Teen Topples Marin – Day 2: BCA Indonesia Open 2017

A Chinese teenager who had, until now, done nothing remarkable in the top flight, derailed World and Olympic champion, Carolina Marin, in today’s opening round of the BCA Indonesia Open 2017.

Facing a situation in which more experienced players have crumbled on countless occasions, Chen Xiaoxin (featured image) simply refused to be beaten, producing a stunning 21-12 10-21 22-20 upset of the No.2 seed at Jakarta Convention Center this evening.

When Marin rebounded from the loss of the first game to level the battle and prompt a decider, there could hardly have been a fan who did not expect the usually clinical Spaniard to motor into the second round, leaving Chen behind her. That familiar scenario certainly appeared to be unfolding as Marin carved out leads of 13-8, 14-10 and 18-15 – but somehow she could not shake off her 19-year-old opponent who kept finding a way back into reckoning.

At 20-18, two match points also came and went as Chen sped past the left-hander with four unanswered points to clinch a memorable success.

The outcome bore echoes of Marin’s recent, if unusual, fragility in tense circumstances. In Malaysia, the 23-year-old had rapidly receded into Tai Tzu Ying’s rear-view as the current leading lady of Women’s Singles seized control of the decider in a gripping final. A week later in Singapore, Marin melted down uncharacteristically against Tai again. Her steely resolve which had been the hallmark of her rise to fame, her back-to-back World titles and her Rio 2016 coronation was once more glaringly absent – and now today’s shocker versus the world No.33 player.

Despite post-match comments about drift in the makeshift badminton venue and the “shuttle being impossible to control”, she acknowledged all players have to deal with the same conditions, adding she will have to shrug off this setback and prepare for next week’s leg of the MetLife BWF World Superseries tour in Sydney, Australia.

Meanwhile, India’s Saina Nehwal hinted at returning to her best form as she savoured a fine victory over the ever-dangerous Ratchanok Intanon.

Having suffered fluctuating fortunes since knee surgery last summer, the 27-year-old marked another milestone in her comeback. Having been reeled in after holding an early advantage in the first game, Nehwal fought back in the second before dominating the third to prevail 17-21 21-18 21-12. More than the win itself, the Indian ace was pleased with how she played.

“I am really happy to be improving. I want to focus and to get more strength in my legs. Today I could lunge and move properly. I was still having some problems last week and I wasn’t confident about my movement,” disclosed Nehwal.

A fatigued Intanon lauded her rival’s movement, stating it was better than hers and better than how the Indian moved during the recent SCG Thailand Open 2017.

Another result that raised some eyebrows was the defeat of World Junior champion, Chen Yufei, by 17-year-old Indonesian Gregoria Mariska Tunjung. The latter outlasted the promising Chinese, 17-21 21-19 21-19, exacting revenge for her loss to Chen in the final of last season’s Asian Junior Championships. Tunjung gets a crack at world No.1, Tai Tzu Ying, in the second round as the Chinese Taipei top seed breezed through 21-8 21-12 against Japan’s Minatsu Mitani.

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.

Indonesia’s Doubles Success – SCG Thailand Open 2017 Review

Indonesian players warmed up for their home Superseries event, snatching two titles at the SCG Thailand Open 2017 yesterday, while local star, Ratchanok Intanon, was also in winner’s row at the Grand Prix Gold tournament.

Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu gave themselves a good shot of confidence ahead of next week’s BCA Indonesia Open 2017, lifting the Women’s Doubles crown at Nimibutr Stadium. The Indonesian No.5 seeds easily brushed aside Thailand rivals, Chayanit Chaladchalam and Phataimas Muenwong, 21-12 21-12 in 45 minutes. Polii and Rahayu had endured a tougher test in Saturday’s semi-finals, needing 95 minutes to get past another Thai tandem, Savitree Amitrapai and Pacharapun Chochuwong, 24-26 21-16 21. Chaladchalam and Muenwong beat China’s World Junior silver medallists, Du Yue/Xu Ya, 21-19 21-9, to reach the final.

The No.5 seeding also proved lucky for Indonesia in Men’s Doubles as Berry Angriawan and Hardianto Hardianto overcame Germany’s Raphael Beck and Peter Kaesbauer, 21-16 21-16. Yet again, the champions had come through a harder semi-final with a 22-20 18-21 21-9 victory over Olympic bronze medallists, Chris Langridge and Marcus Ellis on Saturday in 69 minutes. Meanwhile, Beck and Kaesbauer had seen off Mark Lamsfuss and Marvin Emil Seidel, 21-18 14-21 21-19, in an all-German semi-final.

Mixed Doubles was rocked by the demise of top seeds and red-hot favourites, Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai who fell 21-19 19-21 21-17 in the semi-finals. The Thai pair who have enjoyed a run of good form disappointed home fans as they were ousted by Malaysian duo, Goh Soon Huat and Shevon Jemie Lai. Reigning World Junior champions, He Jiting/Du Yue, of China outlasted blossoming Singapore pair and No.2 seeds, Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han, 23-21 21-19, to reach the final. The young Chinese then had enough left in their tank to conquer Goh and Lai, 21-13 16-21 21-12, for the title.

