Srikanth, Okuhara Sizzle – Singles Finals: CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017

The dream held it spell into the second straight week for Kidambi Srikanth as he won the CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017 against Olympic champion Chen Long.

His Men’s Singles triumph today capped a stellar run that began with his runner-up finish at the OUE Singapore Open, followed by the title triumph at the BCA Indonesia Open last week. In the final today Srikanth delivered another perfect performance: judicious attack, tight net control and a willingness to stay the course in the rallies.

One point early in the second game defined the match: Srikanth challenged Chen with long clears, on and on, until he rose to hammer a down-the-line winner. Chen, a master of playing error-free for long spells, had been hustled on his own turf, and he had faltered.

Srikanth later acknowledged that point had swung the match his way:

“I was not challenging him; I was challenging myself, about how long I can last. It was a critical point, I think it changed his attitude maybe, if he had won that rally he would’ve kept playing that way. But not many like those rallies happened in the second game after that. So I think that really changed the attitude of both of us.”

The Indian was lost for words while talking of his second straight Superseries win:

“It’s just that I was not thinking of winning or losing. I missed competitive badminton during my break last year and wanted to enjoy the match. These conditions are such that you can’t really attack, it’s a bit slow, you have to be prepared for a long match. In all the breaks today I had the advantage, (coach) Mulyo told me to keep it going, not to make simple mistakes and allow him back into the match.”

While Srikanth barely put a foot wrong, Chen appeared below par, unable to stay in the rallies and making far too many errors. A short serve gave Srikanth match point; a wayward clear on the next rally handed the Indian the title.

Chen, who had played two long matches before the final, said he was still recovering from gastroenteritis.

“As a whole I played very well, but since I arrived in Sydney I have had gastroenteritis and diarrhoea, so I haven’t been at my best physical condition,” said Chen. “But since I made the final I wanted to continue to play as well as I could. After I go back to China I am going to compete in the National Games immediately so it is going to be tough.”

In the Women’s Singles final, Nozomi Okuhara won her first World Superseries title since the Yonex All England 2016, displaying the full measure of her indefatigable retrieving style in getting the better of Japanese compatriot Akane Yamaguchi. Having clinched the match 21-12 21-23 21-17, Okuhara dedicated the win to her home city of Nagano, which experienced an earthquake this morning.

The Okuhara-Yamaguchi rivalry has produced many a memorable match; Okuhara led 7-4 going into the final, but Yamaguchi had the edge, having won four of their last five encounters. Today’s final wasn’t up there with their best matches, but it featured a great fightback from the brink by Yamaguchi.

Uncharacteristically, Yamaguchi looked tentative through the early part of the match, so unlike her bustling self during her fine semi-final victory over top seed Tai Tzu Ying.

Yamaguchi’s tentative play, coupled with Okuhara’s relentlessness, saw Okuhara sit pretty at 14-5 in the second with the first in her bag.

It was at this point that Yamaguchi rediscovered herself; the tentativeness was gone and the bustling attacking play returned. Yamaguchi’s courage under pressure saw her climb back steadily, pouncing on narrow openings to steal the second game.

With both having hit their rhythm, it was neck-and-neck in the third until 17. Okuhara’s greater consistency proved to be the match-winner; Yamaguchi overhit a couple of shots and suddenly it was all over for her.

“This morning my home town had an earthquake so I wanted to send good news to my home town. Yesterday I said that I wanted to show that Women’s Singles in Japan is at a high level so in this match when Akane Yamaguchi really fought in the final game, we showed that,” said Okuhara.

“I received messages from my friends in Tokyo saying I would be fine if I stayed confident. So I was thinking of what I could do from here because they have been good to me. I thought the only thing I could do for them is bring good news to them. So I worked hard for everyone who supported me to make them be happy.

“After the Olympics I had an injury and was a bit nervous. But this year my target tournament is the World Championships and step by step I am getting better. I wanted to see how far I could go so I played the game hard and I am happy about the result.”

