BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom (AFP) - Lin Dan recovered from a game down for the second day in succession to reach his first All-England final for four years on Saturday but women’s world champion Carolina Marin was a shock casualty.
Lin, the 32-year-old two-time Olympic champion, who hopes to win the sport’s oldest title again as part of his bid to qualify for the Rio Games, came through 18-21, 21-15, 21-9 against his unseeded Chinese compatriot, Xue Song.
For long periods, Lin unaccountably made little attempt to put the shuttle on the floor, and instead became involved in lengthy clearing and lifting rallies which extended the contest to fully 82 minutes.
The day before Lin lost the first game to Jan Jorgensen, the fifth seeded Dane, but once his recovery had gathered momentum finished the match with brilliant combinations.
“I don’t know why I have lost the first games in these matches,” said Lin.
“And today I think I made a major mistake. I don’t know why that happened. It shouldn’t happen. I really need to go away and find out.
“I am pleased though with the way I came back. It proved that my winter training is effective and has improved my physical resources.”
Lin, bidding for a sixth All England title, will face compatriot Tian Houwei, the eighth seed, who overcame surprise semi-finalist, Hans Vittinghus, the unseeded Dane, by 15-21, 21-14, 21-14.
Marin, the top-seeded titleholder and world champion, became the latest in a cull of all the favourites at the tournament when she was beaten in a long-drawn out and perhaps ominous semi-final encounter.
The 22-year-old Spaniard was beaten 11-21, 21-16, 21-14 by Nozomi Okuhara, the hard-working, patient and consistent eighth-seeded Japanese player who gradually developed an effective pattern which, it became increasingly clear, would win her the match if she could maintain it.
The cool and slow conditions may have made it hard for Marin to create real openings and to finish the rallies off, and the longer the match went on the more it became apparent that she was struggling.
The outcome was not however as surprising as it may seem, as Okuhara also beat Marin while winning the Super Series finals title in Dubai in December, and has now beaten her three times in a row.
But Marin, who claimed to have had a shoulder injury which limited her winter training, was not impressed with her opponent’s qualities.
“She doesn’t really have good strokes,” the beaten champion said. “She just plays it around the court.”
When Okuhara was told of these remarks, she responded with a smile and a comment that: “She was making a lot of errors,” adding that "if she had fixed those errors in might have been a tougher match.”
Okuhara next plays Wang Shixian, another former All-England champion from China.
Shixian, the conqueror of Olympic champion Li Xuerui, overcame Tai Tzu Ying, the former Super Series finals winner from Taiwan, 21-23, 21-12, 21-15.
Shixian too had criticisms, in her case of the court officials, who were apparently all English. Two or three decisions which brought controversy and delay.
“The line judges have to be a little bit fairer in dealing with Asian players,” she complained.