Top seed Chen Long of China proved unstoppable as he retained the men’s singles crown at the World Championships yesterday, with Lee Chong Wei suffering an agonising fourth straight defeat.
There were back-to-back championship victories in the women’s singles too, with world No 1 Carolina Marin of Spain beating India’s Saina Nehwal to defend her title.
Malaysia’s Lee entered the final hungrier than ever for his elusive world title but could not unsettle the Chinese world No 1, who stormed to a 21-14, 21-17 victory in just over an hour.
An overjoyed Chen, who has already won four titles in a stellar season this year, wept and kissed the court as his final triumphant smash sailed home.
“Last year I also cried, but this year I maybe cried more,” he said.
“This was a very difficult tournament to play. Every match was very difficult. Every opponent was very strong. I’m so happy to win this men’s singles, not just for myself but for the China team.”
Barely anything separated Chen and Lee as they sparred at electrifying speed in the first set.
But at 12-12, Chen turned up the heat with a series of blistering smashes that left Lee trailing.
After being steamrolled 21-14, the Malaysian put up a brief fight early in the second.
But Chen refused to yield, taking seven unanswered points and establishing a comfortable lead.
The speed and accuracy which Lee utilised to deadly effect against lesser opponents in the tournament failed to have an impact until later in the second game, when the gap between the two narrowed to 17-15.
But in the end Chen was unrelenting and outmanoeuvred the Malaysian at every turn.
“Today he played so well,” Lee, 32, said of his rival after the match.
“I tried to adapt and all the way he defended. I tried to play a rally and he ran with me.”
Lee entered the competition unseeded for the first time in years after returning from an eight-month doping ban.
Earlier, top-seeded Marin charged to a 21-16, 21-19 win over Nehwal to take home her second successive gold medal.
The Spaniard was brimming with confidence in the first game, pumping her fist and screaming in triumph.
But the Indian shuttler was not intimidated, retaliating early in the second game for an 11-8 lead before Marin responded with seven unanswered points.
The pair were neck-and-neck at 18-18 but the European champion proved too strong for Nehwal, the first Indian to reach a world championship final.
“This time was more difficult than the first time,” Marin said.
Badminton’s governing body later apologised to Marin for an “unfortunate mistake” that saw the wrong national anthem played as the Spaniard took to the winner’s podium.
History was made earlier in the day as defending champions Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei became the first pair to win three gold medals in the mixed doubles, with a routine victory over Chinese teammates Liu Cheng and Bao Yixin 21-17, 21-11.
Zhao Yunlei and Tian Qing of China beat Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl of Denmark 23-25, 21-8, 21-15 to win the women’s doubles.