China, Japan to Face Off – Day 6 (Session 1): TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017

Last edition finalists China and Japan booked a semi-final meeting at the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017 with one-sided victories today in Gold Coast.

There were no surprises in either quarter-final – Japan versus Malaysia and China versus India – although India’s scratch Mixed Doubles combination Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa did create some flutters against World No.2 duo Lu Kai and Huang Yaqiong in the opening match before China took the tie 3-0. A short while later, Japan wrapped up their quarter-final against Malaysia 3-1.

Rankireddy, perhaps the find of the tournament, had the Chinese under pressure with his monster smashes, giving Ponnappa the openings she needed to put away the returns that came her way. Lu and Huang struggled to contain the rampant Indians, who played with great assurance and touch at the front court to deny their opponents any opportunities.

Lu and Huang, veterans of many a battle, seized the initiative early in the second and held their lead. The Indians went ahead briefly in the third but Lu and Huang had started to anticipate the Indians’ lines of attack and reeled in quick points.  Rankireddy and Ponnappa faltered on the delicate shots at net and the Chinese eventually came away winners at 16-21 21-13 21-16.

“We had a good chance, we had the confidence that we could pull it off,” said Ponnappa. “They’re very experienced, while we’re just starting off as a pair. Satwik has to get used to pressure situations. It’s kind of fun playing with him, because he’s strong and his game style complements mine. I’ve started moving into the net. In the past I’ve always run back and never taken charge. Having a promising player like Satwik to partner with is a huge confidence booster.”

World champion Chen Long had a 4-0 career record going into his Men’s Singles match-up with Kidambi Srikanth and nothing suggested that the Indian would get his first win, for the Chinese was at his fluid, powerful best.

Kidambi did little wrong; he varied the pace, worked the shuttle around and fired sharp winners through the narrow openings he crafted. The Indian stayed close but couldn’t quite wriggle free, for the quick-moving Chinese was invariably at the end of the flicks and half-smashes that Kidambi created. The frustration started to show in the Indian’s game and it was 2-0 for China in 48 minutes: 21-16 21-17.

“My opponent was very good, and he strongly challenged me in the second game,” said Chen. “We have to be our best tomorrow. The Japanese Men’s Singles players are quite young and have already got the opportunity to play at this level, so we have to be cautious. More than the pressure from outside, I will be putting pressure on myself to perform well.”

India’s Men’s Doubles pair were just not up to the level required to trouble Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan. Rankireddy returned with Chirag Shetty and the duo were blown off court by the Olympic champions, 21-9 21-11, in just 29 minutes.

Japan’s victory over Malaysia followed the same pattern as in their sub-group 1C tie on Wednesday. For Malaysia, everything hinged on their Men’s Doubles pair of Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong getting past Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda (featured image), given Japan’s superior Women’s Singles and Women’s Doubles. Goh and Tan hit their stride mid-match against Sonoda and Kamura, but the Japanese kept up their high-intensity style, and the energy-sapping rallies started to tell on the Malaysians in the third as they fell apart in the hour-long battle: 21-17 16-21 21-11.

Soniia Cheah replaced Goh Jin Wei in Women’s Singles for Malaysia while Japan fielded Nozomi Okuhara. It was too vast a gulf for Cheah to cover, with the nimble Okuhara controlling the match from start to finish: 21-11 21-9.

Lee Chong Wei, as expected, delivered Men’s Singles for Malaysia over Kenta Nishimoto (21-15 21-13), leaving the burden of salvaging the nation’s hopes on Vivian Hoo and Woon Khe Wei. The Malaysian Women’s Doubles duo had taken only one game off Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi in nine previous matches. The Japanese duly made it ten wins in ten matches with a 21-7 21-14 result.

“We played Malaysia in the group stage as well, we weren’t sure who we would face today,” said Takahashi. “After we won the Men’s Doubles, we went in feeling good and there wasn’t any pressure.

