Chen Wins All-Star Battle – Day 4: CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017

Chen Long survived three match points to get the better of Lin Dan in the Men’s Singles quarter-finals of the CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017 today.

It was a session that almost saw two veteran stars overshadow their younger rivals. While Lin nearly pulled the plug on Chinese compatriot Chen, fellow-veteran Lee Hyun Il of Korea made no mistake in shutting the door on China’s Tian Houwei, 17-21 21-15 21-18. Lee and Chen face off in the semi-finals; the other half will feature India’s Kidambi Srikanth against China’s Shi Yuqi.

The Lin-Chen battle was a cagey affair for the most part, both wary of the other’s great skills, and worked hard to create openings. With both Lin and Chen showing iron control over the shuttle, explosive bursts were few and far between. Lin finally opened up in the third game with big crosscourt smashes that homed in on the lines. A couple of wayward shots by Chen saw Lin nearly home at 20-18.

The World champion however got back into the match with some alert play at the death, and he took the first chance that he got to clinch the 78-minute encounter to improve his career record against his compatriot to 4-8.

While Lin was involved in the titanic battle with Chen, Lee Hyun Il handed the much-younger Tian Houwei a lesson or two. The Korean’s silken strokes and sublime control saw him orchestrate the play to his liking, and despite Tian throwing his biggest punches, Lee calmly placed the shuttle where he willed to come away a 17-21 21-15 21-18 winner.

Earlier, in Women’s Doubles, Denmark’s Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Christinna Pedersen pulled off an escape act against hard-hitting Koreans Kim Hye Rin and Yoo Hae Won, saving three match points en route to victory: 21-11 15-21 23-21.

Kim and Yoo showed no sign that they had paired up only recently, attacking and defending in sync to frustrate the second seeded Danes. With Yoo spotting an empty corner to earn two match points in the third, the Danes looked out of it, but to their credit, stuck at their task. It was Rytter Juhl who raised her game at the critical moment, cracking smash winners to set up match point for the Danes, which she converted at the first opportunity by dropping the shuttle in front of the stranded Koreans.

“We were really struggling after winning the first, maybe they stepped up and it was difficult for us to find the right length in our defence in the second set and that made us uncomfortable,” said Pedersen. “Because when you don’t find the right length in defence against these strong Koreans, it’s difficult, as they have a good attacking game.”

“When it’s close in the end, the Koreans always want to play the front court and won’t stand in defence, and we said we had to move forward and try to find the attack, and Christinna made some rushes at the net, and I got some good smashes,” added Rytter Juhl. “I felt the Koreans could feel the victory in front of them, it would be a good result for them to reach the semi-finals, so we talked about that, that it was important for them, so they would get a little nervous. So just stay close and maybe we could do it in the end, and we did!”

The Danes take on Japan’s Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota, while in the top half, No.1 seeds Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi face familiar rivals Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan (China). Matsutomo/Takahashi had a hard time getting past compatriots Shiho Tanaka/Koharu Yonemoto, 21-16 18-21 21-16, as did Chen/Jia over their compatriots Bao Yixin/Tang Jinhua, 21-17 20-22 21-18.

Women’s Singles saw China’s Sun Yu burst into inconsolable tears after winning a hard battle against India’s Saina Nehwal, 21-17 10-21 21-17.

“I haven’t reached a single semi-final this year, that’s why I feel so emotional,” said Sun, even as the tears freely flowed.

Two Japanese made the semi-finals. Nozomi Okuhara stands between Sun and a repeat final place at the Australian Open, while Akane Yamaguchi will have the task of stopping top seed Tai Tzu Ying (Chinese Taipei).

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Jayaram Trumps Tian – Badminton Asia Championships 2017: Day 2

Recent China Masters champion Tian Houwei was dumped out of the opening round of the Badminton Asia Championships by India’s Ajay Jayaram.

Jayaram held firm in a tense finish to prevail over the No.5 seed in their first round Men’s Singles clash, 21-18 18-21 21-19. The Indian faces Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Jen Hao, who shut out Hong Kong’s Hu Yun, 21-13 21-14.

