Top Seeds Tumble – Day 3: BCA Indonesia Open 2017

The wretched fortunes of Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi took another twist this morning as the top seeds and defending Women’s Doubles champions were felled in the first round of the BCA Indonesia Open 2017.

In the day’s opening fixture, the Japanese – whose best result on tour this season has been runners-up in Singapore – were knocked out of the Superseries Premier event by Huang Yaqiong and Yu Xiaohan, 21-7 22-20. The Chinese grabbed control of the match in the first game and, though the points were closer in the second, dug in at the critical moments to ensure they took the honours at Jakarta Convention Center.

Once again, Matsutomo and Takahashi were left pondering how their results have plummeted compared to a year ago when they were Olympic champions and winners of five Superseries events, including Superseries Premiers in England, Indonesia and Denmark. While three other Japanese pairs romped into the second round, they were at pains to explain what happened, conceding they made a lot of errors and that, right now, their best is simply not good enough.

On the adjoining court, a similar fate was unfolding for Men’s Doubles top seeds and one of Indonesia’s prime hopes for a title at this tournament, Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon. The star pairing, winners of three Superseries already this year, cut a picture of shell-shocked dejection as they trudged from the court while Denmark’s Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen (featured image) celebrated victory, 21-16 21-16 in 34 minutes.

“We played one of our best matches ever. Kevin and Marcus are a world-class pair. We knew we would have to step up our game and control the match and also have good defence,” said Rasmussen, adding that shifting drift in the arena heightened their challenge.

“We wanted to defend our semi-final points from last year but we got a tough draw so we just focused on this match.”

The vanquished Sukamuljo and Gideon acknowledged “we were not on top of our game” and Sukamuljo revealed a recent shoulder injury hampered his shot-making.

“I got injured in training last week and every time I tried to smash I felt pain,” he told media.

Though buoyed by this result, Danish fans were stunned in the evening by the demise of No.7 seeds, Mad Conrad-Petersen and Mads Pieler Kolding, who seemed to have command of their match with a 19-15 lead in the decider, only to perish in the end. The outcome was even a surprise to winners Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov; the latter bluntly stating “We don’t know how we made that comeback”.

The Russians had pulled away at 12-12 to win the opener to which their rivals answered emphatically by leading the second game from the outset and yielding only ten points. The Danes continued in that authoritative vein in the decider, speeding ahead 7-0 and maintaining a good buffer at 17-12. However, Ivanov and Sozonov began to narrow the gap, with a 7-2 run levelling matters 19-19 before the Danes earned match point. It was not to be though as the next three points went Russia’s way, ushering them into the second round: 21-16 10-21 22-20 in 57 minutes.

Denmark’s disappointment was tempered by the progression of two of its other Men’s Doubles pairs (Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen and Mathias Christiansen/David Daugaard). China’s Liu Cheng/Zhang Nan, Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen, and Chai Biao/Hong Wei, all advanced though their compatriots, Lu Kai/Zheng Siwei were sidelined due to Lu being injured. Thailand’s Bodin Isara/Nipitphon Phuangphuapet and Kittinupong Kedren/Dechapol Puavaranukroh are also into the second round while hosts, Indonesia, have three pairs to fight their cause (Ricky Karanda Suwardi/Angga Pratama; Fajar Alfian/Muhammad Rian Ardianto; and Hendra Aprida Gunawan/Markis Kido). Another Indonesian son, Hendra Setiawan and his Malaysian partner, Tan Boon Heong, survived a dramatic test by Japan’s Hiroyuki Endo/Yuta Watanabe.

Apart from the top seeds’ departure, Women’s Doubles suffered no other upheaval with the remaining seeds advancing. China’s No.7 seeds (Huang Dongping/Li Yinhui) withdrew yesterday due to Li’s back injury. One of the category’s most exciting encounters today was the clash between Greysia Polii/Apriyani Rahayu of Indonesia and Korea’s Chae Yoo Jung/Kim So Yeong. The local pair earned a hard-fought 15-21 25-23 21-14 win.

“We weren’t settled in the first game but we were determined not to lose. Thank God we won the second game and eventually the match. The drift made the shuttle difficult to control so we had to be patient and not rush to beat our opponents,” said Polii.

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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.

Danes Dig Deep – Day 4 (Session 2): TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017

As has so often been the case, Denmark’s tried and tested Men’s Doubles and Women’s Doubles warriors saw their country through perilous waters tonight to the safe harbour of the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017 quarter-finals.

