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.”

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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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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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