Badminton: All-England champion Chen Long hopes to emulate legend

BIRMINGHAM (AFP) - World number one Chen Long hopes to emulate his legendary compatriot Lin Dan after regaining an All-England Open men's singles title which some doubted he could capture a second time.

The 26-year-old from Hubei repelled a brave challenge from Jan Jorgensen, the world number two from Denmark, 15-21, 21-17, 21-15, and spoke after Sunday's win of trying to reach the five titles which Lin, the Olympic champion, has won in Birmingham.

"Jorgensen is tough but Lin Dan is right up there," said Chen, indicating the ceiling.

"Lin Dan is on the highest level," he added, despite having beaten the 31-year-old Lin in two comfortable games in Saturday's semi-finals.

"I want to catch Lin Dan's record, but for the moment physical condition is the most important thing. I need to keep healthy and not get injured."

These words suggest that it may be Chen rather than Lin - trying to return to more regular competition to bid for a third gold medal - who is at the moment regarded by the Chinese camp as a better bet for success in Rio next year.

He certainly showed patience, a good temperament, and an excellent defence and counter-attack, despite phases late in the second game when it seemed Jorgensen might be capable of a surprise.

The 27-year-old from Aalborg fought tenaciously and produced some sublime moments, both with disguised net shots and brilliantly ambushing attacks, when an upset seemed not impossible.

But Chen gradually imposed his familiar mid-court containing game, mixed in with darting counter-attacks. He did that by getting forward a little more and moving to the net earlier, often smothering Jorgensen's intentions.

Throughout it all he exuded calm - even during a vital moment when Jorgensen appeared to have reduced a three-point deficit to one late in the second game after a line judge had called Chen's shot out. Chen's appeal to a video review showed the shuttle as just touching the line, an outcome Jorgensen called "crucial".

An even more dramatic point occurred four rallies later.

Jorgensen struck a sliced overhead which looked certain to go for a winner, until Chen dived and slid along the floor, somehow flicking the shuttle back. Even more remarkably, he regained his feet in time to retrieve the resulting attempted kill and went on to win the point.

That put Chen 18-15 up, and after levelling at one game all, he soon took the lead in the decider, advancing to 10-5, 16-10, and eventually 20-11. Jorgensen bravely saved four match points, but was left with painfully mixed feelings.

"I did well - but I would do anything to win this title," he said.

Earlier Carolina Marin, the 21-year-old Andalucian who created one of badminton's biggest sensations last year, created another by becoming the first Spaniard ever to win an All-England title.

Marin did that with a 16-21, 21-14, 21-7 women's singles win over Saina Nehwal, the world number three from India. It was a remarkable result for someone from a country where little badminton was played till recently, and it followed her stunning capture of the world title in Copenhagen last year.

What made it a more stunning was that Marin had never beaten Nehwal before and that she did so this time, despite seeming to be headed for defeat at a game and 6-10 down.

But she transformed both the tactical emphasis and the emotions of the match, speeding up the rallies. Well before the end Nehwal's skills and movement strangely evaporated.

"This is quite amazing for me," said Marin. "I lost to her every time before, so to beat her like this, and in this tournament, is very very special.

"It was special when I won the world title too - so many people met me at the airport. We shall see how people react this time."

Nehwal's consolation was to have become the first Indian to reach the All-England women's singles final. However her reactions were of a player who had been offered glory and then had it taken away.

"I just lost focus and began hurrying, which was not right," Nehwal said. "Playing against top players anything can happen at any stage, and you can always get nervous at some point in time. That's what happened to me here."