Danes Dig Deep – Day 4 (Session 2): TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017

As has so often been the case, Denmark’s tried and tested Men’s Doubles and Women’s Doubles warriors saw their country through perilous waters tonight to the safe harbour of the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017 quarter-finals.

For the second successive night, sub-group 1D – dubbed the ‘group of death’ – provided high drama inside the Gold Coast Sports & Leisure Centre as the No.2 seeds saw their progression in the event in danger after losses in Mixed Doubles and Men’s Singles. That gave Indonesia a 2-0 advantage in a tie they needed win by at least 4-1 to have chance of ousting either Denmark or India. Knowing they had to win two of the five games, Denmark’s veterans Mathias Boe (featured image) and Carsten Mogensen produced an incredible rear-guard fight to beat Men’s Doubles boy wonders, Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, and then left it up to their Women’s Doubles peers, Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl, to do the rest.

It mattered not that Indonesia won the tie 3-2 – the result was enough, not only to see Denmark into the last eight, but also to ensure they topped the group and secured one of the seeded places in the knockout draw, thus avoiding the likes of China, Japan and Chinese Taipei.

They are pitted against Thailand while defending champions, China, face India. The other battles for semi-final places will feature group-stage rematches as Japan and Malaysia were drawn against each other as were Chinese Taipei and Korea.

“I think we have a good chance of winning the match against Thailand but, as you can see from today, all matches are going to be close. Most teams will have to fight for every match we play. We cannot say anything for certain,” noted Denmark’s team manager, Jens Meibom.

Malaysia’s Technical Director Morten Frost was equally cautious about any predictions after his team were drawn against Japan – to whom they lost 2-3 earlier in the last group-stage encounters – and also in China’s half of the draw.

“Japan is one of the toughest teams. We will have to see if we can reverse the result,” he noted.

Japan’s Head Coach Park Joo Bong agreed the rematch would be testing but surmised the “bottom half (of the draw) is also strong” and that the teams “are fairly even”. His Chinese Taipei counterpart, Chang Jeng Shyuang, would have preferred to face another team but resigned himself to having to beat Korea again. It is a clash which Korean coach Ji Hyun Marr assessed as “50-50”.

Meanwhile, in the evening’s epic battle, the tide seemed to be turning Indonesia’s way as Gideon and Sukamuljo grabbed two match points versus the evergreen Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen. Somehow, the experienced Danes coolly withstood their rivals – saving a third match before forcing a decider which went to the wire; the European champions levelling the scores from 10-15 down and then outlasting the young guns in a tense shoot-out that had fans riveted to the action.

Boe and Mogensen displayed nerves of steel as they lost a match point, then saved a match point and duelled with their opponents around the net for the last two vital points; Boe smashing to bring them a second match point and Gideon succumbing with a backhand into the net to seal the amazing Danish comeback: 16-21 24-22 23-21.

Indonesia’s diminutive Women’s Singles player, Fitriani Fitriani, then wrested the tie for her nation, beating Mia Blichfeldt, 24-22 15-21 14-21. Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto had won Mixed Doubles against Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Pedersen (21-12 21-13) while Anthony Ginting capitalised on Viktor Axelsen’s meltdown to snatch Men’s Singles (13-21 21-17 21-14). However, having perished 1-4 to India yesterday, today’s heroics were not enough to save Indonesia as Pedersen and Rytter Juhl conquered Greysia Polii/Apriyani Rahayu, 21-18 13-21 21-13.

“We were under pressure after Viktor lost. It was a very tough group and I am very happy we qualified as No.1,” said a relieved Meibom.

On the adjoining court, Japan’s leading lights guided them past Malaysia in sub-group 1C with wins in Men’s Doubles (Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda), Women’s Singles (Akane Yamaguchi) and Women’s Doubles (Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi). Men’s Singles star, Lee Chong Wei and Mixed Doubles pair, Tan Kian Meng/Lai Pei Jing, were the Malaysian successes.

In sub-group 2B, USA defeated Austria, 3-2, with Jamie Subandhi triumphing in Women’s Singles and Mixed Doubles. Vietnam cemented their place atop sub-group 2A, trouncing Scotland 4-1; Do Tuan Duc starring in Mixed Doubles and Men’s Doubles.

