up the chance to retain his championship. Fortunately, spectators in Shanghai were lucky to have watched the performances of many veteran players, but they were also shocked to see Lee Chong Wei and Wang Yihan, top seeds in the men's and women's singles, bowing out of the first two rounds, and Lu Lan and Wang Lin, hot favorites for the women’s singles title, failing to enter the last four.

    As the last stop for this year's BWF World Super Series, the China Open has to some extent urged the players to give a beautiful finishing touch to their journey full of ups and downs throughout the year. Take Lin Dan for example. He had just pulled out of the Hong Kong Open, and this time in Shanghai there was simply "nowhere to withdraw from." Though not in top form, he proved his prowess in all the matches he had played, giving no chance to any of his opponents until he eventually ascended the victor's podium, for the fourth time in China Open history.

    Despite his early lead against Denmark's Jan Jorgensen an injured Chen Jin suffered setbacks in the men's singles semifinals, much to the regret of many fans. However, his fighting spirit won the respect of his opponent. This was the first time 21-year-old Jorgensen had made to the BWF Super Series finals. He described Chen as "fighting for every shot" and said the visit to China left him lasting impression. Indeed, the young Danish player was thrilled with the excitement brought by his final match with Lin Dan and his previous victories over both Lee Chong Wei and Chen Jin.

    Korea's Lee Yong Dae, teaming up with Lee Hyo Jung, gave the best he had in outplaying host pair Zheng Bo/Ma Jin for the mixed doubles title. In the following men's doubles final, he went on to work closely with Jung Jae Sung to clinch one more gold medal for Korea.

    China's overall superiority in the women's singles was beyond all doubt. This time, the Chinese women shuttlers took seven of the eight berths for the China Open quarterfinals. As a result, defending champion Jiang Yanjiao successfully retained her title. Despite the win some people began to worry that with the absence of such leading players as Zhang Ning and Xie Xingfang could the Chinese women's team be ever triumphant without any key figures?

    It was true that after the retirement of Zhang Ning and Xie Xingfang no women players stood out to be the leaders of the team. Checking the result sheets for the second half of the year, Lu Lan claimed the world championship last August; Wang Shixian emerged the dark horse at China Masters; Wang Yihan clinched three gold medals in Japan, France and Hong Kong in a row; Wang Lin took the National Games title; and Jiang Yanjiao successfully defended her title in Shanghai.... It looks that all of them have the strength to ask for the gold medal.

    However, chief coach Li Yongbo seems to be happy about the situation. He also cited the examples of Zhang Ning and Xie Xingfang, saying that these two elite players were not so outstanding six or seven years ago. He believed the current situation, that is, to have six to seven world-class players at the same time, was the best he could hope for as each of them could be pitted against the best players in the world. What's more, he added, these players belong to two types of play, one is aggressive, represented by Wang Lin, Wang Yihan and Lu Lan, and the other all-around, represented by Jiang Yanjiao, Wang Shixian and Wang Xin. When these two types of players train together, they will compete with each other and gain technical improvement together. Speaking of the near future, a confident Li believed that in two to three years there would surely appear successors to Zhang Ning and Xie Xingfang, and the Chinese women's team would become stronger at the London Olympics in 2012.

    In the mixed doubles final, Zheng Bo/Ma Jin lost 2-1 to Olympic champions Lee Yong Dae/Lee Hyo Jung. In their previous matches the Chinese pair enjoyed overwhelming superiority, beating their Korean opponents in succession in four BWF Super Series events in All-England, Switzerland, Singapore and Indonesia. As ill luck would have it, however, the final victory belonged to the Koreans, who emerged the winners with 21-18, 15-21 and 21-15.

    "It's a pity we lost," said Zheng Bo after the finals, "but we have brought out our best." Zheng's partner Ma Jin also showed satisfaction with their own performance. "Considering we had trained together only for a few days before the tournament, the result was not too bad."

    So far China has missed the mixed doubles title at five open tournaments in Japan, Denmark, France, Hong Kong and Shanghai, which is rather rare in the team's history. However, chief coach Li Yongbo deemed it quite normal. He attributed the losses to injuries and lack of systematic training. "Before the China Open Zheng Bo had not trained regularly due to injury but still took part in the competition as it was the last stop this year, and I should say the result he achieved was already commendable. Xie Zhongbo had had an operation and could not team up with Zhang Yawen. None of our top three pairs had had consistent training and that was why our overall strength was more or less affected." Li was confident of the balanced strength of his team, which boasts four elite mixed doubles pairs of Yu Yang/He Hanbin, Zheng Bo/Ma Jin, Xie Zhongbo/Zhang Yawen and Xu Chen/Zhao Yunlei, followed by such young players as Zhang Nan and Chai Biao.

    Compared with its setbacks in the mixed doubles, the Chinese team's early exit from the men's doubles quarterfinals did not arouse too much attention. Among the five host pairs only Xu Chen/Guo Zhendong made to the last eight but they were eliminated by Korea's Jung Jae Sung/Lee Yong Dae in the quarterfinals. According to Li Yongbo, the team will recruit a number of newcomers and through selective trials have six to seven pairs, including Cai Yun/Fu Haifeng, Guo Zhendong/Xu Chen and Zhang Nan/Chai Biao, train together in preparation for the London Olympic Games.