Doubles to the Fore – Day 4: BCA Indonesia Open 2017

Two Indonesian Women’s Doubles pairs lifted the spirits of home fans last evening, triumphing over seeded rivals to reach the quarter-finals of the BCA Indonesia Open 2017.

After enduring the loss of some of their star players in the first round, local supporters warmly embraced the dogged performance of Della Destiara Haris and Rosyita Eka Putri Sari and then the heroics of Anggia Shitta Awanda and Ni Ketut Mahadewi Istarani (featured image) in marathon matches that lasted 90 minutes and 72 minutes respectively.

As they emerged from the rubble of their on-court wars, the Indonesians revelled in the reality that they had laid flat the stellar partnerships of the Luo twins from China – the No.6 seeds – and the No.4 seeds from Korea, Jung Kyung Eun and Shin Seung Chan; last summer’s Olympic bronze medallists.

The feel-good factor in the Indonesian camp was heightened by the hosts’ certainty of quarter-final appearances in Men’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles with two all-Indonesia clashes. Rio 2016 gold medallists Tontowi Ahmad/Liliyana Natsir won the latter contest, 21-17 22-20 against their team-mates Hafiz Faizal and Shela Devi Aulia. In a surprising outcome, Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto, got the better of Men’s Doubles No.8 seeds, Ricky Karanda Suwardi and Angga Pratama, 21-17 17-21 21-15.

However, it was the stand-out results of the Indonesian women’s pairs which took pride of place at Jakarta Convention Center. Haris and Sari came from a game down to defeat Luo Ying and Luo Yu (20-22 21-14 21-14) – raising their level to dominate the second and third games after losing a tight first game.

“It was a very long match. They played a lot of rallies so we needed to be patient. Tomorrow we’ll meet Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee, who just beat our friends, Greysia (Polii) and Apriyani (Rahayu). We’ll discuss our strategy with our coach and the other players. We will need a lot of stamina for that match,” said Haris.

Meanwhile, Awanda and Istarani were thrilled to defeat Jung and Shin – 21-15 12-21 21-15 – for the second time and lift the profile of Indonesia’s Women’s Doubles players.

“Our motivation is to bring Women’s Doubles to the standard of our Men’s Doubles and to be among the best,” said Awanda.

She and her partner face Puttita Supajirakul and Sapsiree Taerattanachai of Thailand for a semi-final place. The other Women’s Doubles matches pit No.2 seeds, Kamilla Rytter Juhl/Christinna Pedersen of Denmark against China’s No.5 seeds, Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan, and Japanese team-mates Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota and No. 8 seeds, Shiho Tanaka/Koharu Yonemoto, against each other.

Men’s Doubles too received a shake-up with No.5 seeds Chai Biao/Hong Wei falling to talented Chinese Taipei tandem, Lee Jhe-Huei and Lee Yang (21-17 17-21 21-19).

“We had not been playing well before we came here so we are happy. This is a great performance for us. The first three shots in each point were really important,” said the winners.

The Lees play Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen of China in the quarter-finals while another Chinese duo, Liu Cheng/Zhang Nan face Japan’s Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda. Indonesia’s Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto tackle Thailand’s Kittinupong Kedren/Dechapol Puavaranukroh. The fourth clash is a European blockbuster as Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov of Russia meet No.2 seeds, Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen of Denmark.

In Mixed Doubles, Tontowi Ahmad/Liliyana Natsir face Malaysia’s Tan Kian Meng/Lai Pei Jing while another Malaysian partnership, Chan Peng Soon/Peck Yen Wei, battle Chinese Taipei’s Lu Ching Yao/Chiang Kai Hsin. Top seeds, Zheng Siwei/Chen Qingchen (China), will be up against Denmark’s Mathias Christiansen/Sara Thygesen and Liu Yuchen/Tang Jinhua will oppose England’s No.5 seeds, Chris and Gabby Adcock.

“It’s amazing. This is our first time reaching a Superseries Premier quarter-finals together. This is really big for us. The drift is a bit of a challenge but not a huge problem. You just have to think more about what you want to do with the shuttle,” said an elated Thygesen.

Top Seeds Tumble – Day 3: BCA Indonesia Open 2017

The wretched fortunes of Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi took another twist this morning as the top seeds and defending Women’s Doubles champions were felled in the first round of the BCA Indonesia Open 2017.

In the day’s opening fixture, the Japanese – whose best result on tour this season has been runners-up in Singapore – were knocked out of the Superseries Premier event by Huang Yaqiong and Yu Xiaohan, 21-7 22-20. The Chinese grabbed control of the match in the first game and, though the points were closer in the second, dug in at the critical moments to ensure they took the honours at Jakarta Convention Center.

Once again, Matsutomo and Takahashi were left pondering how their results have plummeted compared to a year ago when they were Olympic champions and winners of five Superseries events, including Superseries Premiers in England, Indonesia and Denmark. While three other Japanese pairs romped into the second round, they were at pains to explain what happened, conceding they made a lot of errors and that, right now, their best is simply not good enough.