Thai spectators had their chance to celebrate in Women’s Singles as Ratchanok Intanon took top honours over her team-mate, Busanan Ongbamrungphan. In a repeat of the 2013 final, the 22-year-old prevailed 21-18 12-21 21-16 to lift her home championship for the second time while Ongbamrungphan was frustratingly condemned to the runner-up place for the third time, having also lost to Japan’s Aya Ohori in last year’s final. Nonetheless, Ongbamrungphan would have been heartened by her semi-final defeat of No.2 seed Saina Nehwal of India for the first time. The Thai shuttler won 21-19 21-18 while top-seeded Intanon beat Beiwen Zhang of the USA, 21-18 21-15, on Saturday.

Meanwhile, B. Sai Praneeth continued his good showing for the year, taking the Men’s Singles crown. The OUE Singapore Open champion rebounded from a game down to topple Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie, 17-21 21-18 21-19, in 71 minutes. The Indian player had beaten Thailand’s Pannawit Thongnuam (21-11 21-15) in the semi-final while Christie won versus Malaysia’s Soong Joo Ven (21-9 21-18) to reach the final.

All eyes now turn to the resumption of the MetLife BWF World Superseries tour with the US$1 million BCA Indonesia Open 2017, starting on Monday 12 June at Jakarta Convention Center as the usual location – the Istora Senayan – is under refurbishment.

Korea Storm into Final – Day 7 (Session 1): TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017

When Korean head coach Kang Kyung Jin predicted at the start of the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017 that his team would likely make the final, only the team’s staunchest supporters would’ve expected that to come true.

And yet, that’s exactly what happened as the three-time champions, having arrived in Gold Coast with a clutch of teenaged players, surged into the final beating Thailand 3-1.

When Women’s Singles ace Sung Ji Hyun (featured image) extracted an error after a nervous spell against Ratchanok Intanon in the fourth match of the semi-final tie, it marked a special chapter in Korean badminton – for the Asian powerhouse had arrived in Gold Coast without their biggest names. For Sung, it was a battle to prove herself – for, as she later admitted, she had often faltered in crunch semi-final and final matches. The destination is still in sight, but for Korea, to make the final itself was a herculean task at the beginning of the Sudirman Cup.

For a while on Saturday, though, it looked like it was going to be Thailand’s day in the sun.

Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai, their talismanic Mixed Doubles combination of recent times, were top-notch against Choi Solgyu and Chae Yoo Jung in the opening match. Puavaranukroh was a picture of frenetic energy and creative shotmaking, opening up the court with some acute angles from the deep, while Taerattanachai overshadowed her opposite number Chae Yoo Jung by disallowing her any leeway at the net. All through the match, Chae barely exerted her presence at the front, with the Thais successful in pushing the Koreans back and surging forward at the first opportunity. The Thais finished off the job in 41 minutes, 21-16 21-12.

All the pressure was on Korea’s Men’s Singles spearhead Son Wan Ho –  his opponent Suppanyu Avihingsanon, despite losing five previous matches to the Korean, flew with the momentum his compatriots had created. The tall Thai was all aggression and pace as he pocketed the first game, and it took all of Son’s defensive brilliance to rein him in. The Korean gradually found his tempo, and yet it was a tight match until 17 in the third, after which Avihingsanon made four soft errors to hand Son the match: 18-21 21-10 21-17.

“My legs felt heavy because of the matches I played this week,” said Son. “I felt tired in the first game, but knew I had to win. I’ve beaten him five times before, but in February it went to three games. Also, today is the semifinal and I was under greater pressure. He is an attacking player, I had to focus on my defence and cut down on my errors.”

After his exuberant display in the Mixed Doubles, it was a deflated Dechapol Puavaranukroh who turned up for the Men’s Doubles with Bodin Isara against Choi Solgyu and Seo Seung Jae. There was little spark in the Thai combination – Bodin was unusually leaden-footed, while Puavaranukroh’s touch let him down. At the opposite end, it was youngster Jae who stood out, both for his nearly error-free play as for his stunning winners off unusual angles.

There were some terrific, fast-paced exchanges in the opening game, and once the Koreans had it sewn up, they were mostly in control in the second. The 21-13 21-16 victory for Choi and Seo meant Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon had a rescue job on her hands.

The Thai however was way below her best, unable to stick in the rallies that Sung forced her into and erring with the fine placements that she is usually masterly at. With a 16-5 lead in the second, Sung was cruising, but some late jitters saw Intanon creep up to within three points before the Korean converted her third match point.

Intanon said nerves had gotten the better of her: “I didn’t feel good at all today, and I was nervous. I had no trouble with injury… it took me a while to find my rhythm, but it was too late by then.”