Yamaguchi admitted her mistakes in the beginning had cost her dear:

“To be honest I wondered today if I could make a good match. But there was no use thinking like that, so I just wanted to play hard and from the perspective of the points, I just wanted to give the audience a good match that they could enjoy. But from the perspective of the result, although this was a good match, I am not satisfied with myself. I did work hard, did all that I could do.

“I made a lot of mistakes at the beginning. I would rather say this was about my own mistakes. I had a feeling that this maybe wouldn’t end well. I troubled myself a lot with thinking about whether I could make the game a good one and win the game.”

Three-in-a-Row for Srikanth – Day 4: CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017

Immaculate. Kidambi Srikanth’s third World Superseries final in a row happened with a perfect execution of tactics, as the Indian’s dream season extended into the CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017 in Sydney today.

With his demolition job of China’s Shi Yuqi (21-10 21-14), Srikanth became the first Men’s Singles player since Lee Chong Wei in 2015 to make three straight World Superseries finals.

There was little for him to say at the end of his 37-minute rout, for it had been against an opponent who did little wrong, but who could find no answers to the smooth skills of the Indian. Srikanth caught Shi in quicksand at the front court, and when he rose to fire in his smashes, the shuttle invariably whistled past the outstretched racket of the Chinese.

“Yes, it’s a dream performance,” said Srikanth. “I played a World Superseries final (Singapore Open) after two years, and then to play the next two finals is a dream for sure. I was in control of the whole match, I didn’t give him any easy points at the start. It’s just that I had to stay there, he’s someone who wants to keep the shuttle in play and goes for the odd shot, so I wanted to stay there and not give him easy points. I was in control at the net.

“I have no thoughts about the final, no thoughts about winning or losing. (If it is Chen Long) I’ve played him four or five times. Most times it was close. I played him twice this year, I lost 21-19 or so.”

(To be updated)

Tai Digs Deep – Day 4: CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017

Tai Tzu Ying battled through patchy form and past a difficult opponent to enter the semi-finals of the CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017 today in Sydney.

The Chinese Taipei Women’s Singles star – not at her best as she is still recovering from flu – dug deep in the face of fast-moving and hard-hitting Indian opponent Pusarla V Sindhu, eventually hitting her stride in the home stretch: 10-21 22-20 21-16.

It was the athleticism and power of Pusarla versus the versatility of Tai, who showed only glimpses of her famed trickery. For the early part of the match Tai was under the gun as Pusarla’s power and reach dominated the exchanges; the Indian had a match point in the second but blew her shot wide.

The Indian once again took control and at 14-10 in the third appeared to have things under control. It was at this point that Tai (featured image) shifted gears; Pusarla was dragged to the corners and dealt sudden flashes of deception – Tai picked off five straight points, and finished the match with a held-back drop shot that left her opponent stranded mid-court.

“She was playing very well today, all I could do was to keep working hard,” said Tai. “She had some unlucky misses in the second game. I wasn’t 100 percent, my throat still feels itchy and I have a runny nose, but it’s okay.”

The top seed will face No.3 seed Akane Yamaguchi (Japan), who powered past China’s Chen Yufei, 21-15 21-14.

Chinese Taipei had a day to savour, with Yang Po Han and Lu Ching Yao’s dream run continuing in Men’s Doubles. The duo made their first World Superseries semi-finals, beating Korea’s Choi Solgyu/Kim Dukyoung in a fast-paced encounter, 21-16 21-18.

“It feels great, we’re very excited,” said Yang Po Han. “We’ve been working very hard together… it’s all about trusting each other and keeping our focus.”

Yang and Lu face Japan’s Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda, who prevented an all-Chinese Taipei semi-final by beating Wang Chi-Lin/Chen Hung Ling 21-18 21-19.

In Men’s Singles, Kidambi Srikanth’s recent form continued to blossom as he won only his second match in seven encounters against compatriot Sai Praneeth. After a close first game, Praneeth faltered in not maintaining the pressure on Srikanth, who steadily grew in confidence and closed out the match 25-23 21-17.

“The first game was very close, I lost four game points. That’s been the pattern every time I’ve lost to top players, I’ve missed my opportunities,” said Srikanth. “I have to avoid that. We know each other’s game pretty well. You just have to be patient. He’s a tricky player, he has variety. You have to be steady and take those special shots and retrieve them.”

