Li avenges world championship upset
Li Xuerui of China reacts after beating Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand during their All England Open Badminton Championships womens singles semi-final match in Birmingham, on March 8, 2014 - by Carl Court
Intanon became the youngest ever world champion at the age of 18 years by beating Li in the final in Guangzhou just seven months ago.
But after a good start in Birmingham on Saturday she was outplayed 21-18, 21-8 by the 23-year-old Chinese player in the semi-finals.
Li, one of the most talented of stroke-makers, ended the match with a rush, taking advantage of Intanon's increasing discomfort from a calf injury, although the difference in the states of mind of the players was also significant.
Li was less tense than before her home crowd in August and since then Intanon has found the pressure tough as a target for everyone to beat.
"Compared with my three previous matches this was a much more relaxed performance," Li said.
"I was also more relaxed than in the world championships and I just tried to go for it."
She was not distracted by the possibility that Intanon might be injured, she claimed.
"Once I'm on court, no matter what the conditions, I want to play my best. Everyone has a different level on injury when we play," Li added.
Intanon, who played well against Michelle Li of Canada in the quarter-finals, surged into an 11-5 lead this time and looked capable of reaching the final for a second successive year.
But her standard fell away as Li's accuracy improved. Her movement became limited too, despite one extraordinary shovelling retrieve over her head while retreating full tilt towards the back line.
Once Li got her nose in front at 14-13 the match became one-sided. "I couldn't control the game at all," said Intanon.
"But I will try to gain more experience and get my level back up."
Li's win ensured a Chinese player will win the women's singles for the 14th time in 18 years.
Only Danish players have stopped them during these years; however this is the first All-England since 1937 in which no Danes have reached the semi-finals.
Li's final opponent is Wang Shixian, the 2011 All-England champion, who beat Wang Yihan, the former world champion, with surprising ease by 21-8, 21-15.
"It's difficult to play someone you know so well," said Shixian, who admitted she would "feel relaxed" against Li.
Earlier Lee Chong Wei, the world number one from Malaysia, made a tremendous recovery from a game and 15-17 down against Son Wan Ho before squeezing out a thrilling 14-21, 21-19, 21-15 win against the Korean.
It earned Lee a repeat of last year's final against Chen Long, the defending champion from China, who progressed more comfortably with a 21-17, 21-14 win over his compatriot Wang Zhengming.
It means that China, which is also represented in the finals of the women's and mixed doubles, could win four of the five titles on Sunday.
This is the first time in the tournament's 114-year history that Europe has no semi-finalists.
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