Korean head coach Kang beamed from ear to ear.

“It is just amazing,” he said. “We’ve made history. This year our team was called weak. At the last minute our senior Men’s Doubles players left the team. We targetted the quarter-final. Now we are so happy. This is my third happiest moment – the first time was when I got married, the second when I got my child. This is the third memorable occasion.

“The last two years have not been good for Korean badminton. Now we’re trying to set up a new generation and looking ahead at Tokyo 2020. ”

Click here for results

Triumphant ‘Thai-tans’! – Day 5 (Session 2): TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017

The inspired, yet unheralded pairing of two of the many Women’s Doubles players who have come to the fore for Thailand recently provided a sensational shock tonight, ousting Denmark from the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017 in emphatic fashion.

Locked 2-2 in Thailand’s nail-biting quarter-final against the No.2 seeds at Gold Coast Sports & Leisure Centre, Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Sapsiree Taerattanachai (featured image) coolly took to the court and inflicted a battering on the stellar partnership of Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl who were expected, as they have done countless times before, to deliver the decisive point for the European champions.

Instead, it was the scratch duo across the net – in just their second match together – who dominated and dictated from start to finish, romping to a spell-binding 21-15 21-12 triumph in 44 minutes to end the Danes’ error-strewn misery; catapulting Thailand into the headlines and indeed into the medal round. Inconsolable and stunned, Pedersen and Rytter Juhl trudged from the court as their conquerors were swept up in celebration with their joyous team.

“We didn’t pressure ourselves. We tried to stay calm and move them around a lot and not let them settle into the match because, when they are really good when they get into their rhythm,” said 24-year-old Kititharakul in the wake of the memorable 3-2 success.

Taerattanachai, 25, was also pleased to win Mixed Doubles for her country with Dechapol Puavaranukroh; 21-19 21-19 against Mathias Christiansen/Sara Thygesen. Thailand’s other point came compliments their Women’s Singles standard-bearer, Ratchanok Intanon, who was clearly a cut above Line Kjærsfeldt in their first meeting (21-15 21-14). It came at a crucial stage, with Thailand trailing 1-2 after Viktor Axelsen’s commanding Men’s Singles victory against Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk (21-15 21-16) and a stirring Men’s Doubles comeback by Mads Conrad-Petersen/Mads Pielder Kolding when all seemed lost versus Bodin Isara/ Nipitphon Phuangphuapet (15-21 21-18 21-16).

Even as Intanon outclassed her opponent, Danish fans felt certain their dependable Women’s Doubles duo would see them to safety but, it was not to be, amid a dynamic onslaught which made the Olympic silver medallists uncharacteristically unsure about their shots and movement. Playing like seasoned partners, Taerattanachai and Kititharakul became increasingly assertive as they switched sides, almost bullying their way to the finish as the neon scoreboard rapidly ticked over in their favour. A thunderous smash by Taerattanachai bisected the out-of-sorts Danes down the middle and, at 19-10, it was all but over.

“This is a big surprise, for us too!” declared delighted Thailand coach, Grithtin Kridtanukoon.

“During our training for this tournament, we mixed and matched different players and these two played well together. They have a good chemistry, though they usually have different partners. We decided to try this combination and it was the key to beating Denmark today. Maybe we will try this pair again.”

Moments later, Thailand learnt their semi-final opponents will be Korea; the latter avenging yesterday’s group-stage loss to Chinese Taipei.

Seizing an unassailable 3-1 advantage – also finalised by their Women’s Doubles exploits, thanks to Chang Ye Na and Lee So Hee (21-13 21-18 versus Hsu Ya Ching/Wu Ti Jung) – the Koreans were fittingly steered towards the last four by a resolute performance from new Men’s Singles world No.1, Son Wan Ho. So often shrouded in disappointment for failing to live up to his talent, Son composed himself after dropping the opening game and set about repairing the damage. At 14-6 in the second game, he looked set for a decider only to suddenly find himself fighting to stay alive as Chou levelled at 16-16. A determined Son survived that blip and wrestled control from his rival in the third game. However, leads of 13-8 and 17-13 almost came to nought as a fired-up Chou clawed back into reckoning, even holding match points at 20-18.

On his second match point, the Chinese Taipei ace thought he had it won as Son hit deep and the shuttle was called out but an instant review gave Son a lifeline and he clung to it tightly, even saving a third match point before clinching victory: 3-21 21-18 23-21 in 91 gruelling minutes.

“I felt anxious when I lost the first game but I had to focus and get on top in the match. It was tough and I am very glad to have won,” said Son who turned 29 last week.

Korea also triumphed in a fiery Men’s Doubles battle, with Choi Solgyu and Seo Seung Jae getting past Lee Jhe Huei and Lee Yang, 21-16 14-21 21-17. Chinese Taipei’s lone success was in Women’s Singles, with Tai Tzu Ying defeating Sung Ji Hyun, 21-14 26-24.