“We lost the Sudirman Cup final to China two years ago. All the Chinese players are good. Our role is that of challengers. We always enjoy playing China and we have to prepare our best. They have won the Sudirman Cup six times in a row and we appreciate the opportunity to fight against them. It’s a big challenge in front of us.”

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Irrepressible India! – Day 3 (Session 2): TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017

Lower-ranked India dealt Indonesia a huge body blow tonight, blitzing the badminton powerhouse 4-1 in sub-group 1D, dubbed the ‘group of death’ at the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017.

Having already lost to Denmark yesterday, India’s backs were to the wall and they fought tenaciously to remain relevant in the conversation at Gold Coast Sports & Leisure Centre, snatching the crucial opening point – in a terrific Mixed Doubles battle – followed by straight-games wins in both singles matches. In between those victories by Kidambi Srikanth (versus Jonatan Christie) and Pusarla V Sindhu, the season’s leading Men’s Doubles duo, Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, gave Indonesia a glimmer of hope. However, that was quickly extinguished as Olympic silver medallist Pusarla powered to the decisive third point in Women’s Singles – 21-8 21-19 versus the pint-sized Fitriani Fitriani.

India’s impressive rout of the joint 5/8 seeds was completed when Ashwini Ponnappa – one half of the Mixed Doubles duo who started the successful run – returned to centre court in Women’s Doubles to partner N. Sikki Reddy to a 21-12 21-19 triumph over Della Destiara Haris and Rosyita Eka Putri Sari.

“I feel great to get the winning point. I was confident and I didn’t allow myself to get complacent even when I was leading. Each point was equally important,” said Pusarla, hailing her Mixed Doubles team-mates for grabbing a precious point in India’s push for a quarter-finals spot.

“Mixed Doubles was a fantastic match and it wasn’t easy but we believe in ourselves. We fought hard yesterday but we lost and today we played more confidently and we won. If we get to the quarter-finals, I think it will be good.”

The much-heralded Mixed Doubles was claimed by Ponnappa and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy; the latter stepping up to senior level barely six months after competing in the BWF World Junior Championships. The 17-year-old showcased fearless shot-making despite staring at Rio 2016 champion, Tontowi Ahmad, across the net. Rankireddy was deadly from the back court while also working the shuttle smartly around to set up kills. Though he and Ponnappa prevailed 22-20 17-21 21-19, it could have been so much different had Ahmad and Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja capitalised on their 20-17 advantage in the first game. They led from the outset to seize the second game but fell behind early in the decider and never recovered despite clawing back to within a point from 7-15 down. Some poor strokes by Ahmad in the dying exchanges helped the opposition and, perhaps fittingly, it was Rankireddy who found an open space deep in the court for the winning shot as the hapless Ahmad was left stranded on the turf.

“It’s great to be playing in Sudirman Cup, among the seniors. It’s a good experience for me and I am happy we won for our team,” said a thrilled Rankireddy.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s team manager, Susi Susanti, blamed the doubles results for their downfall, conceding they were not expecting to win in singles. Though tomorrow night’s tie against Denmark will be “hard”, she remained optimistic and vowed Indonesia will give their best.

Meanwhile, Group 2 contenders Singapore and Australia set up a potentially enthralling clash to determine who tops sub-group 2B. Both achieved 5-0 results versus USA and Austria respectively to remain unbeaten. Sawan Serasinghe and Setyana Mapasa starred for the hosts in Mixed Doubles and then their respective doubles. In the Singapore-USA tie, only twin sisters, Annie and Kerry Xu, extended the Asians to three games, with Singapore winning the other four matches in eight games overall.
“They are the hosts and the crowd will be backing them. They have a good team so we have to look at our line-up and decide who to field. We know from here it will only get tougher and we have to be ready for that,” said Singapore coach, Chua Yong Joo.

In the clash of the Pacific minnows, Fiji defeated Tahiti 4-1. Both teams were previously beaten by Sri Lanka and Slovakia who meet tomorrow morning to determine which of them tops sub-group 3B.