Top seed Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia) and other frontrunners Lin Dan and Chen Long booked their second round places with comfortable victories.

In Men’s Doubles, No.8 seeds Lee Jhe-Huei/Lee Yang (Chinese Taipei) were shown the door by Thailand’s Kittinupong Kedren/Dechapol Puavaranukroh 21-19 21-19, while in Women’s Doubles, No.7 seeds Puttita Supajirakul/Sapsiree Taerattanachai (Thailand) ran aground against Malaysia’s Vivian Hoo/Woon Khe Wei 13-21 21-18 21-19.

Women’s Singles saw a couple of upsets as No.7 seed Saina Nehwal (India) and Nozomi Okuhara (Japan) crashed out. Nehwal was beaten by Japan’s Sayaka Sato 19-21 21-16 21-18, while Okuhara fell to Korean qualifier Lee Jang Mi 21-14 21-16.

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Ohori Clinches Memorable Win – China Masters 2017: Review

Japan’s Aya Ohori claimed her career’s most memorable win at the China Masters 2017 yesterday, helping her stake a strong claim for World Championships qualification.

At the start of the Grand Prix Gold event in Changzhou (the final qualifying event for the TOTAL BWF World Championships), Ohori was sixth in line among the Japanese Women’s Singles contenders for a qualification place. A member association can field three entries if all three are within the top 24 of the Race to Glasgow rankings. At No.19, Ohori was behind compatriots Akane Yamaguchi (No.5), Nozomi Okuhara (No.9), Sayaka Sato (No.16), Ayumi Mine (No.17) and Minatsu Mitani (No.18). Except Mine and Ohori, none of the other Japanese were in the China Masters draw.

Mine’s defeat in the opening round opened up the path for Ohori (featured image), and she surged into the final without dropping a game against a succession of young Chinese players. She had her first setback when she dropped the second game against compatriot Saena Kawakami in the final, but she rebounded to clinch the title 21-9 9-21 21-18. The 7000 points from winning the title should help her leapfrog Mitani, Mine and Sato into third place among the Japanese Women’s Singles qualifiers.

Kawakami also had a memorable event, beating World Junior champion Chen Yufei (China) in the quarter-finals and another young Chinese, Cai Yanyan, in the semi-finals.

In Men’s Singles, Tian Houwei overcame compatriot Qiao Bin 21-15 15-21 21-16, helping him climb to second place among the Chinese qualifiers on the Race to Glasgow rankings.

Interestingly, five-time World champion Lin Dan also staked his claim for World Championships qualification by making the semi-finals of the China Masters (he lost to Qiao Bin in three games). Lin’s semi-final performance gave him sufficient points to leap ahead of World and Olympic champion Chen Long into third spot among the Chinese qualifiers.

An interesting scenario played out in Men’s Doubles. Chinese contenders Huang Kaixiang/Wang Yilyu and Zhang Nan/Liu Cheng, separated by just 880 points at the start of the event and in the race for third qualification place, both fell in the quarter-finals. Zhang/Liu fell at the hands of Indonesia/Malaysia combination Hendra Setiawan/Tan Boon Heong 19-21 21-16 21-14. Huang/Wang lost a close match to Indonesia’s Berry Angriawan/Hardianto Hardianto 21-17 14-21 23-21, but their third place was assured after the loss of their compatriots.

The title was won by Chinese Taipei’s Wang Chi-Lin/Chen Hung Ling over Japan’s Takuto Inoue/Yuki Kaneko, 21-14 21-6.

In Women’s Doubles, Indonesia’s Rizki Amelia Pradipta/Tiara Rosalia Nuraidah’s quarter-finals performance gave them sufficient points to stake their qualification claim as their country’s third pair. Pradipta/Nuraidah gained 3850 points and will overtake Greysia Polii/Nitya Krishinda Maheswari in the Race to Glasgow rankings.

