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Shon, the shining star

- Li Xuerui gets the better of German Juliane Schenk

New Delhi: The finals of the India Open Super Series turned out to be an evening of exciting badminton on Sunday.

For more than five hours, the appreciative crowd at the Siri Fort Sports Complex watched top quality contests before unseeded South Korean Wan Ho Shon and Li Xuerui of China emerged champions in the men’s and women’s singles, respectively.

Shon’s victory in the final was easily the biggest upset of the tournament as he stunned world No.1 and Malaysian super star Lee Chong Wei 21-18, 14-21, 21-19 in a 66-minute battle that had the spectators on the edge of their seats. The win also earned the Korean underdog a berth in the London Olympics.

Still gasping for breath, the world No. 17 was at a loss of words when asked to describe his win over the defending champion, who looked invincible before Sunday’s loss.

So excited was Shon that he threw his racquet in the stands in sheer jubilation and then ran to the corner to hug his coach. “Beating the world No.1 was like a dream come true,” said the Korean. “I was feeling good on the court and realised it could be my day,” he added.

Badminton was at its best in the third game after Chong Wei came back strongly in the second to nullify Shon’s heroic display in the first. But the real drama started after Shon ran to a comfortable 15-10 lead.

This was the time Chong Wei, a two-time All-England champion and Beijing Games silver medallist, displayed enviable skills. He played some incredible shots at the net and crawled back to make it 18-all and then took a 19-18 lead. Just when it looked he would upstage his rival, Chong Wei made a couple of unforced errors to give Shon his first Super Series title.

It thus turned out to be a great tournament for Shon, who defeated former world No.1 Peter Gade in the earlier round before beating local favourite P. Kashyap in the semi-final.

Lee was gracious in defeat and said even though he lost the title, he was happy with his performance. “I am happy with my performance. I played well. I had to be a bit careful in the tournament with my shoulder as I was playing for the first time after my injury. But there is nothing to worry, everything is fine. I just tried to enjoy the game and have some fun,” he said.

“Shon played exceptionally well. He made many upsets in the tournament coming into the finals. He beat all the top players. I didn't expect him to play so well. At 19-18 I missed some easy points.

“I know I lost but its okay. I have three months to prepare for the Olympics. I will play the Thomas Cup, Indonesia. I am happy to be in the final of the India Open. I didn’t think too much,” he added.

No less exciting was the women’s final that saw second seed and world No.4 Li Xuerui coming back from a game down to thrash Juliane Schenk of Germany 14-21, 21-17, 21-8. Considered the emerging star of Chinese badminton, Li Xuerui kept her cool in the clincher to win a series of crucial points in the end.

It was a treat to watch the Chinese after the players swapped courts in the third game.

A winner of All-England title and Asian badminton crown this year, Li Xuerui destroyed the German with some top class smashes. For Juliane, who started off in a great fashion, it was yet another heartbreak.

A few months back, the duo met in the German Open final with the Chinese girl running away with the title in front of her home fans.

“At least, I could prove that I have the skills and the strength to play the final,” said Juliane, a bronze medallist of the World championships last year.

“I was on top in the first game, but committed lots of mistakes in the final game. I congratulate Xuerui because she was a better player... And I still have to work a lot,” Juliane added.