It’s Japan’s Day! – Doubles Finals: CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017

Japan enjoyed heady success at the CROWN GROUP Australian Open, clinching two doubles titles in addition to the Women’s Singles crown.

Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi and Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda made it three out of three for Japan; both Japanese doubles pairs won their first World Superseries title of the year after Nozomi Okuhara had earlier won the all-Japanese Women’s Singles final. Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen won the Mixed Doubles for China.

The Women’s Doubles final saw Matsutomo and Takahashi overwhelm Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl 21-10 21-13.

Whether it was the strain of their long semi-final, or the fact that their Japanese opponents were just that much sharper in the final, the Danes were shut out in the opening phase of play and couldn’t find a way back. Both Pedersen and Rytter Juhl struggled to stay in the rallies, and with Matsutomo and Takahashi defending with solidity and picking off winners at will, it was mostly a one-sided contest.

Rytter Juhl was all praise for their opponents: “Today they were better than us in all aspects. Physical, mentally; they moved well, they could see what was happening faster than us. There was not much to do today.

“We’ve been using a lot of energy the last two matches. We started here with me lying in bed for two days as I was ill, but to be in the final is really awesome. We had to be more than 100 percent to beat the Japanese today.”

“I’m not sure we could’ve won today even if we won in two sets yesterday,” added Pedersen. “But to play extra 30 minutes hard fight yesterday, we used a lot of energy, but I know it would still have been difficult for us today.”

Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda too had things pretty much under control for most of the Men’s Doubles final against Tan Boon Heong (Malaysia) and Hendra Setiawan (Indonesia). The second game was closer than the first, but at the death, it was the Japanese who grabbed the first chance at attack, and the title was won on the 37th minute: 21-17 21-19.

“We didn’t expect to win this one, so that is why we feel so happy about today,” said Kamura.

“As this tournament is just before the World Championships, we now need to seriously think about how to compete there. It’s great that Japan won three titles here – our level has been improving, which makes us feel really happy and we have a lot of young people in our team. We work hard to respond to the expectations and dreams of our people.”

Praveen Jordan and Debby Susanto let slip a handy lead in the final game of their Mixed Doubles final against Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen, and the Chinese pounced on the opportunity to claim their second Superseries crown this year.

The Indonesians were looking totally assured in the final game, with Susanto defending brilliantly and Jordan easing the shuttle into vacant spaces as they worked up a 10-3 lead.

Chen’s astute serving at this point helped the Chinese climb back out of the hole they were in; the Indonesians didn’t do themselves any favours with a few return errors, and suddenly the Chinese had the bounce back in their step. Zheng’s sizzling smashes once again started to punch holes in the Indonesians’ defence, and the final point was won on the 58th minute: 18-21 21-14 21-17.

“There were a lot of ups and downs in this match,” reflected Zheng. “In the first game we were leading and they caught up. In the third game we were behind 1-9 but then we managed to catch up. So it would help us a lot to reflect why we were able to catch up and why we were caught up.

“To lose one game is normal and we expected it before the match, however even though we lost the first game and during the third game our points were way behind, we didn’t want to give up and we believed that we could catch up.

“We need to adjust our mentality and I was always the more anxious one. We need to change that.”

Tan/Setiawan in Title Bout – Day 5: CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017

Tan Boon Heong and Hendra Setiawan achieved a rare feat on Saturday at the CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017, becoming one of the few trans-national partnerships in a World Superseries final.

The Malaysian and the Indonesian, partners since January this year, showed glimpses of their heyday as they stormed past China’s Liu Cheng/Zhang Nan 21-15 14-21 21-17. They became the first trans-national pair in a Superseries final since Setiwan himself combined with Russia’s Anastasia Russikh to reach the Indonesia Open final in 2010.

With Setiawan in his customary role making sharp interceptions at the net, and Tan unleashing big lefty smashes, the Indonesian-Malaysian combo got off to a strong start and found their way back after losing the second game. It was a Tan Boon Heong special – a 391 kph smash – that set up four match points at 20-16, and it was converted on the second opportunity.

“It’s good that pairs like ours can reach the final of a Superseries – I hope the national teams allow players (to pair up),” said Tan. “I can’t remember the last time I reached a Superseries final. We have been training well together and we hope we can fight it out well tomorrow.”

Tan and Setiawan will have to get past Japan’s Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda. The Japanese ended the run of giant-killers Lu Ching Yao/Yang Po Han (Chinese Taipei) 21-15 21-15.

Japan’s having assured themselves of the Women’s Singles crown, have a shot at the Men’s Doubles and the Women’s Doubles. Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi reversed their recent run of losses to Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan, getting the better of the Chinese today in surprisingly easy fashion: 21-17 21-11.

The Women’s Doubles final will see Matsutomo/Takahashi face Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl. The Danes shook off the disappointment of a blown second game to fight their way past Japan’s Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota and make their third World Superseries final this year.

The Danes, who hadn’t lost a game in three previous matches to the Japanese, missed three match points to let their opponents into the contest and make it a sticky affair for them in the third. From 15-all, however, the experienced Danes were able to sting up a sequence of points that gave them the match at 21-16 20-22 21-18.

“The second set was tough to lose,” said Rytter Juhl. “Losing after three match points is hard. In the interval we talked about letting it go and being ready for the third and I think we managed that really well.

“We talked about going onto court in to the third with a lot of energy to show the Japanese that they are not on top even though they won the second set. So we really had to show that both mentally and with our body language. It was important for us to have a good lead because we had a little bit of difficulty playing on one side. It was a great match and great to have the crowd behind us.”

