Lee Chong Wei battles back to set up Lin Dan showdown
Badminton's world number one Lee Chong Wei fought back from a game down to set up a crunch Asian Games semi-final with arch-rival and long-time nemesis Lin Dan on Saturday.
Incheon: Badminton's world number one Lee Chong Wei fought back from a game down to set up a crunch Asian Games semi-final with arch-rival and long-time nemesis Lin Dan on Saturday.
Malaysia's Lee was put through his paces by Vietnam's Nguyen Tien Minh, and he had the net cord to thank as he edged a tight deciding game and took it 21-23, 21-16, 21-17.
"Today I didn't play so well," Lee said after the gruelling match which saw the sweat-drenched players changing their shirts and frequently towelling their faces.
"The first game was point for point -- I just tried in the second game. The two players (both of us) were very tired so I tried to become very fast in that second game."
Olympic champion Lin later eased through 21-14, 21-18 against Japan's Kenichi Tago to set up the latest installment in badminton's most fascinating rivalry.
Long-time number one Lee has frequently been undone by Lin on the big stage and the 31-year-old is now making his last attempt at winning Asian Games gold.
"Before I went out on court I heard Lee Chong Wei had told Chinese reporters that he had nothing to lose in a match against me," said Lin.
"This is the same for me. I will go all-out."
Nguyen, 30, fended off a barrage of Lee smashes as he took the first game, forcing the Malaysian star into a change of tactics.
Lee won the second 21-16, pushing Nguyen around with mid-court and net shots beyond his reach, but then squandered a 12-4 lead in the third.
Nguyen battled back to 17-17 before two crucial shots bounced back off the net cord and Lee finally took the game 21-17.
Lin had a much easier outing against Tago and although he was forced into some acrobatic dives, the Chinese superstar always looked in control.
Sunday's semi-final promises to be a match to savour as the two veterans clash for the last time at the Asian Games, four years after Lin beat Lee in the 2010 final.
It was one of many major defeats for Lee by Lin, including in the last two Olympic finals and the 2011 and 2013 world championship finals. Lin leads their head-to-head 22-9.
The last time they met was in the dramatic 2013 world final in Guangzhou, where Lee won the first game but lost in three, collapsing during the third in an overheated stadium.
Lee also lost this year's worlds final to Lin's Chinese team-mate and heir apparent, 25-year-old Chen Long, who also beat the Malaysian in the men's team semi-final in Incheon.
Chen beat South Korea's Son Wan-Ho in two games, avenging his shock defeat in the men's team final, and will take on Hong Kong's Wei Nan in the other singles semi.