On the adjoining court, a similar fate was unfolding for Men’s Doubles top seeds and one of Indonesia’s prime hopes for a title at this tournament, Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon. The star pairing, winners of three Superseries already this year, cut a picture of shell-shocked dejection as they trudged from the court while Denmark’s Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen (featured image) celebrated victory, 21-16 21-16 in 34 minutes.

“We played one of our best matches ever. Kevin and Marcus are a world-class pair. We knew we would have to step up our game and control the match and also have good defence,” said Rasmussen, adding that shifting drift in the arena heightened their challenge.

“We wanted to defend our semi-final points from last year but we got a tough draw so we just focused on this match.”

The vanquished Sukamuljo and Gideon acknowledged “we were not on top of our game” and Sukamuljo revealed a recent shoulder injury hampered his shot-making.

“I got injured in training last week and every time I tried to smash I felt pain,” he told media.

Though buoyed by this result, Danish fans were stunned in the evening by the demise of No.7 seeds, Mad Conrad-Petersen and Mads Pieler Kolding, who seemed to have command of their match with a 19-15 lead in the decider, only to perish in the end. The outcome was even a surprise to winners Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov; the latter bluntly stating “We don’t know how we made that comeback”.

The Russians had pulled away at 12-12 to win the opener to which their rivals answered emphatically by leading the second game from the outset and yielding only ten points. The Danes continued in that authoritative vein in the decider, speeding ahead 7-0 and maintaining a good buffer at 17-12. However, Ivanov and Sozonov began to narrow the gap, with a 7-2 run levelling matters 19-19 before the Danes earned match point. It was not to be though as the next three points went Russia’s way, ushering them into the second round: 21-16 10-21 22-20 in 57 minutes.

Denmark’s disappointment was tempered by the progression of two of its other Men’s Doubles pairs (Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen and Mathias Christiansen/David Daugaard). China’s Liu Cheng/Zhang Nan, Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen, and Chai Biao/Hong Wei, all advanced though their compatriots, Lu Kai/Zheng Siwei were sidelined due to Lu being injured. Thailand’s Bodin Isara/Nipitphon Phuangphuapet and Kittinupong Kedren/Dechapol Puavaranukroh are also into the second round while hosts, Indonesia, have three pairs to fight their cause (Ricky Karanda Suwardi/Angga Pratama; Fajar Alfian/Muhammad Rian Ardianto; and Hendra Aprida Gunawan/Markis Kido). Another Indonesian son, Hendra Setiawan and his Malaysian partner, Tan Boon Heong, survived a dramatic test by Japan’s Hiroyuki Endo/Yuta Watanabe.

Apart from the top seeds’ departure, Women’s Doubles suffered no other upheaval with the remaining seeds advancing. China’s No.7 seeds (Huang Dongping/Li Yinhui) withdrew yesterday due to Li’s back injury. One of the category’s most exciting encounters today was the clash between Greysia Polii/Apriyani Rahayu of Indonesia and Korea’s Chae Yoo Jung/Kim So Yeong. The local pair earned a hard-fought 15-21 25-23 21-14 win.

“We weren’t settled in the first game but we were determined not to lose. Thank God we won the second game and eventually the match. The drift made the shuttle difficult to control so we had to be patient and not rush to beat our opponents,” said Polii.

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Maiden GPG Crown for Chen Xiaoxin – Yonex Swiss Open Review

China won four of five titles at the Yonex Swiss Open 2017 in Basel yesterday, with the teenaged Chen Xiaoxin picking up her first Grand Prix Gold title.

Chen Xiaoxin got the better of compatriot and World Junior champion Chen Yufei in the Women’s Singles final.

The only non-Chinese to top the podium on finals day was Mixed Doubles pair Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai. Lin Dan (Men’s Singles), Chai Biao/Hong Wei (Men’s Doubles) and Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan (Women’s Doubles) were the other winners.

Chen Xiaoxin surged into the final without losing a game. The final was no different, as she held off Chen Yufei in a close first game and then eased through, 21-19 21-14.

Men’s Singles top seed Lin Dan avenged his loss to younger compatriot Shi Yuqi in the Yonex All England semi-finals. Lin was untroubled through the week; the only significant challenge coming from Indonesia’s Anthony Sinisuka Ginting in the semi-finals, which he won 21-17 21-17. Shi Yuqi, meanwhile, had to fend off some tough challenges, such as Denmark’s Anders Antonsen in the third round and Chinese Taipei’s Wang Tzu Wei in the semi-finals. The final was one-sided all the way, with Lin shutting out Shi 21-12 21-11.

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Chai Biao and Hong Wei justified their top seeding by winning the Men’s Doubles over compatriots Zhang Nan/Liu Cheng in the final. Chai/Hong survived a close semi-final against Chinese Taipei’s Chen Hung Ling/Wang Chi-Lin, 17-21 21-15 21-18, and then held off Zhang/Liu in another three-game battle, 13-21 21-16 21-15.

