LONDON • China's Shi Yuqi was full of youthful vigour as an unseeded up-and-comer in last year's All England Open badminton final, only to be taught a harsh lesson by winner Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, almost 14 years his senior.
But another year of training with former top-ranked compatriots Chen Long and Lin Dan, who have been nurturing his development and taken him under their wing, has ironed out the kinks in his game.
Shi recorded his first win against reigning Olympic champion Chen in five attempts on the world tour in the quarter-finals.
And the 22-year-old showed why the pupil might be surpassing his masters, when he clinched a shock victory by denying sixth seed Lin a seventh All England title in Sunday's final.
Seventh-seeded Shi profited from Lin's lacklustre play to win 21-19, 16-21, 21-9 in Birmingham.
The surprising absence of Lin's famed attacking skills helped Shi to grow in confidence.
The world No. 6 was able to utilise his speed and hard-to-read overhead attacks without inhibition against one of the sport's all-time greats. "I was more patient and controlled my pace, which helped me get back into the match," said Shi, who admitted that he was relieved to erase the memory of last year's final loss.
"I was slow (at the) last All-England final and did not show my momentum as a young player. Today I played fantastic," he added.
Lin, 34, would have been the oldest player in 63 years to win the prestigious crown had he prevailed.
But, just when he had levelled the match with a burst of delicate drops and sliced smashes, the world No. 8 suddenly lost his rhythm in the final set.
"To (still) play at this level is good," said Lin, who became the first player to contest 10 All England men's singles finals.
"I feel good about myself and I want to congratulate my younger opponent," he added.