Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan stay on course for one final showdown

Badminton heavyweights progress at All-England Open

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 March, 2017, 11:37am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 March, 2017, 11:37am

Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei, the two outstanding male players of the 21st century, closed in on an unexpected showdown when they reached the semi-finals of the All-England Open in Birmingham on Friday.

Lee, three times the All-England Open champion, produced a light-footed performance belying the fact a knee injury almost prevented the 34-year-old Malaysian from making his final appearance here, and outplayed Tian Houwei, the seventh-seeded Chinese player, 21-12, 21-15.

China’s Lin, the 33-year-old three-time Olympic champion, recovered from a woeful first game to generate rallies of patience, accuracy and beauty, to oust Viktor Axelsen, the World Super Series champion from Denmark, by 8-21, 21-14, 21-15.

Both men played almost as well as in there prime, and often with more subtlety – to their evident pleasure as well as that of the organisers who would love to see the two old gladiators clash on Sunday for what would be the 28th and quite likely the last time.

Lee felt that Friday was the best he had moved since slipping on a mat a month ago in Kuala Lumpur, while Lin thought he had delivered a performance worthy “not only of me going on court, but on an All-England court”.

Asked why he had been able to beat Axelsen when he had lost to him in the bronze medal play-off at last year’s Olympics, Lin pointed out the previous day in Rio he had had a hard match with Lee.

Lin’s performance suggests there is nothing wrong with either his form or motivation in defending the title – which if successful would be a seventh All England – and with both playing unseeded players in the semi-finals the chances are good the organisers and the spectators will get their dream final.