For the second successive night, sub-group 1D – dubbed the ‘group of death’ – provided high drama inside the Gold Coast Sports & Leisure Centre as the No.2 seeds saw their progression in the event in danger after losses in Mixed Doubles and Men’s Singles. That gave Indonesia a 2-0 advantage in a tie they needed win by at least 4-1 to have chance of ousting either Denmark or India. Knowing they had to win two of the five games, Denmark’s veterans Mathias Boe (featured image) and Carsten Mogensen produced an incredible rear-guard fight to beat Men’s Doubles boy wonders, Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, and then left it up to their Women’s Doubles peers, Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl, to do the rest.

It mattered not that Indonesia won the tie 3-2 – the result was enough, not only to see Denmark into the last eight, but also to ensure they topped the group and secured one of the seeded places in the knockout draw, thus avoiding the likes of China, Japan and Chinese Taipei.

They are pitted against Thailand while defending champions, China, face India. The other battles for semi-final places will feature group-stage rematches as Japan and Malaysia were drawn against each other as were Chinese Taipei and Korea.

“I think we have a good chance of winning the match against Thailand but, as you can see from today, all matches are going to be close. Most teams will have to fight for every match we play. We cannot say anything for certain,” noted Denmark’s team manager, Jens Meibom.

Malaysia’s Technical Director Morten Frost was equally cautious about any predictions after his team were drawn against Japan – to whom they lost 2-3 earlier in the last group-stage encounters – and also in China’s half of the draw.

“Japan is one of the toughest teams. We will have to see if we can reverse the result,” he noted.

Japan’s Head Coach Park Joo Bong agreed the rematch would be testing but surmised the “bottom half (of the draw) is also strong” and that the teams “are fairly even”. His Chinese Taipei counterpart, Chang Jeng Shyuang, would have preferred to face another team but resigned himself to having to beat Korea again. It is a clash which Korean coach Ji Hyun Marr assessed as “50-50”.

Meanwhile, in the evening’s epic battle, the tide seemed to be turning Indonesia’s way as Gideon and Sukamuljo grabbed two match points versus the evergreen Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen. Somehow, the experienced Danes coolly withstood their rivals – saving a third match before forcing a decider which went to the wire; the European champions levelling the scores from 10-15 down and then outlasting the young guns in a tense shoot-out that had fans riveted to the action.

Boe and Mogensen displayed nerves of steel as they lost a match point, then saved a match point and duelled with their opponents around the net for the last two vital points; Boe smashing to bring them a second match point and Gideon succumbing with a backhand into the net to seal the amazing Danish comeback: 16-21 24-22 23-21.

Indonesia’s diminutive Women’s Singles player, Fitriani Fitriani, then wrested the tie for her nation, beating Mia Blichfeldt, 24-22 15-21 14-21. Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto had won Mixed Doubles against Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Pedersen (21-12 21-13) while Anthony Ginting capitalised on Viktor Axelsen’s meltdown to snatch Men’s Singles (13-21 21-17 21-14). However, having perished 1-4 to India yesterday, today’s heroics were not enough to save Indonesia as Pedersen and Rytter Juhl conquered Greysia Polii/Apriyani Rahayu, 21-18 13-21 21-13.

“We were under pressure after Viktor lost. It was a very tough group and I am very happy we qualified as No.1,” said a relieved Meibom.

On the adjoining court, Japan’s leading lights guided them past Malaysia in sub-group 1C with wins in Men’s Doubles (Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda), Women’s Singles (Akane Yamaguchi) and Women’s Doubles (Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi). Men’s Singles star, Lee Chong Wei and Mixed Doubles pair, Tan Kian Meng/Lai Pei Jing, were the Malaysian successes.

In sub-group 2B, USA defeated Austria, 3-2, with Jamie Subandhi triumphing in Women’s Singles and Mixed Doubles. Vietnam cemented their place atop sub-group 2A, trouncing Scotland 4-1; Do Tuan Duc starring in Mixed Doubles and Men’s Doubles.

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Irrepressible India! – Day 3 (Session 2): TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017

Lower-ranked India dealt Indonesia a huge body blow tonight, blitzing the badminton powerhouse 4-1 in sub-group 1D, dubbed the ‘group of death’ at the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017.