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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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Who Will ‘Man Up’? – Day 3: OUE Singapore Open 2017

Who will win the Men’s Singles title at the OUE Singapore Open 2017 became an even more intriguing question this evening as Son Wan Ho – the top seed left in the draw – bowed out.

His conqueror, Indonesia’s rising sensation, Jonatan Christie (featured image), sent the No.4 seed packing, 21-15 21-18, en route to a quarter-final showdown with Son’s Korean team-mate, Lee Dong Keun who secured his spot earlier with an impressive rout of No.7 seed, Ng Ka Long of Hong Kong. The 26-year-old battled through, 14-21 21-12 21-18, to eliminate another potential title contender.

The plot thickened as Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk – the No.8 seed – breezed past Hong Kong veteran, Hu Yun, 21-17 23-21. The talented but temperamental Thai will clash with B. Sai Praneeth for a semi-final place. The Indian hopeful thwarted the aspirations of China’s Qiao Bin, rebounding after losing the opener to take the next two games.

In the night’s penultimate match, the resurgent Kidambi Srikanth fought back from three match points down in the third game to oust Indonesia’s Ihsan Maulana Mustofa (18-21 21-19 22-20) and keep himself in the frame. The Indian plays China’s Shi Yuqi tomorrow while the other quarter-final will be contested by Anthony Ginting of Indonesia and Hong Kong’s Wong Wing Ki.

Assessing his performance, Christie noted his stamina waned in the second game, especially after an extended rally. He focused on pressuring his opponent as he did not want a nightmarish repeat of matches in which he has wilted after winning the first game. Having succeeded with that tactic, the 19-year-old is looking forward to battling Lee whom he last played two years ago.

“I lost to him in Korea’s Grand Prix Gold…from what I see, he is stronger and that is where I want to challenge myself again. To try my best to beat him,” said Christie.

Meanwhile, Praneeth exited the court smiling, clearly pleased to be a Superseries quarter-finallist again.

“I felt great today. Men’s Singles is a very tough category and it’s a long time I have not reached the quarter-finals. The way this tournament is going, everyone has a chance but it will be hard because all the remaining players are very good,” noted the 24-year-old, following his 21-15 21-23 21-16 victory versus Qiao.

Praneeth started cautiously and without a definitive strategy as he had never played the Chinese.

“I thought ‘Let’s see how this goes’ and I can make up my strategy as I go along. Sometimes it was a lot of rallies and sometimes it was attack, attack. I had to be smart enough to adapt to whatever he was doing – and it worked.”

In Women’s Singles, Carolina Marin and Pusarla V Sindhu set another date across the net from each other, advancing in contrasting styles. Spain’s Olympic gold medallist thrashed Chinese Taipei’s Lee Chia Hsin, 21-7 21-11, in 27 minutes while lanky Pusarla found herself in a spot of bother against Fitriani Fitriani. Despite her small stature, the 18-year-old Indonesian came up with some huge shots that flew past the Indian star and deft touches at net, particularly in the first game which she wrestled away from Pusarla, 21-19.

It meant that for the second successive day, the Rio 2016 silver medallist would have to go three games if she were to remain in the tournament – and that she did. Stepping up her strokes and increasingly dictating the pace as she made inroads versus her rival. Pusarla took the second game 21-17 on a challenge which went her way and dominated the third to win 19-21 21-17 21-8. However, on the second last point of the match, Fitriani signed off with a cross-court slice that landed delicately in the front court on the other side. The crowd’s loud appreciation of her talent, signalling that hers is a name they will remember for the future.

“She played well and my attacking strokes were not working early in the match, but I came into it more in the second game and then it was easy in the third. You have to be prepared for everything in each match so I was ready to go three games today,” said Pusarla, adding that she is looking forward to another chapter of her rivalry with Marin, having won their last encounter on home turf in India.

Other Women’s Singles quarter-final matches will feature Beiwen Zhang (USA) versus No.3 seed, Akane Yamaguchi of Japan; Sun Yu (China) versus No.2 seed, Sung Ji Hyun (Korea); and top seed Tai Tzu Ying (Chinese Taipei) against Sayaka Sato (Japan) who beat defending champion, Ratchanok Intanon, in the first round.