Lee Chong Wei reaches All-England badminton semis
Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei eyes a return against Indonesia's Tommy Sugiarto during their men's singles final match at the Malaysia Open Badminton Superseries in Kuala Lumpur on January 19, 2014 - by Kamal Sellehuddin
It was beautifully controlled and carefully-paced, and tempted the world number one from Malaysia to consider not merely his next match but what might happen two days ahead.
"I shall really try to win the All-England again," he said, and it is clear that he can, although there is first a matter of a giant-killing Korean to deal with on Saturday.
Lee won his points against Momota, the world number 15 from Japan, in so many different ways - which may be just as well, because his next opponent, Son Wan Ho, appears in excellent form.
The world number ten from Korea followed an opening day win over Jan Jorgensen, the fourth-seeded Dane, by today taking out Kenichi Tago, the fifth-seeded Japanese, a former finalist here, by 21-15, 21-17.
Perhaps Lee was heartened by the way he switched so fluidly between defence and attack, and by how easy his movement, in cool conditions, which have bothered some other players, still managed to be.
There is no Lin Dan, the Olympic champion, to frustrate Lee this time, but another Chinese player, defending champion Chen Long, is going well, reaching the semis with a patiently carved-out 18-21, 21-11, 21-14 win over Hans-Christian Vittinghus in a fine match.
Chen now plays compatriot Wang Zheiming, ensuring there will be a Chinese finalist in the men's singles, just as there will in every event except the men's doubles.
The women's singles became certain of an eagerly-awaited repeat of the World Championship final between Li Xuerui, the Olympic champion from China, and Ratchanok Intanon, the 19-year-old Thai player who sensationally denied her.
Intanon came from 6-10 down and improved steadily to win 23-21, 21-15 against Michelle Li, the first Canadian quarter-finalist since 1979, and Li Xuerui also produced her best effort of the week so far to deny Sung Ji-hyun, the fifth-seeded Korean 21-17, 21-18.
Neither wanted to talk about meeting each other again, which hinted at how much it means to both. "I shall do my best," said Li tersely although Intanon was a little more insightful.
“I played more relaxed in this game compared to the others, not my best game but I felt more relaxed, and I don’t want to think too much about beating Li again, because I want to be more relaxed again,” she said.
Earlier, China's chances of taking the women's singles were further enhanced by Wang Shixian, the All-England champion of three years ago, reaching a semi-final against compatriot Wang Yihan, the All-England champion of five years ago .
Shixian, seeded four, was too mobile for Saina Nehwal, the seventh-seeded Commonwealth champion from India, and took control from early in the second game of her 21-17, 21-10 win.
Yihan, seeded second, outplayed Bae Yeon Ju, the sixth-seeded Korean, 21-18, 21-13, and looks formidable. "This has become a special event for me," she said. "I feel well prepared and feel I can win it again."
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