China’s Olympic champion Lin Dan shattered world number one Lee Chong Wei’s dreams of Asian Games gold today with a 22-20, 12-21, 21-9 victory in the semi-finals.
The Malaysian’s final Asian Games ended in heartbreak as he pulled back from a game down against his long-time nemesis but faded in the decider.
Defending champion Lin will face world title-holder Chen Long in the final after his Chinese stablemate easily beat Hong Kong’s Wei Nan 21-6 21-10 in the other semi.
But Lee, 31, was left to ponder the ruins of what was undoubtedly one of his last chances to outclass Lin on one of the sport’s big stages.
“He looked really confident in the third set and I could not follow him any more,” said Lee, who has announced this Asian Games will be his last.
“I have done my best and I accept defeat. Now I’ll go back (home) and have a rest before the next tournament.”
Lin said he had been distracted by a disputed line call on one of his returns in the first game, which was called in by the line judge, but ruled out by the umpire.
“There was a misjudgment in the first game and that made me a little bit anxious, but I adjusted well,” said Lin, who said he relished any chance to line up against Lee.
“I treasured this opportunity to play with Lee because it’s a year since we last met — I had some difficulties in the match, but I managed to change my attitude and mood.”
The first game already had the hallmarks of a classic as both players punched back fast returns and forced each other to dive for long shots.
Lee started stronger, going into the break 11-5 up, but Lin quickly battled back with smashes and deft net shots, suddenly turning on the power for 13-13.
Lee pulled ahead again with a three-point lead only to be brought back to 20-20 and lose the game 22-20 as Lin unleashed cross-court drives which left the Malaysian sprawling.
The second saw Lee again take the lead 11-7 and this time he managed to fend off an attempted Lin comeback with delicately angled net play and a determination to get back every shot, lunging to whatever Lin threw at him to take the game 21-12.
But the Chinese superstar turned the tables in the third, romping to an 8-2 lead which Lee could not close. Both players used everything in their armoury with powerful Lin firing pistol shots that bounced of Lee’s racquet.
Despite some flashes of brilliance from a scampering Lee, who flicked one lightning-fast backhand return from the net which Lin hardly saw, it was not enough and he lost the third by a yawning 12 points.
It was the latest in a string of high-profile Lin victories in badminton’s best rivalry, including in the 2010 Asian Games final in Guangzhou.