Just before the Olympic Games started in Tokyo, Chen Long said, “I’d been waiting five years (since Rio 2016). Each game I will play like a final and get better and better.”
Today, he added more value to his words after defeating Indonesia’s Anthony Sinisuka Ginting in a rather one-sided semi-final, with a score of 21-16, 21-11 in a match that lasted 56 mins.
Chen Long’s shot accuracy was so high during the entirety of the match that Ginting couldn’t find enough opportunities to use his attacking shots which he is so famous for.
Commentator Morten Frost mentioned during the match that Chen Long was the only player in the whole tournament who could control his lifts from both ends of the court with the drift in the stadium.
Tomorrow, he will meet Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen in the final to fight for the gold medal.
Axelsen has been in very good form this season. In 2021, he entered the finals of all the 6 tournaments that he played, and won 3 of them. His win-loss record for this year stands at 36-3.
The last time Axelsen met Chen Long was in the quarter-final of the 2020 Malaysia Masters, where Axelsen won by a hairline with a score of 21-11, 12-21, 22-20.
Other than this, Chen Long leads in every other aspect of their head-to-head record. Out of 19 encounters, Chen Long has won 14 and Axelsen has won only 5 of them.
Out of the 19 encounters between them, 2 of them were in finals – Tahoe China Open 2017 and The Star Australian Open 2015. Chen Long won on both occasions. Both the matches, however, went the distance and were played for three games.
The two of them met in the semi final of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as well. Chen Long won the match in straight games with a score of 21-14, 21-15
Axelsen has played 41 finals in his career so far and has won 24 of them. (Source: badmintonstatistics.net)
On the other hand, Chen Long has played 54 finals in his career and won 31 of them.
Out of the 54 finals Chen Long has played, 16 of those finals were three-setters. And out of those 16 three-setters, he has lost only 6 of them. And out of the 6 lost, 2 of them were to Lin Dan, and 2 of them to Lee Chong Wei.
This says a lot about the defending champion and the era of badminton from which he comes.
Chen Long will have a great advantage over Axelsen in the mental aspect of the game tomorrow in the final. If Chen Long wins, he will become the most successful men’s singles player at the Olympics with 2 golds and 1 bronze, ahead of his idol Lin Dan.
Axelsen has a slight advantage in the technical skills department, with a wider variety of shots in his arsenal. He definitely has the shots and the game to beat Chen Long.
But the Dane has been known to mentally disintegrate during tough matches in the past, though this has become rarer in the last couple of years. If he can play to his full potential and not crumble under pressure, he has a very good chance against the defending champion.
Chen Long’s stability, on the other hand, has been unreal in Tokyo. The only time he was tested in the tournament was by Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia. He was a game down and 19-19 in the second game in that match. Then too, he showed nerves of steel to clutch up and win the game and the match.
Apart from that, Chen Long has been literally walking the court in the rest of his matches.
Will it be gold for Denmark after a wait of 25 years or continued dominance of China in the men’s singles for 4 consecutive Olympics?