The Indian is in his third straight Superseries semi-final, a turnaround from his modest form of last season. “It’s going great so far, not really thinking too much,” he said. “I just want to play well, because I missed six-seven tournaments last year, I just want to play as many games as possible.”

In Mixed Doubles, Wang Yilyu and Huang Dongping set up an all-China semi-final against top seeds Zheng Siwei/Chen Qingchen after beating England’s Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock 22-20 21-15.

The England pair had everything doing well for them at 20-18 in the first, but missed both game points and their game declined rapidly from that point.

“Obviously it was tough, we are good at being resilient, but today losing those game points did affect us,” said Gabrielle Adcock. “We beat ourselves today and that’s a tough one to take. It was frustrating for us, I think we did lose our spirit in the second game.”

Adcocks March On – CROWN GROUP Australian Open: Day 3

Chris Adcock and Gabrielle Adcock’s bright form of 2017 showed no sign of letting up as they made the quarter-finals of the CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017 today in Sydney.

The England pair, semi-finalists at the Yonex All England and the Yonex-Sunrise India Open, and quarter-finalists at the BCA Indonesia Open last week, held off a strong challenge from Korea’s Choi Solgyu and Chae Yoo Jung in the Mixed Doubles second round. The Adcocks were in a neck-and-neck battle with the Koreans, only managing to break free at the very end to seal the match 21-14 17-21 21-18 in 62 minutes.

“Very close match,” said Chris Adcock. “We had patches where we felt good and comfortable, but the thing about them is that they never give you anything.  If we lose our concentration slightly, they can come back at you; we showed great resolve and resilience in the game to keep fighting back.”

A couple of flick serves by Chris Adcock caught Choi by surprise and titled the match in their favour at the very end.

“Tactically the flick serve is a big weapon, people don’t use them (often enough). In this hall we know our defence is good and we were able to get the girl to the back and defend on the counter-attack really well. I’ve been working hard on the flick serve,” said Chris Adcock.

The England pair take on China’s Wang Yilyu/Huang Dongping, 21-10 23-21 winners over Japan’s Kenta Kazuno/Ayane Kurihara.

Seventh seeds Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto also had it easy, getting past Singapore’s Terry Hee/Tan Wei Han 21-6 21-12. The Indonesians face Malaysia’s Chan Peng Soon/Cheah Yee See who had little trouble disposing off the challenge of Indonesia’s Hendra Tandjaya/Sekartaji Putri 21-10 21-5.

Chan acknowledged that the new pairing had had the luck of the draw, but their next opponents would be a difficult proposition.

“Today our opponents were not so strong,” Chan said. “We just have to continue to build our combination. It’s a good start for us in Superseries. She (Cheah) was very excited but also nervous. Our next match is against Praveen Jordan and Debby Susanto. We don’t want to think too much. There are no expectations on us, we’ll just try to do our best.”

The other two quarter-finals will see top seeds Zheng Siwei/Chen Qingchen (China) against Japan’s Yugo Kobayashi/Misaki Matsutomo and Thailand’s Dechapol Puavaranukroh/Sapsiree Taerattanachai against Korea’s Kim Dukyoung/Kim Ha Na.

India enjoyed a good day in Men’s Singles, with BCA Indonesia Open champion Kidambi Srikanth and OUE Singapore Open champion Sai Praneeth booking their quarter-final places against each other.

Srikanth put out top seed Son Wan Ho (Korea) 15-21 21-13 21-13, while Sai also needed three games to get past China’s Huang Yuxiang 21-15 18-21 21-13.

“In the third game I thought I have to get the extra shuttle, that worked for me,” said Srikanth. “He’s someone who doesn’t attack too much, just keeps the rally going. You have to be more steady than him or you have to crack him. In these conditions it’s hard to go on all-out attack. My training is paying off. I’m really confident about my fitness.”

The two Chinese superstars – Lin Dan and Chen Long – also booked a quarter-final clash with wins over Indonesian opponents. Chen looked relaxed in a 21-10 21-13 decimation of Anthony Ginting, while Lin timed his explosive bursts to perfection as he held off a combative Jonatan Christie 21-14 21-19.

