Bringing It Home! – Doubles Finals: BCA Indonesia Open 2017

Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir today rectified a glaring deficiency in their enviable honours roll, finally being crowned champions of their home Superseries tournament.

Unbridled celebrations broke out in Jakarta Convention Center as Natsir pounced at net for the winning smash that secured a memorable 22-20 21-15 triumph over China’s young guns and world No.1 pair, Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen, in the Mixed Doubles finale of the BCA Indonesia Open 2017.

It had long been a failure that niggled the Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallists – how could they win almost everything else in the badminton world but not conquer their own backyard?

Together they had stomached runners-up disappointment in 2011 and 2012. Natsir had also fallen short on finals day in 2007 with her previous partner, Nova Widianto. They had vowed this occasion would be different – that they would get it right. They would summon every ounce of energy, every bit of skill and all the lessons learnt from countless on-court battles to deliver the prize which their people wanted most.

They knew it wouldn’t be easy. Zheng and Chen have risen to the top quickly, proving themselves steely competitors – and they had already defeated Indonesia’s star act. Much of the match was contested on knife-edge, particularly the crucial first game. Neither pair could get free with a run of points. The action at net was riveting. The experienced Natsir – shrugging off knee problems – staring down the lightning-quick Chen who was leading China’s charge as Zheng struggled to find his usual sharpness. At 20-18, Indonesia had two game points but their rivals struck back. It was then 20-20 and fans were nervous but their heroes held their nerve to grab the lead.

The second game was equally tense but, at 14-14, Indonesia found an extra gear and went clear to seal a victory they will cherish for a long time as the Chinese challenge dwindled.

“This is so emotional for me. We have won so many titles but we had not won in our country. We prepared well and we had the right strategies. We went all out and thank God, we won,” declared a beaming Ahmad.

Boasting Olympic gold and silver, three World Championship titles, an All England hat-trick and much more, there’s not a lot Natsir craves but the 31-year-old was equally ecstatic to deliver in front of her home faithful.

“I am pleased to give this prize to Indonesia. This was a hard match. They are younger than us and stronger than us. The points were tight but we stayed focus. The first game was the key and it was important that we won it,” said Natsir.

Meanwhile, Zheng and Chen conceded they lost crucial points and were somewhat thrown off by the loud spectators, saying they could feel the vibrations from the noise. Like true champions, they promised to return better prepared next time.

Meanwhile, Chen consoled herself with the Women’s Doubles crown, in partnership with Jia Yifan. They withstood Korea’s Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee, 21-19 15-21 21-10, to clinch their first Superseries Premier title.

There was a similar pattern to the Men’s Doubles final as Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen dropped the second game versus Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen of Denmark but rebounded to take the decider with a barrage of big hitting. The imposing Chinese won 21-19 19-21 21-18 over their elder opponents who reclaimed the world No.1 ranking last week.

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Intriguing Doubles Await – Day 6: BCA Indonesia Open 2017

Chen Qingchen has a shot at two titles in the BCA Indonesia Open 2017 finals today – but hometown heroes, Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir, stand between her and the Mixed Doubles crown.

The Women’s Doubles championship is not a foregone conclusion either as in-form Korean duo, Chang Ye Na and Lee So Hee fancy their chances of adding a second Superseries Premier honour to their 2017 trophy haul, having won All England bragging rights in March.

In yesterday’s semi-finals, the latter calmly defeated Japan’s Shiho Tanaka and Koharu Yonemoto, 21-14 12-21 21-11, to book their place in the final. Later in the night, Chen and Jia Yifan (featured image) took care of their semi-final 21-12 21-17 despite a valiant effort by Indonesia’s Anggia Shitta Awanda and Ni Ketut Mahadewi Istarani.

“We are happy to reach the final. We don’t feel any pressure though the Chinese are very good. We work together and we are confident on court,” said Chang of their recent run of success, including a significant role in Korea’s victory in last month’s TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017.

The Koreans defeated Chen and Jia in straight games in the final of that tournament in Gold Coast, giving them a mental boost when they battle at Jakarta Convention Center this afternoon. However, regardless of their previous results, Chang noted that “each match we start from scratch so we have to be ready”.

Meanwhile, in Mixed Doubles, Chen and Zheng Siwei will be up against the whole of Indonesia as supporters come out in their numbers hoping to see Olympic champions, Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir lift a title that has so far eluded them – their home Superseries championship.

The Indonesian stars progressed to the final thanks to a 21-13 21-14 rout of Malaysia’s Chan Peng Soon and Peck Yen Wei.

“We are thrilled to be in the final and we will give our all tomorrow. We want to win and bring the trophy to Indonesia but it is not going to be easy,” said Natsir.

Top-seeded Zheng and Chen resisted a challenge from their team-mates, Liu Yuchen and Tang Jinhua, to win their semi-final over the qualifiers, 21-10 21-23 21-16.

The Men’s Doubles finale should also be a cracker with the vintage duo of Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen across the net from China’s heavy hitters, Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen; the latter making up for his Mixed Doubles disappointment by beating fellow Chinese, Liu Cheng/Zhang Nan, 21-17 18-21 21-18. The wily Danes shot down another pair of young guns in Indonesia’s Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto (21-17 18-21 21-12) and would love nothing better than to celebrate their return to the No.1 world ranking by taking Superseries Premier glory.

