KUCHING • China's Lin Dan defeated arch-rival Lee Chong Wei yesterday to win his first Malaysia Open crown and complete his collection of major badminton titles.
Showing no signs of fatigue, the 33-year-old pushed the Malaysian, one year his senior, from back to front, forcing the recent All England Open winner into unforced errors to win 21-19, 21-14 in 55 minutes.
"My main target was to break my jinx at this Malaysia Open. We both played well and showed a high level of badminton," said the world No. 6 after clinching his 21st BWF Superseries title.
"Me and Lee are both ageing, and so I cherish every moment we play each other in a big tournament."
The two veterans started cautiously, and world No. 1 Lee began securing points with his killer cross-court smashes.
But Lin kept his calm, resorting to long rallies, swift returns and precision net play to defeat the home favourite. Although partisan, the crowd cheered both icons, who demonstrated agility and power play and reminded critics that they are not ready to retire.
As has become the norm for the Chinese player, Lin dropped his racket, flung off his shirt and collapsed to the floor to rejoice a victory at the World Superseries Premier event that has long eluded him.
He reached the final three times but was defeated by Lee in 2005 and 2006 and by compatriot Chen Long in 2015.
In 2006, Lin was one point away from the title as he led 20-13 in the deciding game, but Lee staged a phenomenal comeback to win 23-21 at the same venue.
Although he went down in straight games yesterday, Lee vowed to do his part to keep the sport's great rivalry alive.
"The first game was crucial. I had the lead but made errors and misjudged some of the shots. I lost focus," said the 34-year-old, who was gunning for his 12th Malaysia Open title and will next compete at the Asian Championships in Wuhan .
"We may be old players but have no plans to announce our retirement yet. In fact, I am hoping that Lin Dan and I can continue playing for a few more years. As for me, I intend to play as long as I can."
Lin said he planned to be still active on the international stage but did not want to think too much about winning a sixth world crown ahead of the August tournament in Glasgow.
Top-ranked Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei won the women's singles title after defeating Spain's Carolina Marin 23-25, 22-20, 21-13 in 85 minutes. Both women are scheduled to compete in this week's OUE Singapore Open.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BERNAMA