NANJING, CHINA (AFP) - Shi Yuqi produced the strongest evidence that a changing of the guard in Chinese badminton is imminent by powering into the men's final of the World Championships.
The brilliantly agile 22-year-old handed his compatriot Chen Long a comprehensive 21-11, 21-17 beating on Saturday (Aug 4).
After a perfectly weighted slice drop ended the 44-minute contest, Shi slid to his knees and held his arms aloft in triumph.
This was world No. 3 Shi's second straight victory over the 29-year-old Chen, the reigning Olympic gold medallist and two-time world champion. Shi had also beaten eighth-ranked Chen at this year's All England Open quarter-finals in March.
Shi went on to capture the sport's oldest tournament, beating another great Lin Dan in the final in Birmingham. Shi had also beaten the 34-year-old Lin on Thursday in the round of 16 in Nanjing.
He faces Japan's Kento Momota in today's final after the world No. 7 Japanese earned his spot by beating unseeded Malaysian Daren Liew 21-16, 21-5 in the other last-four clash.
Despite his impressive wins over Chen and Lin, Shi, who is competing in Nanjing which is in his native Jiangsu province, played down his new-found status as China's best player.
"I have my advantages, but they have their own strengths," he told the Badminton World Federation website, but noted he had youth and speed on his side.
He was looking forward to the final and revenge against Momota, who he described as a well-rounded player "in good form and who has been very focused" in this tournament.
The 23-year-old Momota is the reigning Asian champion - he beat Shi en route to lifting the title earlier this year in their only career meeting - and is seeking his own redemption.
His promising career hit a major roadblock in 2016 when Japanese badminton chiefs suspended him for more than a year for visiting an illicit casino, denying him a place at the Rio Olympics.
Momota has been working his way back to the top of badminton ever since and the world No. 7 is currently in the form of his life.
He needed just 38 minutes to dispatch Liew, who was greatly hampered by an ankle injury he suffered in Friday's quarter-final.
Momota, who finished third at the 2015 World Championships, is the first Japanese to reach the men's singles final at the event.
He told Kyodo news agency: "I thought I had a chance at winning if I have a strong defence. I was able to take command of the match."
His country is guaranteed at least one gold after Wakana Nagahara and Mayu Matsumoto beat Indonesia's Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu 21-12, 23-21 to set up an all-Japanese women's doubles final against last year's runners-up, Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota.
In the women's singles, Spain's Carolina Marin will attempt to win her third world title after she beat China's He Bingjiao 13-21, 21-16, 21-13 in the semi-finals on Saturday.
Marin faces either India's P. V. Sindhu or Japanese Akane Yamaguchi in the final.