“It will be tough. They are extremely fast players so we will need to have fast legs. It’s fun to play these new pairs. We need to play our best every time,” said Mogensen.

“It’s our second final in Indonesia and hopefully the crowd will support us.”

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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.

‘Seoul’ Satisfying! – Final: TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017

Korea sensationally snapped China’s 14-year vice-grip on the Sudirman Cup, coming from behind twice to shock the ten-time champions in a 3-2 upset in the finale of the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017.

Before an increasingly boisterous crowd in Gold Coast, Australia, the underdogs – packed with young and relatively inexperienced players – produced a courageous, soul-stirring revival of Korean badminton less than a year after the powerhouse limped out of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with one bronze to its name.

What an amazing result for Kang Kyung Jin mere months after assuming the mantle of head coach of a squad depleted of its core of star athletes who exited the international scene late last year. The sight of this father-figure storming centre court and bear-hugging his young warriors was truly a tear-jerker.

“Before the event we were asked about our Men’s Doubles players, and we were called a weak team,” said Kang. “We tried to build our team spirit. We were in it together, and we believed we could do it.”

The bare facts first: Korea won the World Mixed Team Championships for the first time since 2003 – their fourth title overall. China were on a streak of six straight victories; with ten titles overall and an assembly of stars. They were red-hot favourites to add an eleventh title.

Few – if any – gave Korea a chance of topping the podium on Sunday.

“A miracle,” declared Kang after his side made the final yesterday.

That his team would surpass China in such dramatic fashion was perhaps something that even he dared not express.

Korea staged rear-guard recoveries both times they were down. As the tie entered the fifth match – the Mixed Doubles – China seemed to have the upper-hand, with Lu Kai and Huang Yaqiong – winners of four events this season – facing Choi Solgyu and Chae Yoo Jung.

However, it was Choi and Chae who were unfazed and inspired. The Koreans barely did a thing wrong. After losing a close first game, the Chinese started to falter – with even the normally composed Huang being outplayed by the sharp Chae at net and making elementary mistakes. Choi kept soaring high, converting half-chances with blistering smashes and leaving the Chinese ashen-faced with every point lost. The winner came on the 51st minute – 21-17 21-13. A jubilant Korean team stormed the court and Chae and Choi were buried under a heap of bodies.

“I was nervous,” said Chae, who was actually the steadiest player on court. “We hadn’t played well earlier, but it was the last match, and I thought there was nothing to lose. I was thankful to my team-mates for keeping us in the tie and taking it to the last match.”

None of this drama appeared likely with the tie beginning as expected: China held all the aces in the opening Men’s Doubles encounter between Fu Haifeng/Zhang Nan and their Korean challengers Choi Solgyu/Seo Seung Jae.

The Chinese were always assured of victory with Fu’s bludgeoning smash in their hands. Korea had nothing in their arsenal with which to hurt their opponents. Fu and Zhang, the tandem that has delivered so frequently for China on the biggest stages, once again combined with instinctual precision that left no room for Korea to manoeuvre. China had the lead in 42 minutes: 21-14 21-15.

Sung Ji Hyun had been Korea’s solitary flag-bearer in Women’s Singles this tournament, but if the exertions had weighed her down, she didn’t allow it to affect her against He Bingjiao. The Korean, relying upon the steady game that she is known for, barely made a mistake in spinning a web that entangled He Bingjiao. The Chinese was made to run endlessly, and when she attempted to inject pace, the Korean’s exemplary footwork was well in place as she calmly returned the shuttle to prolong the rallies.

It was smooth sailing for Sung until a brief spell in the second game saw some jittery play. He Bingjiao inched to within four points of her rival, but a slice of luck for Sung saw her get to match point, and she closed it out: 21-12 21-16.

Against a lesser player than Chen Long, Jeon Hyeok Jin might have come away a winner in the Men’s Singles. The Korean did everything right. Unruffled by the enormity of the challenge, he showed courage and his game was on target – tight net shots; judicious attack; no hesitation in taking Chen on in the rallies.

Chen is the Olympic champion though and made of a different steel – and nothing that Jeon threw his way could rattle him. Always a split-second ahead, there was an assured calmness about him that left no room for an upset. His vicious smashes homing in on the lines; his footwork always in place no matter the power or angle at which Jeon smashed, Chen gave nothing away. Jeon fought gamely, and though defeated 21-10 21-10, he didn’t come away disgraced.

Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan had delivered the semi-final tie for China against Japan with a power-packed performance against Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi. Korea’s Chang Ye Na and Lee So Hee, however, delivered a masterclass in countering the aggressive Chinese. Defending astutely and dragging their opponents into long rallies, the Koreans sniped off points; having lost a close first game, the frustrated Chen and Jia fell apart and the Koreans surged home, 21-19 21-13.

It was up to Choi and Chae to carry the flag. Fifty-one minutes later, what had seemed almost impossible transformed into concrete reality: Korea, champions of the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017!

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