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Chen falls into form to capture Birmingham title

China Daily | Updated: 2019-03-12 09:15
Chen Yufei of Team China hits a return to Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei en route to an upset victory over the defending champion at the All England Open badminton championships in Birmingham on Sunday. ANDREW BOYERS/ACTION IMAGES/REUTERS

Rising star takes a tumble after All England triumph

Chen Yufei of Team China dashed Tai Tzu-ying's hopes of winning a hat-trick of All England Open women's singles titles on Sunday, beating the two-time defending champion in straight sets in their Birmingham final.

The 21-year-old Chen, who had lost all of their 11 previous meetings, pulled ahead 16-9 in the first set before surgically fending off an inspired comeback by Chinese Taipei's Tai to clinch the opener 21-17.

The second set was an engrossing seesaw battle, although Chen enjoyed the upper hand most of the time. Tai fought back from a 16-12 deficit to knot the score at 17 before Chen capitalized on her opponent's errors to seal another 21-17 triumph.

Chen said she didn't expect such success against her illustrious opponent, especially since Tai had only dropped one set in the tournament heading into their match.

As she won the final point, Chen fell to the court at Arena Birmingham to celebrate her victory.

"I was very excited; I didn't expect to win the title in straight sets," said the player from eastern Zhejiang province.

"When I express my joy I feel like I lose my physical composure, that's why I fell to the ground. But I think I am more mature both mentally and physically compared to last year. I kept my pace on the court today ... I think that's probably the reason I won.

"This is the most important victory of my career so far. I am very, very excited. I need to thank everybody on the women's team of China. Without the team's help, this title would not be possible."

Chen said Tai's resilience was difficult to overcome.

"Even when I was leading by a big margin, she never gave up. I told myself to play my best and just focus on my own game," said the champion.

Chen is the first player from Team China to win the women's singles final since Wang Shixian lifted the trophy in 2014.

The victory was the second for Team China in Birmingham, following Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan's triumph in the women's doubles final.

The two 21-year-olds came back from one set down and saved two match points in the second set to beat the third-seeded Japanese duo of Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara 18-21, 22-20, 21-11.

"We're so happy... it's just fantastic to win the title this year and we beat really strong opponents through all the earlier matches," said Jia.

"It just gave us so much motivation and confidence for future performances."

Meanwhile, reigning world champion Kento Momota became the first Japanese male to win the All England Open. The 24-year-old, who is also the Asian champion and world No 1, held his nerve to defeat Denmark's Viktor Axelsen 21-11, 15-21, 21-15.

"Winning this tournament has been a dream from my childhood. It's a really big moment in my life and gives me a lot of confidence," Momota said.

"The second set I played defensively against some very powerful shots from Viktor, but in the final set I knew I couldn't carry on like that so I didn't play particular tactics. I just gave all I had and did my best."

Momota said he hopes his success will inspire more Japanese to excel at the sport.

"I hope this win will help raise the badminton level in Japan. I'm going to keep improving myself so that everybody can be helped along with me," he added.

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