Lin Dan wins his 6th All England badminton title
BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) The old man has still got it. When Lin Dan came out of a long hiatus as the Olympic and world badminton champion, he was determined to show the king was not dead.
Two years after re-committing to the tour, Lin finally hooked his biggest title yet when he won the All England Championships by drubbing Chinese teammate Tian Houwei 21-9, 21-10 on Sunday.
''I have worked hard, played well, and I know that I can still do it,'' Lin said. ''I just want to show the rest of the world that I am still the best.''
Meanwhile, Nozomi Okuhara of Japan marked her 21st birthday with her first All England title after beating two-time champion Wang Shixian of China 21-11, 16-21, 21-19 in their thrilling final.
''This is the best birthday of my life,'' she said.
Okuhara was behind for most of the decisive game, but found a spark to come from 17-14 down to 19-17 ahead, watch Wang tie at 19, but move ahead with her first match point, and win it when Wang netted a forehand. Okuhara collapsed at the net in joy, the first Japanese singles winner in 39 years.
Wang said she lost the final, rather than Okuhara winning it, and was unhappy again with the officiating. She has complained this week of ''harsh'' calls against Chinese players, but at the same time said line-calls weren't a factor in her results. She was red-carded in the final for wasting time, and Okuhara felt she was lucky herself not to receive any penalties.
''It was strange, the timing issues,'' Okuhara said.
The final was the longest women's singles of the tournament at 99 minutes, and Okuhara said the crowd probably got tired watching it, but she expected the endurance test. It took her 76 minutes to beat Wang for the first time last month at the Asia team championships.
So focused was Okuhara that she said she forgot it was her birthday, and didn't remember until she walked on court and a small section of the crowd serenaded her with ''Happy Birthday To You.''
Lin returned to playing because the only two-time Olympic men's champion wants to complete the greatest career in badminton with a third gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Games.
To that end, he was the only major player to enter the Rio test event (which he won) last November, and decided to scale back his commercial activities this year and focus just on competing. He trained hard over the winter, and that work came to fruition in the last two weeks when he won the German Open and his sixth All England, his first since 2012.
He didn't have to beat his major rivals, top-ranked Chen Long, a teammate, or second-ranked Lee Chong Wei, whom he has beaten in the last two Olympic finals, but he did have to beat young teammates and stall their ambitions of taking an Olympic qualifying spot from him. Xue Song, 10 years younger and Chen's conqueror, was overhauled in the semifinals, and Tian, eight years younger, was swept aside.
Even though China head coach Li Yongbo said in December he considered Lin and Chen to be the team's ''double insurance'' for the Rio men's gold, Lin wasn't taking for granted he will be in the team when the Olympic qualifying period ends in May. China is restricted to two singles players, and Lin was No. 2, just ahead of Tian.
''You will never be selected (by the China coaches) just because you're the Olympic champion last time. All the Chinese coaches are sitting in the corner,'' Lin said, looking at them, ''and I just want to show them that even though I'm 32, I can still do it.''
Lin said he was tired from winning the German Open then averaging an hour per match to reach his ninth All England final. But he was so good that the match lacked any tension, and he inevitably improved his record against Tian to 7-0.
''I was surprised it was that easy,'' Lin said after his 16th successive win on tour.
His sixth All England championship came 12 years after his first. Only Indonesia's Rudy Hartono, Denmark's Erland Kops, and Ireland's Frank Devlin have as many or more men's singles titles in the event's 117 years.
Asked if this was his last year on tour, Lin was non-committal. It probably will be. Typically, the old man is going out in style.