JAKARTA: Top seed Chen Long proved unstoppable as he retained the singles crown at the badminton world championships, with Lee Chong Wei suffering an agonizing fourth straight defeat.
There were also back-to-back championship victories in the women’s singles as world number one Carolina Marin of Spain beat India’s Saina Nehwal to defend her title.
Lee entered the final hungrier than ever for his elusive world title but could not unsettle the Chinese world number one, 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 via a translator.
“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 the China team.”
Barely anything separated Chen and Lee as they sparred at electrifying speed in the first set.
But at 12-all Chen turned up the heat with a series of blistering smashes that left Lee trailing.
After being steamrollered 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 utilized 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 outmaneuvered the Malaysian at every turn, ending Lee’s dreams of gold with a smash directly at his feet.
“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. His comeback had pundits tipping he would take gold in Jakarta.