Lin Dan in another All England final, Okuhara beats Marin
BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) Lin Dan will play for a sixth All England Championship in the final after overcoming Chinese teammate Xue Song 18-21, 21-15, 21-9 on Saturday.
Another much younger teammate awaits, Tian Houwei, against whom Lin has a 6-0 record including in two other finals.
Another Chinese star, Wang Shixian, will try to win her third All England title on Sunday and won't have to face top-ranked Carolina Marin, after the defending champion lost to Nozomi Okuhara of Japan a third straight time.
Lin, 10 years older than Xue at 32, came back from a game down for a third straight match. After losing a tight first game, Lin was like an incoming tide, Xue unable to resist being slowly washed over. Lin moved his teammate with such comfort that Xue's effort to keep up caused him cramps in his right leg midway through the last game, and a need for ankle-to-knee strapping.
The All England final is Lin's ninth, and first since his fifth title in 2012. If he wins on Sunday, the sixth will tie him for third most in tournament history beside Frank Devlin of Ireland, who starred in the 1920s. Only Rudy Hartono of Indonesia (eight in the 1960s-70s) and Erland Kops of Denmark (seven titles in the 1950s-60s) have won more.
As for those slow starts, he gave more credit to his opponents fighting better rather than anything he was doing wrong.
Lin will take a 15-match winning streak into the final against Tian, eight years younger, and unfazed.
''We are teammates so there are no secrets between us,'' Tian said. ''The way we play is quite similar as we are both left-handed.''
Tian, seeded eighth, has advanced under the radar in the half of the field that became open after the first-round exit of three-time winner Lee Chong Wei.
Tian beat the unseeded Hans-Kristian Vittinghus of Denmark 15-21, 21-14, 21-14. Like Lin, he has won his last three matches from a game down.
Marin's discontent ran deep after her 11-21, 21-16, 21-14 semifinal loss. The Spaniard had her eye on the trophy, and becoming the first European woman to retain the title in almost 80 years.
''I'm disappointed with my performance, I made too many mistakes,'' Marin said, adding she was nervous and struggling to find a rhythm.
Marin said Okuhara ''doesn't have really good strokes,'' and just needed to keep the shuttle in court and wait for Marin to spray her shots.
Okuhara was proud of her style and tactics.
''It was very difficult with Marin's aggressive, attacking game plan, so I had to work hard and play well on the defensive,'' she said.
Okuhara beat Marin twice at the Superseries Finals in the group and final, but she considered this win better because in December she felt she had nothing to lose, while expectations now were much higher.
''I'm very aware I have a target on my back, and it's getting bigger,'' Okuhara said, knowing her wins and profile were rising. ''I'm excited about that.''
She will go into the final having lost her previous matches to Wang, both last year.
Wang beat Tai Tzu-ying 21-23, 21-12, 21-15 in their semifinal, avenging a quarterfinal loss to the Taiwanese a year ago.
Tai's better footwork and anticipation earned her the first game, but then she lost her aim, and Wang gradually got on top of their dogfight. Wang also had to get over knockbacks from the umpire for arguing over line calls. In the end, Wang said the line-calling made no difference, and she has a chance to add to titles in 2011 and 2014.