COPENHAGEN (AFP) - Malaysian world number one Lee Chong Wei secured a third straight men’s singles finals appearance at the badminton world championships on Saturday while women’s top seed Li Xuerui of China also advanced to the title match.
Top-ranked Lee, twice a runner-up at the tournament, brushed aside young Danish hopeful Viktor Axelsen 21-9, 21-7 in front of a partisan Copenhagen crowd to move within touching distance of a first major title.
Despite his advancing years Lee, who will turn 32 in October, demonstrated his enduring class with a sublime blend of blistering overheads and resolute defence to reel off 12 of the final 13 points in the first game and never looked back.
The Malaysian star, also a two-time Olympic singles silver medallist, then pocketed 21 of 25 points after trailing 3-0 early in the second set to complete a comprehensive victory over the 14th seed.
“So far things have got better each match,” said Lee, who will face the winner of the match between Chinese second seed Chen Long and Indonesia’s fifth-ranked Tommy Sugiarto in Sunday’s final.
“I can go back to resting now and prepare for tomorrow.
“The country will be watching and there will be more pressure on my shoulders. I will try not to think about the pressure and give a big present to my country,” added Lee, who is hoping to give people back home further cause for celebration on Merdeka Day, which marks Malaysia’s 1957 independence from British colonial rule.
Meanwhile Li ended the run of Japanese dynamo and 16th seed Minatsi Mitani to seal a return to the women’s singles final.
World number one Li, runner-up a year ago on home soil in Guangzhou, dominated from the beginning with Mitani, sporting a heavily strapped right leg, unable to offer much resistance as Li powered to a 21-8, 21-14 victory.
Mitani had claimed the scalp of defending champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand in the last 16 before upsetting South Korean fifth seed Sung Ji-hyun in the quarters but there were no repeat heroics this time.
Backed by vocal support from the Chinese delegation Li made quick work of Mitani, likely feeling the effects of successive gruelling three-set matches, to move a step closer to adding to the Olympic crown she won at London 2012.
“Mitani is a very high-level player. We’ve played each other several times and she always fights to the last point,” said Li of her battling opponent.
“I lost the first set in two of the last three meetings. This time my coach and I prepared very well before the match. We’ve watched Mitani during these world championships and came up with a good game plan and it worked,” added the 23-year-old, for whom either Spain’s Carolina Marin or Indian teenager P.V. Sindhu awaits in her pursuit of a maiden world title.