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Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan lost only one game during the week – in the quarter-finals against Indonesia’s Della Destiara Haris/Rosyita Eka Putri Sari. The top seeds had no trouble against Bulgaria’s Gabriela Stoeva/Stefania Stoeva in the final, 21-16 21-15. The Stoeva sisters had earlier beaten China’s Bao Yixin/Yu Xiaohan in a close semi-final, 22-20 21-19.

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Thailand’s Puavaranukroh and Taerattanachai (featured image) outplayed Indonesia’s Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto in the Mixed Doubles final, 21-18 21-15. The Thais caused the upset of the event in the semi-finals, beating the in-form Chinese pair Zheng Siwei/Chen Qingchen 21-19 13-21 21-19. In the other semi-final, Jordan/Susanto got the better of another Chinese pair, Zhang Nan/Li Yinhui, 17-21 21-19 21-16.

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Tai Faces Sun Yu in Semis

World No.1 Tai Tzu Ying will have to vault past a hurdle she has never crossed if she has to have a shot at regaining her 2014 title at the Dubai World Superseries Finals.

Chinese Taipei’s Tai takes on China’s Sun Yu in the Women’s Singles semi-finals tomorrow. Tai has never beaten the Chinese in five matches. Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun will face India’s Pusarla V Sindhu in the other semi-final.

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The draw for the semi-finals was made after the completion of the group stage (featured image). The top players from the two groups in each category were separated, and the second-placed players were picked by lots.

Denmark will fancy chances of an all-Danish Men’s Singles final as their two contenders Jan O Jorgensen and Viktor Axelsen landed in opposite halves. Jorgensen faces China’s Tian Houwei while Axelsen has his semi-final against Korea’s Son Wan Ho.

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Men’s Doubles will see semi-finalists from the same groups. Denmark’s Mads Conrad-Petersen/Mads Pieler Kolding will be up once again against Japan’s Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda; the other semi-final pits China’s Chai Biao/Hong Wei against Malaysia’s Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong.

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Olympic Women’s Doubles finalists run into one another once again: top seeds Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi (Japan) have a semi-final date opposite Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl. The other semi-final will feature China’s Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan against Korea’s Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee.

The Mixed Doubles will see a repeat of last year’s semi-final between England’s Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock against Indonesia’s Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto. Denmark’s Joachim Fischer Nielsen/Christinna Pedersen face China’s Zheng Siwei/Chen Qingchen in the other half.

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Stars Set for Desert Classic

The Olympic gold medal might have been a dream achieved, but for Japan’s Ayaka Takahashi, there are more milestones to reach, more crowns to be won.

Takahashi and Women’s Doubles partner Misaki Matsutomo had a stellar 2016 which saw them win four World Superseries titles apart from the Olympic gold. Still, there is no question of resting on their laurels, said Takahashi, as she promised that the pair would attempt to regain the Dubai World Superseries Finals title they won in 2014.

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“We won the Olympic gold, but we haven’t won the World Championships,” said Takahashi (featured image: right), at a players’ press conference following the draw held today. “We consider each tournament a challenge and we want to keep winning. Our coach has taught us that each tournament is like the Olympics, so we want to go for gold at every tournament.”

Some of the stars who will feature at the Dubai World Superseries Finals, including Takahashi, Indonesia’s Liliyana Natsir, Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen, China’s Chai Biao and Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying fielded questions from the media and from young participants of Shuttle Time. BWF Secretary General Thomas Lund and Dubai Sports Council Secretary General, HE Saeed Hareb, welcomed the attendees.

draw-saeed-harebThe players’ quest for excellence was underlined by Indonesia’s Mixed Doubles great Liliyana Natsir, as she emphasised the importance of discipline in pursuing one’s goals.

“You need to control yourself, be disciplined… you have to eat well, rest well, and follow a good schedule. Only then can you be successful,” Natsir said.

The Indonesian asserted that she was keen to do well in Dubai: “After winning the gold in Rio, our mind is at ease. We’re enjoying the game now. We just finished playing in the National Championships. We hope to win the title here.”

Earlier, in his welcome speech, Thomas Lund complimented players who had qualified for the event, and local organisers who had ensured that badminton is now a part of the sporting landscape of the United Arab Emirates.

“Dubai and the United Arab Emirates in general have truly embraced badminton,” said Lund. “They have adopted our schools development programme, Shuttle Time; started tournaments in schools and clubs; held courses for coaches and technical officials; and have begun para-badminton training. Badminton is also now part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Games… What we have collectively achieved is a shining example of how to establish and promote a sport in a world-class environment; from the grassroots to elite level. Congratulations on a job well done.”

HE Saeed Hareeb had words of praise for the event and for BWF: “We have over 400 events every year in Dubai. The Dubai World Superseries Finals is one of the best of the 400. This is a huge achievement for the tournament and organisers. This event is important for many reasons – we see some of the best players in Dubai; as a result, there is growth of badminton in the local community and at the grassroots level. We are proud to be working alongside you.”