Olympic champion Chen Long gave himself a shot at his first Superseries title this year, struggling to combat the finesse of Korean veteran Lee Hyun Il, but coming away victor in 68 minutes: 26-24 15-21 21-17.

Lee played with the demeanor and control of a monk, pinning Chen to the lines and keeping things tight until he chose his moment to attack. Unusually for Chen, even his airtight defence was frequently blown as he struggled to read the lines of Lee’s attack. The Korean dominated the Olympic champion but failed to convert any of four game points in the opener; unruffled, he took the second and had his chances in the third until a late surge by Chen left him with too wide a gulf to conquer.

“I wasn’t perturbed at missing four game points in the opening game as I’d come in prepared to play a long match,” said Lee. “I’m quite satisfied with my performance this tournament. I feel lesser pressure now as an independent player, that’s why my performances have improved in recent times.”

Click here for results

 

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).

Click here for results

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.

Indonesia Reignites Superseries!

Fans are revving up for the resumption of the MetLife BWF World Superseries tour next week with one of the calendar’s most popular – and definitely most noisy – tournaments: the BCA Indonesia Open 2017!

This season, however, the decibel level will be fever pitch, not at the accustomed Istora Senayan, but at the Jakarta Convention Center as the regular venue is undergoing refurbishment ahead of next year’s Asian Games.

Nonetheless, when badminton’s big guns reignite ther battle in the Indonesian capital, they will be zeroing in on the top eight spots to enhance their qualification chances for the the Dubai World Superseries Finals. The season’s eight highest-ranked singles players and doubles pairs will compete in the desert showdown for a share of the US$1million jackpot from 13-17 December this year.

In Men’s Singles, Chou Tien Chen (Chinese Taipei) leads the standings after four out of 12 events, followed by Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen and Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia. Chinese superstar, Lin Dan; Ng Ka Long of Hong Kong; Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk (Thailand); Wong Wing Ki (Hong Kong) and young Chinese ace, Shi Yuqi, round out the top contenders in that order.

Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying – riding a wave of unprecedented success – has been victorious in three of the four Superseries events held this season so far, to sit atop Women’s Singles in the Destination Dubai Rankings. Unbeaten since last November in Hong Kong, Tai has won five Superseries in succession; with only the India title eluding her as she did not compete in Delhi.

Close on her heels is Carolina Marin, with Spain’s Olympic gold medallist having been runner-up three weeks on a stretch in India, Malaysia and Singapore. The consistent Sung Ji Hyun of Korea is third overall, thanks to semi-final runs in every Superseries this season.

Akane Yamaguchi (Japan), Pusarla V Sindhu (India), Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand), Nozomi Okuhara (Japan) and Sun Yu (China) round out the elite eight.

Men’s Doubles supremos, Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo/Marcus Fernaldi Gideon (featured image), will enjoy deafening support when they take to home court next week. Having blazed to the top of the podium in three Superseries this season, the Indonesians head the standings followed by China’s twin towers, Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen, and Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda of Japan.

Another Indonesian pair – Angga Pratama and Ricky Karanda Suwardi – are in fourth place, with Mads Conrad-Petersen/Mads Pieler Kolding (Denmark), Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong (Malaysia), Bodin Isara/Nipitphon Phuangphuapet (Thailand) ranking fifth to seventh respectively. Meanwhile, Denmark’s evergreen masters, Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen of Denmark, have moved into reckoning with their victory in the OUE Singapore Open 2017 to be in eighth position currently.

YONEX All England Open 2017 champions, Chang Ye Na and Lee So Hee, are the leaders of the Women’s Doubles pack. Having starred in Korea’s recent Sudirman Cup success, they will be keen to continue their strong form in Jakarta. Their compatriots, Jung Kyung Eun and Shin Seung Chan are in third place but the big headline in this category is that Japan has four pairs in the top seven of the Destination Dubai Rankings!

Celcom Axiata Malaysia Open champions Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota are in second place. These Japanese came of age rapidly this season, with a quarter-final in Birmingham, followed by a semi-final in Delhi, before winning in Kuching. Their team-mates, Naoko Fukuman/Kurumi Yonao, are in fifth while another Japanese pair, Shiho Tanaka/Koharu Yonemoto – champions in their first Superseries final in India – are sixth. Japan’s Rio 2016 gold medallists, Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi are seventh, having lost their only Superseries final this season  (Singapore) to Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl who are fourth overall. China’s recently-paired Huang Yaqiong/Tang Jinhua are beginning to make inroads and sit in eighth at the moment.

Huang Yaqiong’s name has featured prominently in Mixed Doubles though, as she and partner, Lu Kai, have reached all four Superseries finals – capturing three of them. They are comfortably ahead of the competition in the Destination Dubai Rankings, with Chinese peers, Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen, who defeated them in the Kuching finale, currently in second place. The blossoming partnership of Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai has been reaping handsome rewards and the Thai tandem are third in race for the desert classic.

England’s Adcock household – Chris and Gabby – are fourth with Malaysia’s Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying in fifth. The remainder of the top eight is completed by Joachim Fischer Nielsen/Christinna Pedersen (Denmark); Olympic gold medallists, Tontowi Ahmad/Liliyana Natsir (Indonesia); and Korea’s upcoming duo, Choi Solgyu/Chae Yoo Jung – fresh from clinching the Sudirman Cup for their country.

The BCA Indonesia Open 2017 will be followed by the CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017 in Sydney. These two events will bring the MetLife BWF World Superseries to its halfway mark and fans will get a better picture of how fortunes are shaping up. Exciting times and more surprises are certainly ahead with stops in Japan, Korea, Denmark, France, China and Hong Kong in the second half of the season.