Having already lost to Denmark yesterday, India’s backs were to the wall and they fought tenaciously to remain relevant in the conversation at Gold Coast Sports & Leisure Centre, snatching the crucial opening point – in a terrific Mixed Doubles battle – followed by straight-games wins in both singles matches. In between those victories by Kidambi Srikanth (versus Jonatan Christie) and Pusarla V Sindhu, the season’s leading Men’s Doubles duo, Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, gave Indonesia a glimmer of hope. However, that was quickly extinguished as Olympic silver medallist Pusarla powered to the decisive third point in Women’s Singles – 21-8 21-19 versus the pint-sized Fitriani Fitriani.

India’s impressive rout of the joint 5/8 seeds was completed when Ashwini Ponnappa – one half of the Mixed Doubles duo who started the successful run – returned to centre court in Women’s Doubles to partner N. Sikki Reddy to a 21-12 21-19 triumph over Della Destiara Haris and Rosyita Eka Putri Sari.

“I feel great to get the winning point. I was confident and I didn’t allow myself to get complacent even when I was leading. Each point was equally important,” said Pusarla, hailing her Mixed Doubles team-mates for grabbing a precious point in India’s push for a quarter-finals spot.

“Mixed Doubles was a fantastic match and it wasn’t easy but we believe in ourselves. We fought hard yesterday but we lost and today we played more confidently and we won. If we get to the quarter-finals, I think it will be good.”

The much-heralded Mixed Doubles was claimed by Ponnappa and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy; the latter stepping up to senior level barely six months after competing in the BWF World Junior Championships. The 17-year-old showcased fearless shot-making despite staring at Rio 2016 champion, Tontowi Ahmad, across the net. Rankireddy was deadly from the back court while also working the shuttle smartly around to set up kills. Though he and Ponnappa prevailed 22-20 17-21 21-19, it could have been so much different had Ahmad and Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja capitalised on their 20-17 advantage in the first game. They led from the outset to seize the second game but fell behind early in the decider and never recovered despite clawing back to within a point from 7-15 down. Some poor strokes by Ahmad in the dying exchanges helped the opposition and, perhaps fittingly, it was Rankireddy who found an open space deep in the court for the winning shot as the hapless Ahmad was left stranded on the turf.

“It’s great to be playing in Sudirman Cup, among the seniors. It’s a good experience for me and I am happy we won for our team,” said a thrilled Rankireddy.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s team manager, Susi Susanti, blamed the doubles results for their downfall, conceding they were not expecting to win in singles. Though tomorrow night’s tie against Denmark will be “hard”, she remained optimistic and vowed Indonesia will give their best.

Meanwhile, Group 2 contenders Singapore and Australia set up a potentially enthralling clash to determine who tops sub-group 2B. Both achieved 5-0 results versus USA and Austria respectively to remain unbeaten. Sawan Serasinghe and Setyana Mapasa starred for the hosts in Mixed Doubles and then their respective doubles. In the Singapore-USA tie, only twin sisters, Annie and Kerry Xu, extended the Asians to three games, with Singapore winning the other four matches in eight games overall.
“They are the hosts and the crowd will be backing them. They have a good team so we have to look at our line-up and decide who to field. We know from here it will only get tougher and we have to be ready for that,” said Singapore coach, Chua Yong Joo.

In the clash of the Pacific minnows, Fiji defeated Tahiti 4-1. Both teams were previously beaten by Sri Lanka and Slovakia who meet tomorrow morning to determine which of them tops sub-group 3B.

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Top Guns Confirm Places

The stage is set for some high-profile clashes at the TOTAL BWF World Championships 2017 in Glasgow with most of the top qualifiers confirming their entries.

In Men’s Singles, gladiatorial contests between the likes of Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia; featured image), China’s Lin Dan and Chen Long, and Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen and Jan O Jorgensen are on the cards as the top qualifiers in Phase 1 of the eligibility list have accepted their invitations.

Among the other top Men’s Singles qualifiers are Son Wan Ho (Korea); Shi Yuqi and Tian Houwei (China); Chou Tien Chen (Chinese Taipei); Ng Ka Long, Wong Wing Ki and Hu Yun (Hong Kong), and Ajay Jayaram, Kidambi Srikanth and Sai Praneeth (India).

