PETALING JAYA: For many, 13 is an unlucky number but not for newly-crowned All-England champion Lee Chong Wei.
The world No. 1 showed class in his 13th outing when he destroyed 21-year-old Shi Yuqi of China 21-12, 21-10 in a 45-minute men’s singles final at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham yesterday.
It was his fourth All-England title after having won it in 2010, 2012 and 2014. The other Malaysians who won four singles title were Wong Peng Soon (1950-1952, 1955) and Eddy Choong (1953, 1954, 1956, 1957).
Chong Wei’s 13th All-England is special as just a month ago, he suffered a knee injury.
But instead of throwing in the towel, he pushed himself hard during his 10-day rehabilitation programme to make a quick recovery.
“This is one of my favourite tournaments and I’m happy to win again,” said Chong Wei.
“I want to thank all my fans ... all of you who have stood by me from the first match until the final here. You motivated me to win again ... thank you,” he said as the spectators roared in thunderous applause.
Asked whether he would return to defend his crown, Chong Wei said without flinching: “Yes.”
Initially there was fear that the 34-year-old, with his knee heavily strapped, may not be able to withstand his younger opponent’s attacking shots and tenacity on court.
But Chong Wei had other ideas. He took charge of the match from the start by toying with the youngster, moving him around to all four corners of the court.
Yuqi did his best to counter Chong Wei with his powerful smashes but the Malaysian defended well and even pulled off a few of his deceptive shots to outfox the youngster.
There was drama towards the end of the match when Yuqi landed awkwardly on his ankle and fell into Chong Wei’s court at 18-10 in the second game. But he returned to court after the medical attention but could not do anything to stop a fired-up Chong Wei from winning his fourth title.
National coach Tey Seu Bock said that one should not assume that match was easy based on the straight-game score.
“Chong Wei handled himself very well despite all the pressure being in his seventh All-England final. We knew his opponent was no easy meat. There was quality in all his shots,” said Seu Bock.
“But Chong Wei showed he is a resilient player ... he made all of us proud today.
“Who would have thought a player who was injured a month ago could come back and win this prestigious title.”