Pradipta/Nuraidah fell in the quarter-finals to China’s Du Yue/Xu Ya. The title was won by Bao Yixin/Yu Xiaohan who beat Chinese compatriots Huang Yaqiong/Tang Jinhua 8-21 21-14 21-17.

In Mixed Doubles, Hafiz Faisal/Shela Devi Aulia’s semi-final performance proved insufficient to get them past the third-ranked Indonesian pair Ronald Ronald/Melati Daeva Oktavianti. Faisal/Aulia fell to China’s Wang Yilyu/Huang Dongping, who went on to clinch the title over Chinese Taipei’s Liao Min Chun/Chen Hsiao Huan 21-14 21-10.

The invitations to all the qualifiers based on the World Rankings of 27 April 2017 will be sent in two phases; the deadline for confirmation of entries in Phase-II is 22 May 2017. Seeding will be based on the World Ranking of Thursday 3 August, and the draw will be held on Wednesday 9 August.

The TOTAL BWF World Championships will be held in Emirates Arena, Scotland, from 21 to 27 August 2017. Tickets are available at: http://www.glasgow2017.com/tickets.aspx.

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Bullseye on Seventh Try! – Dubai World Superseries Finals: Singles Finals

finals_viktor-axelsen2When it came, there was no exaggerated leap, no joyful shout – just disbelief.

Viktor Axelsen finally surmounted the one barrier that has stood in his way for many years – a first World Superseries title. It came on the grandest of stages – the season-ending Dubai World Superseries Finals.

The Dane, in his seventh Superseries final, delivered what he has promised for long – the Men’s Singles title – with a hard-fought 21-14 6-21 21-17 result over China’s Tian Houwei. Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying regained her 2014 Women’s Singles title, taking the crown in comfortable fashion over Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun.

“Winning this title means the world to me,” said Axelsen. “I’ve been in many finals now… it was a battle of nerves, especially in the third set, and I am happy I came out strongest in the end. It wasn’t beautiful, but it was enough from my side.”

It was his newfound ability to stubbornly stay the course despite setbacks that won Axelsen the title. There were moments in the decider when it could have slipped away – a couple of misjudgements and some easy net kills that were blown. But as he showed over the last couple of days, the Dane refused to let himself get bogged down.

The third set was neck-and-neck, with Tian’s indefatigable retrievals nullifying Axelsen’s offense. The match swung decisively late in the game after a marathon rally – the Dane, visibly exhausted, dived left and right to keep the rally alive until it was Tian who produced the error. Axelsen found his second wind – three big jump smashes on the line took him to match point; the title was won when he rifled a shot at his opponent’s body. Axelsen turned to his coach and clasped his head in his hands.

finals_tai-tzu-ying-sung-ji-hyun“I was really nervous in that third set, but in the end, I just said, ‘You know what, just stop this cr*p and just play with everything you got. Don’t act like a cry baby and just play the shot over the net’, and that was enough in the end,” added Axelsen.

A Repeat of 2014

The Women’s Singles final was a mismatch. Sung was a far cry from her energetic self in the semi-final victory over Pusarla V Sindhu; she was a step behind and far too erratic to test Tai Tzu Ying.

The Chinese Taipei star had to do little but keep the shuttle in play, for Sung moved on leaden feet and her shots were too wayward. Tai, true to style, produced some gems – including a unique shot that had her signature all over it – a backhand at knee level from the deep forehand corner. It was a day when she wasn’t required to be at her best – and she acknowledged as much: “I think Sung wasn’t moving well today. Maybe she wasn’t quite fit; it wasn’t difficult to deal with her. I’m surprised at how smoothly it all went. I’m thrilled to win my second title here and I thank all the fans who cheered for me. I loved the atmosphere in there.”

Sung said her semi-final had taken a lot out of her: “My condition wasn’t good, I just couldn’t move well enough and my shots weren’t on target. My long match yesterday drained me. Of course I’m disappointed to have lost my second final here.”

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Tian, Tai Shine Through – Dubai World Superseries Finals: Day 4 Session 1

Tai Tzu Ying reversed a sequence of five straight losses to Sun Yu, booking her spot in the final of the World Superseries Finals for the third time in four years.