Denmark’s Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus stayed in the hunt to defend his title, beating Hong Kong’s Ng Ka Long 21-9 21-13 and next faces China’s Shi Yuqi, a 21-13 21-18 winner over Japan’s Kanta Tsuneyama.

Lee Slips Past Antonsen – CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017 – Day 2

Wily veteran Lee Hyun Il pulled off an impressive escape act against Denmark’s Anders Antonsen in the opening round of the CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017 today.

Andersen nearly had the match wrapped up at 19-15 in the third game of their Men’s Singles opener, but Lee expertly worked his way out of the crisis, and before the Dane had figured out how to regain the initiative, he was out of the match 19-21 21-10 21-19.

“I really don’t know why I lost. I can’t believe that I threw that one away, leading 19-15 and suddenly it was 19-21. It’s extremely tough,” rued Antonsen, still unable to believe that the match had slipped his grasp.

“Of course he’s very experienced, he knows where to place the shuttle at the right moments. He was solid on the big points, I started making mistakes at 19-15; he was very calm at the end. Even though I’m younger, it’s bad to lose a match like this because I had it in my hands. I stressed a bit too much, was attacking too hard on everything, and just a bit in panic… my performance was not good enough.”

Antonsen’s senior compatriot and defending champion Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus had no trouble in navigating his first round – against Indian newcomer Siril Verma, who went down without much of a fight at 21-16 21-18.

Champions of the last two World Superseries, India’s Sai Praneeth and Kidambi Srikanth, both progressed to the second round without much fuss. While Srikanth outclassed Chinese Taipei qualifier Kan Chao Yu 21-13 21-16, Praneeth overcame the loss of the opening game against Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto, eventually coasting through 10-21 21-12 21-10.

“I knew he would be tough as he’s a rally kind of player,” Praneeth said. “I couldn’t adjust to the pace initially, he was playing fast. Once I started getting my smashes in, I felt better. Sometimes when I’m leading, I lose two-three points consecutively. I’m getting better at controlling it now.

“Singapore was a big tournament to win, obviously your confidence goes high. I won Thailand immediately after that. That was the real challenge…. and beating players like this (Sugiarto) will give me confidence.”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for India as HS Prannoy, semi-finalist in Indonesia, crashed out to England’s Rajiv Ouseph.

Another casualty was No.5 seed Jan O Jorgensen (Denmark), whose heel injury returned to haunt him as he retired in the third game against Indonesia’s Anthony Ginting.

Mixed Doubles defending champions Tontowi Ahmad/Liliyana Natsir, fresh from their exploits on home soil in Jakarta, were shot down 21-17 21-16 by Malaysia’s Tan Kian Meng/Lai Pei Jing (featured image).

The Indonesians failed to get any sort of rhythm and were chasing the Malaysians through the 39-minute encounter.

“We didn’t have time to recover since our win at the Indonesia Open (on Sunday), as we gave our 100 percent there,” said Ahmad. “We knew what we had to do and we needed to play faster, but my body was not supporting me. Our opponents also played well today, their defence was strong, and it was not easy to get points with one or two shots.”

No.4 seeds Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christinna Pedersen (Denmark) looked a shadow of themselves in an untypical defeat to China’s Wang Yilyu/Huang Dongping. The Danes were off the boil, appearing too rusty and committing far too many errors to trouble the Chinese during the 21-19 21-15 defeat.

In Men’s Doubles, fourth seeds and Olympic silver medallists Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong were shown the door in the opening round. The Malaysians were outplayed 16-21 21-13 21-13 by Japan’s Takuto Inoue/Yuki Kaneko.

Two other Japanese pairs progressed – Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda over India’s Sumeeth Reddy/Manu Attri and Takuro Hoki/Yugo Kobayashi over Thailand’s Supak Jomkoh/Pakin Kuna-Anuvit.

China’s Zhang Nan/Liu Cheng were a trifle lucky to survive as they survived two match points against Hong Kong’s Or Chin Chung/Tang Chun Man in a 67-minute affair: 21-18 20-22 23-21.

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