In the much-awaited battle of two World No.1s, one past and one present, Lee Chong Wei was made to stretch before coming out stronger against Danish veteran Peter Gade.
On Sunday, the Malaysian favourite became the first winner of the $200,000 India Open Super Series badminton championship at the Siri Fort Sports Complex here, where he claimed the Commonwealth Games gold in October last.
The 21-12, 12-21, 21-15 victory in 62 minutes was worth $15,000 for the 28-year-old champion who now has three Super Series titles this year. Gade, eight years older to Lee, settled for $7,600, but went back with a feeling that he could have won.
The ladies crown went to unseeded Thai Porntip Buranaprasertsuk, who scored over third seed Korean Bae Youn Joo for the first time in three encounters for her maiden Super Series title. The 21-13, 21-16 triumph also earned Prontip $15,000 and left Joo with $7,600.
The much expected result in the men's title-match came only after an unexpected twist, with the 34-year-old Gade snatching a game away, something he had not managed in the last five meetings.
In fact, Gade led 6-2 in the decider to raise visions of repeating his only victory over the Malaysian that came in the 2009 Korea Super Series. But the gritty top seed won a long rally, then led 8-6 by winning six points on the trot and never trailed again.
It was a match where both players refrained from hitting too many smashes, respecting the retrieving skills of the other. The first game saw a very high percentage of unforced errors from the seasoned Dane, while the second witnessed Lee lose focus and give up.
In the decider, when trailing, Lee chose to keep the rallies longer, tried to play on his rival's diminishing alacrity on the court, and effectively putting the finishing touches, using deft touches on the forecourt or with timely jump smashes to ‘kill' the shuttle from the mid-court.
Gade's court-coverage looked in question once the rallies got longer in the decider. With Lee looking increasingly sure of himself, it was always going to be difficult for Gade to bounce back.
Gade, described as a “great champion” by Lee, was quick to concede, “I played the best player in the world. It is all about confidence. When Lee is confident, he is unbeatable. I had a chance after winning the second game. I gave it everything. But he was unbeatable today.”
Lee, who could “not believe” that Gade could play so well at 34, said, “Peter is still a good player. He never gives up.” The champion confirmed that he would return next year to his “lucky venue” for more.
Later, Porntip was rewarded for her unshakable focus in the final. The 20-year-old launched a relentless attack on her Korean rival and controlled the proceedings right through the 32-minute mismatch.
The results (all finals; prefix denotes seeding): Men: 1-Lee Chong Wei (Mas) bt 3-Peter Gade (Den) 21-12, 12-21, 21-15. Doubles: 4-Hirokatsu Hashimoto/ Noriyasu Hirata (Jpn) bt Angga Pratama/ Ryan Agung Saputra (Ina) 21-17, 21-9.
Women: Porntip Buranaprasertsuk (Tha) bt 3-Bae Youn Joo (Kor) 21-13, 21-16. Doubles: 1-Miyuki Maeka/ Satoko Suetsuna (Jpn) bt 2-Mizuki Fujii/ Reika Kakiiwa (Jpn) 26-24, 21-15.
Mixed doubles: 4-Tantowi Ahmad/ Lilyana Natsir (Ina) bt Fran Kurniawan/ Pia Zebadiah Bernadeth (Ina) 21-18, 23-21.
Keywords: Indian Open badminton