BIRMINGHAM: Chinese star Lin Dan was denied a seventh All-England Open title as his young compatriot Shi Yuqi clinched a shock victory 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 22-year-old 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 the match back,” said Shi, who admitted he was relieved to erase the memory of last year’s final loss to Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei.
Lin would have been the oldest player in 63 years to win the All-England men’s singles title had he prevailed.
But just when he had levelled the match with a burst of delicate drops and sliced smashes, he suddenly lost his rhythm.
“I am 35, so to play at this level is good,” said Lin, seemingly forgetting that he is actually only 34.
Lin became the first player ever to play in 10 All-England men’s singles finals and made it the first all-Chinese men’s Open final for a decade.
“I feel good about myself and I want to congratulate my younger opponent.”
Both Chen Long, the Olympic champion who lost to Shi in the quarter-finals, and Lin have been nurturing the development of their compatriot.
Earlier, Tai Tzu Ying, the world number one from Taiwan became the first women’s singles player in more than a decade to successfully defend the title.
But she was not happy with her performance after a 22-20, 21-13 win over Akane Yamaguchi, the world number two from Japan, in which Tai had to save a game point in the first game.
“I made a lot of mistakes, and in the end I just had to run with her,” she said.
“I would like to come back again next year and play better.”
Tai ended Yamaguchi’s hopes of becoming the first Japanese player to win the All-England women’s singles title since Hiroe Yuki more than 40 years ago.
But two other Japanese players did make All-England history.
Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino became the first pair from their country ever to win the mixed doubles title.
It was an even bigger upset because they had been unseeded, while the fifth-seeded Chinese pair, Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong, whom they beat 15-21, 22-20, 21-16, had been favourites going into the final.