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Denmark Overcome India – Day 2 (Session 1): TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017

Denmark wriggled out of early trouble to beat India and get off to a sound start in their sub-group 1D assignment today at the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017 in Gold Coast.

India had the opportunity to draw first blood but missed narrowly in the opening Mixed Doubles; Denmark needed no second invitation to press on and win the tie 4-1.

India’s new Mixed Doubles pairing Satwicksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa caused early flutters with some feisty play against Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christinna Pedersen (featured image). Rankireddy was a revelation, with his powerful smashes causing plenty of damage, while Ponnappa, never known as much of a front court player, kept her end up with some sharp interceptions.

The Indians took the second game and had the edge in the third; the Danes banking on their experience to claw level at 17-all. As with so many matches in their career, Fischer and Pedersen made the right choices at the death – the Indians’ hasty play was their undoing, and the Danes grabbed the crucial lead: 21-15 16-21 21-17.

“It was their experience that made the difference,” Ponnappa said, ruing the missed opportunities. “We made some silly mistakes at the end. Satwick played very well today, he smashes really hard. I’ve always been more of a back court player, but I’ve tried to get used to playing at the front, and with an attacker like him behind me, it’s easier. It was really close today.”

“They came back strong in the second and we struggled to find the right way to play them,” said Pedersen. “In the end it was about who wanted it more.”

Ajay Jayaram had a 3-2 career record against Viktor Axelsen going into their Men’s Singles encounter, but today the Dane blew his opponent off court. The Indian was just not allowed the leeway to play his deceptive game as the Dane kept him constantly under attack; the 21-12 21-7 victory taking just 27 minutes.

Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen wrapped up the tie in Men’s Doubles, overpowering Manu Attri/Sumeeth Reddy 21-17 21-15.

India reduced the deficit in Women’s through Pusarla V Sindhu, and were impressive in the final match as well. Ashwini Ponnappa and Sikki Reddy had a match point against Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl before the experienced Danes wriggled out of trouble to complete a 18-21 21-15 23-21 victory and hand Denmark the 4-1 margin.

Strong Start by Australia

Hosts Australia overcame a setback in Men’s Singles to beat USA in their sub-group 2B tie, with Sawan Serasinghe and Setyana Mapasa winning both their matches.

Serasinghe and Mapasa took the Mixed Doubles over Vinson Chiu/Jamie Subandhi, but USA levelled the score as Timothy Lam got the better of Anthony Joe, 21-14 21-18.

Serasinghe and Chau ensured the lead once again beating Kyle Emerick/Darren Yang in Men’s Doubles before Wendy Chen got the third point for the hosts in Women’s Singles against Jennie Lai. Mapasa then returned with Gronya Somerville (Women’s Doubles) to overcome Annie Xu/Kerry Xu, 21-15 21-18.

“It’s definitely not easy to play two matches in a session, the Men’s Singles wasn’t long and I had to be back on court quickly,” said Serasinghe. “But we train for this. It’s tough but I’m ready. We had six weeks of training. It’s great to be playing here at home with the crowd cheering for us. This is a young team and it’s the most talented we’ve had in a while. It’s a good chance to top the group.”

Singapore, Macau Win 5-0

Singapore, another prime contender for top honours in Group 2, eased past Austria 5-0 in sub-group 2B.

Austria did trouble Singapore in a couple of matches, with Leon Seiwald taking Ryan Ng to three games (Men’s Singles) and Dominik Stipsits/Roman Zirnwald doing likewise in Men’s Doubles against Terry Hee/Loh Kean Hean. Singapore overcame those threats to finish the tie on a clean slate.

Macau China also wrapped up their sub-group 3A tie against Guam without losing a match. Pang Fong Pui gave Macau China the lead in Men’s Singles, before Chan Kit Lei (Women’s Singles) and Che Pui Ngai/Lam Hou Him (Men’s Doubles) made it 3-0.

