Chinas world top seeds Lin Dan (R) and his girl friendXieXingfang pose for a photo after each of them won the singlestitlesat the final match at the All England badminton championshipsinBirmingham, England March 11, 2007. [Reuters]
Lin Dan and Xie Xingfang, the boyfriend-girlfriendbadmintonplayers who each sit atop the world rankings, becamechampionstogether at the All-England Open for the second successiveyear onSunday.
Lin showed himself arguably the most popular of the manyChinesechampions as he won his third All-England Open title in fouryearsat the British national indoor arena.
The elastic and acrobatic center-hander received a greatreceptionfrom the English crowd after his 21-13, 21-12 victory overhiscompatriot, Chen Yu, the sixth seed.
He got another one when he gave Xie a kiss by the podium whenshereceived her trophy after winning 21-6, 21-13 against PiHongyang,the China-raised surprise finalist who now plays forFrance.
Xies overwhelming win - the twig-thin champion withthebrilliantly light movement looked the best player this week byanincreasing distance - made her only the third woman since WorldWarTwo to have won three successive singles titles.
There was never any doubt that she would achieve it, andsheagreed this was the best she had played. More of thequestions,however, were directed towards her relationship withLin.
Together they have now won ten titles, she believes,somethingwhich is of great value, because they are able to support,andconsole each other.
Asked what makes them so successful, she said: Both of usarevery good players and we have come up together. The main thingisnot to be nervous and to have the mental strength in the middleofa match to face the challenges.
Lin reserved his most authoritative display for the final,havingtwice been taken the full distance earlier in the tournament,andhaving looked in real trouble in the third game ofhisquarter-final against Indonesias Sony Dwi Kuncoro.
But now Lin has again made himself popular for his abilitytoproject spectacular winners from difficultround-the-headpositions, to play the rallies in a variety fordifferent ways, andto express his feelings.
Several times he dived dramatically along the floor, oncehequeried a line decision with the umpire, and at the end hemovedtowards the crowd and applauded them before running back toembracehis opponent.
Afterwards he said he hoped to celebrate by doing someshopping,and on being told that shops close early on Sundays in theUK hejoked: I had better leave now then!