Phase 1 having concluded on Thursday 11 April, invitations have been sent to other eligible players under Phase 2 that will conclude on Thursday 25 April. Among the beneficiaries in the Phase 2 invitation list is Denmark’s Anders Antonsen. If his invitation is accepted by Badminton Denmark, the European Championships runner-up would join his compatriots Axelsen, Jorgensen and Hans-Kristian Vittinghus in the competition. A member association can field four players if they are within the top 8 of the rankings on the eligibility date in Phase 1, or if places open up due to other eligible players declining their invitations in Phase 2. An MA cannot exceed four entries in any category.

A few eligible players in all categories have declined their invitations mainly due to the Southeast Asian Games (in Kuala Lumpur) and the Summer Universiade (in Taipei) which coincide with the World Championships.

In Men’s Singles, some of the prominent names who have declined invitations are Chinese Taipei’s Wang Tzu Wei and Hsu Jen Hao; Korea’s Lee Hyun Il; Thailand’s Khosit Phetpradab; Vietnam’s Nguyen Tien Minh and Singapore’s Derek Wong.

Women’s Singles

World No.1 Tai Tzu Ying, who has been on a run of six straight title victories, will not be contesting the World Championships as she has declined the invitation to compete in the Summer Universiade in her homeland.

Nevertheless, Women’s Singles boasts a very competitive category, with the likes of two-time champion Carolina Marin (Spain); India’s Pusarla V Sindhu and Saina Nehwal; Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun; Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon; Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi, Nozomi Okuhara and Aya Ohori; and China’s Sun Yu, He Bingjiao and Chen Yufei accepting their invitations.

Men’s Doubles

In-form pair Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (Indonesia) lead a star cast in Men’s Doubles. Indonesia have confirmed their three pairs – Angga Pratama/Ricky Karanda Suwardi and Muhammad Rian Ardianto/Fajar Alfian being the other two.

Similarly, three Chinese, Danish and Japanese pairs each have confirmed their participation.

Russia’s Vladimir Ivanov/Ivan Sozonov; Chinese Taipei’s Yang Po Han/Lu Ching Yao; Olympic bronze medallists Chris Langridge/Marcus Ellis and Hong Kong’s Or Chin Chung/Tang Chun Man are all headed to Glasgow as well.

Women’s Doubles

Olympic champions Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi lead a strong Japanese charge that includes Naoko Fukuman/Kurumi Yonao and Shiho Tanaka/Koharu Yonemoto.

China too will be represented by three pairs: Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan, Luo Ying/Luo Yu and Li Yinhui/Huang Dongping.

Indonesia’s fourth-ranked pair Greysia Polii/Nitya Krishinda Maheswari have received an invitation for Phase 2. If they accept, they will accompany compatriots Mahadewi Istirani Ni Ketut/Anggia Shitta Awanda and Rosyita Eka Putri Sari/Della Destiara Haris.

Denmark’s two pairs have accepted: Olympic silver medallists Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Sara Thygesen/Maiken Fruergaard, while fellow Europeans, Bulgaria, will field Stoeva sisters Gabriela and Stefani.

Vivian Hoo/Woon Khe Wei and Lim Yin Loo/Yap Cheng Wen will be the two pairs doing duty for Malaysia, while Australia can look to Gronya Somerville/Setyana Mapasa.

Mixed Doubles

Lu Kai/Huang Yaqiong have been in blazing form this year, and the duo are part of a strong Chinese line-up that includes Zheng Siwei/Chen Qingchen and Zhang Nan/Li Yinhui.

Korea’s Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na, who have been out of action this year, have confirmed their entry, as have Olympic gold medallists Tontowi Ahmad/Liliyana Natsir (Indonesia) and Denmark’s Joachim Fischer Nielsen/Christinna Pedersen.

Indonesia have two more pairs who will do battle in Glasgow: Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto and Ronald Ronald/Melati Daeva Oktavianti.

England’s Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock will be buoyed by their recent victory at the European Championships as they seek a first World title.

Also in the running are Malaysia’s top two pairs Chan Peng Soon/Goh Liu Ying and Tan Kian Meng/Lai Pei Jing; Hong Kong’s Lee Chun Hei/Chau Hoi Wah; Japan’s Kenta Kazuno/Ayane Kurihara and Yuta Watanabe/Arisa Higashino; India’s Pranaav Jerry Chopra/Sikki Reddy; Polish veterans Robert Mateusiak/Nadiezda Zieba; and Russia’s Evgenij Dremin/Evgenia Dimova.

Click here for full lists:

Men’s Singles

Women’s Singles

Men’s Doubles

Women’s Doubles

Mixed Doubles