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Contrasting Fortunes – Day 4: OUE Singapore Open 2017

Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo motored into their fourth straight World Superseries semi-final in commanding fashion tonight, while misery befell various established pairs.

As the dazzling Indonesians sped towards another victory, their team-mates Angga Pratama and Ricky Karanda Suwardi – also competing in Men’s Doubles – suffered the agony of losing a match point and ultimately being beaten by Li Jinhui and Liu Yuchen. The Chinese twin towers prevailed 18-21 22-20 22-20. There was, however, a silver lining as Indonesia’s third pair, Berry Angriawan and Hardianto Hardianto, toppled No.2 seeds, Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong of Malaysia (21-15 21-15), and now have the opportunity to avenge their compatriots’ loss to China.

Japan’s No.3 seeds, Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda, were also shown the exit by veteran Danish hitmen, Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen: 21-14 21-12. It was a welcome return to the business end of a MetLife BWF World Superseries event for the Europeans and they are aiming to go a step further tomorrow against wonder boys, Gideon and Sukamuljo.

“Though we are two old men, we were not satisfied with our recent performances at All England and in India. We are usually in the last eight of tournaments and it gives us confidence to get our form back. We are extremely delighted to show we can still play at this level and be among the best,” said a buoyant Boe.

“Nobody can deny that Marcus and Kevin are the best pair currently but we have some tools to overcome them and we have the motivation to do so.”

The demise of star partnerships extended to Women’s Doubles as Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan of China succumbed in a hard-fought encounter with Jung Kyung Eun/Shin Seung Chan; Jia’s judgment faltering on match point as she left a shuttle which floated in on the baseline. The Korean screamed in delight as they squeezed through 11-21 21-19 21-19. They will play Olympic champions, Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi, for a place in the final. The Japanese shook off Thailand’s Chayanit Chaladchalam and Phataimas Muenwong (21-14 21-11) comfortably.

“We were mentally focused at the end and we got some lucky points. We are prepared for another marathon match against Japan and we hope we can win,” said Jung.

Korea’s other star pair, Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee, will once again be across the net from Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl, in the other semi-final. Chang/Lee stopped Thailand’s Puttita Supajirakul and Sapsiree Taerattanachai, 21-12 21-13, while the Danes outclassed Naoko Fukuman/Kurumi/Yonao of Japan, 21-19 21-11.

The upsets continued in Mixed Doubles with whammies for Indonesia’s Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto – falling to Dechapol Puavaranukroh/Sapsiree Taerattanachai (21-17 21-13) – and for Joachim Fischer Nielsen/Christinna Pedersen later in the night. The experienced Danes were stunned by an amazing comeback from Malaysia’s Tan Kian Meng/Lai Pei Jing (featured image). The latter won 10-21 21-18 21-18 and now tackle the Thai tandem in the semi-finals. Both pairs will be in uncharted territory.

Tomorrow will be busy for Korea’s Shin as she and Mixed Doubles partner, Kim Gi Jung, expect to have a say in that category too after beating Chinese Taipei’s Wang Chi Lin and Lee Chia Hsin (21-13 21-11). They are up against China’s in-form combination, Lu Kai/Huang Yaqiong, who gave a clinical performance, 21-11 21-8, versus B. Sumeeth Reddy/Ashwini Ponnappa.

“After yesterday’s match, I think both of us will face every match with a more serious attitude. No matter who our opponents are, we have to put in 120 per cent of our energy and preparation,” said Huang, alluding to having to save match point against Singapore’s Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han.

Missed Opportunity – Day 3: OUE Singapore Open 2017

Inexperience and anxiety today cost Singaporean duo, Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han, a memorable victory against the Mixed Doubles pair which has dominated this year’s MetLife BWF World Superseries tour so far.

As shouts of “Singapura” rang in their ears, the hometown hopefuls came to within a point of beating Lu Kai and Huang Yaqiong who have reached all of this season’s Superseries finals – and winning two of them.