Tai, runner-up at the event in Kuala Lumpur (2013) and winner in Dubai in 2014, offered glimpses of her semis_tai-tzu-ying2prodigious talent in her Women’s Singles semi-final against the Chinese, getting the job done in 50 minutes: 21-19 21-19.

Despite the loss, China had reason for cheer, as Tian Houwei beat former nemesis Jan O Jorgensen (Denmark) in the Men’s Singles semi-finals to give himself a shot at a first World Superseries title. Young guns Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan rode into the Women’s Doubles final, where they face Japan’s Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi. England’s Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock were the other pair to record a victory in the morning session.

Tai had never beaten Sun in five meetings, and was fired up from the start. Sun found herself chasing for the most part, having to react to her opponent’s heavily disguised shots coming from unexpected angles. Tai (featured image), often guilty of frittering away the advantage with loose play, suffered a similar spell in the second, but quickly pulled herself together and shot ahead of the tall Chinese.

“I’ve always made too many mistakes in past matches against her, while she was always stable,” Tai said. “Today I tried to cut down on the errors. I’m very happy to have finally beaten her after five losses.”

Tian Frustrates Jorgensen

Tian Houwei went into his Men’s Singles semi-final against Jorgensen with a negative record, having won only twice in eight meetings – including the inconsequential group match yesterday. It was a match quite unlike their past encounters: Jorgensen wasn’t his usual unruffled self capable of steady play over long periods, while Tian was willing to step on the pedal with his attack at the first opportunity. Jorgensen lost the plot midway in the third: 21-17 19-21 21-13.

semis_tian-houwei

“It was a different kind of match, he changed the tactics and I couldn’t cope up that well with the kind of things he came up with,” rued Jorgensen. “Sometimes he was playing a rallying style and then he changed to a very offensive style. That why I couldn’t get any rhythm and made too many mistakes.

“I made too many mistakes. Sometimes you need to go in there and get physical and I didn’t dare to do it, so I took some easy chances and made too many mistakes. I think he played well, he changed the tactics a lot, a bit different from the last time we played and that worked well for him.”

Awesome Matsutomo/Takahashi

Matsutomo and Takahashi were unstoppable in their Women’s Doubles semi-final. Nothing that their semis_chen-qingchen-jia-yifanopponents Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl did could stem the flow of points. The patterns of play fell nicely for the top seeded Japanese, who will attempt to add a fifth Superseries title in 2016 to their Olympic gold medal.

“It was one of those days…,” shrugged Rytter Juhl. “We were not 100 percent today, and you have to be at 100 percent to have a chance against them. They were one step ahead on every rally.”

“Our focus this year was the Olympic Games,” said Takahashi. “It’s tough to go back to the level we were in Rio but we are getting there. As we played more games, I’m getting a good feeling about my play. We are trying to approach this tournament in the same way as we did the Olympic Games.”

In contrast to the one-sided win that the Japanese enjoyed, Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan pulled off an unlikely straight-games victory over Korea’s Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee. The match seemed set for three games with the Koreans ahead by miles, at 14-5 in the second. However, the Chinese kept getting closer and closer, and the Koreans started to falter under the pressure. Chen and Jia, jumping in excitement at every point, reeled off seven of the last eight points to seal the contest, 23-21 22-20.

semis_chris-gabby-adcock

Mixed Doubles defending champions Chris Adcock and Gabrielle Adcock were involved in a tense tussle with Indonesia’s Praveen Jordan and Debby Susanto. After a close second game, the third promised a thriller, but it all went wrong for the Indonesians after a brilliant spell by Gabrielle Adcock at the front court. Some sensational interceptions and tight netplay by Gabrielle left the Indonesians frustrated, allowing the England duo a comfortable homestretch at 21-19 17-21 21-9.

“I think it was all going well today. I’m surprised at how aggressive I was at the net. I just kept the momentum rolling, I don’t think my feel stopped at all in the third game!” said Gabrielle.

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