At 19-15 ahead in the decider, Hee and Tan had spectators on their feet in anticipation of a significant upset but the Chinese top players showed their class and mettle, fighting back to 19-19 as a nervous Hee produced three unforced errors to unintentionally aid his opponents.

Still there was a chance for he and Tan to complete a stunning triumphant Huang’s mistimed shot cannoned off the edge of her racket to give the Singaporeans match point at 20-19. Agonisingly, Hee hit into the net to level the score again and then gifted match point to Lu and Huang by pushing wide of the right sideline. The crowd groaned as 21-20 to China flashed on the scoreboard.

A monster smash from Lu in Tan’s direction sealed the deal as the latter was unable to handle the power and the shuttle rocketed out of court. Punching the air and shouting with relief, the winners rejoiced at the 17-21 21-16 22-20 result which put them into their fourth straight Superseries quarter-final.

“We didn’t change too much. It was more of our mind-set. We were very determined and we believed that we could catch up. We felt pressured because the Singaporeans had a big lead but we continued to be confident,” said the Chinese.

Admitting that inexperience was a major factor in their loss, Hee disclosed: “We were uncertain about our shots towards the end because we wanted to win. That resulted in our hesitation because we wanted to do many things, so we ended up losing focus. It’s sad that we could not win.”

His partner chose to look at the bright side, saying they were not “expecting such a close fight” versus the Chinese champions.

“We were just trying to put up a good fight but we actually exceeded our expectations. We think our standard can get better,” added Tan.

Also progressing to the Mixed Doubles quarter-finals were India’s B. Sumeeth Reddy/Ashwini Ponnappa (17-21 21-17 21-16 over Korea’s Kim Jae Hwan/Lee So Hee); Korea’s Kim Gi Jung/Shin Seung Chan (21-18 21-14 over Chinese Taipei’s Lu Ching Yao/Chiang Kai Hsin) and Chinese Taipei’s Wang Chi-Lin/Lee Chia Hsin (21-16 21-15 over Japan’s Yugo Kobayashi/Misaki Matsutomo). In night-time action, Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto of Indonesia avenged last week’s loss to Korea’s Choi Solgyu/Chae Yoo Jung.

In Women’s Doubles, Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl looked ominously good as they dispatched yet another China tandem in straight games. A day after ousting Huang Dongping/Li Yinhui, the Olympic silver medallists advanced to the last eight at the expense of Bao Yixin/Yu Xiaohan (21-13 21-16).

“We are really happy about today. When the draw was out, we were not really smiling because it’s tough to play a Chinese pair in the first and second rounds but today we showed that we can beat them,” said Rytter Juhl.

Pedersen highlighted their fighting spirit as a critical component of their arsenal which again served them well when they trailed 4-11 in the second game.

“We showed them that if they want to beat us today, it would be a long and hard match. I think this mentality is one of our greatest strengths at the moment.”

The No.2 seeds face Naoko Fukuman/Kurumi Yonao for a place in the semi-finals. The Japanese beat Hong Kong duo, Ng Tsz Yau/Yeung Nga Ting (21-12 22-20) while Korea’s Jung Kyung Eun/Shin Seung Chan prevailed against Chinese Taipei’s Lin Xiao Min/Wu Fang Chien (21-13 21-17). Korea’s other top women’s duo, Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee, also advanced as did Olympic champions, Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi (Japan). The latter were taken to three games by India’s Ashwini Ponnappa/Sikki Reddy and will now meet Thailand’s Chayanit Chaladchalam/Phataimas Muenwong for a semi-final berth. Another Thai duo, Puttita Supajirakul and Sapsiree Taerattanachai, and China’s Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan progressed too.

The Men’s Doubles quarter-finals is shaping up into an exciting battle, including Indonesia’s men of the moment, Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, who are looking for a fourth Superseries title this season.  Among others in the hunt are Malaysia’s Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong, Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda of Japan, Lee Jhe-Huei/Lee Yang (Chinese Taipei), Berry Angriawan/Hardianto Hardianto (Indonesia) and Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen (Denmark).