It’s Japan’s Day! – Doubles Finals: CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017

Japan enjoyed heady success at the CROWN GROUP Australian Open, clinching two doubles titles in addition to the Women’s Singles crown.

Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi and Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda made it three out of three for Japan; both Japanese doubles pairs won their first World Superseries title of the year after Nozomi Okuhara had earlier won the all-Japanese Women’s Singles final. Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen won the Mixed Doubles for China.

The Women’s Doubles final saw Matsutomo and Takahashi overwhelm Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl 21-10 21-13.

Whether it was the strain of their long semi-final, or the fact that their Japanese opponents were just that much sharper in the final, the Danes were shut out in the opening phase of play and couldn’t find a way back. Both Pedersen and Rytter Juhl struggled to stay in the rallies, and with Matsutomo and Takahashi defending with solidity and picking off winners at will, it was mostly a one-sided contest.

Rytter Juhl was all praise for their opponents: “Today they were better than us in all aspects. Physical, mentally; they moved well, they could see what was happening faster than us. There was not much to do today.

“We’ve been using a lot of energy the last two matches. We started here with me lying in bed for two days as I was ill, but to be in the final is really awesome. We had to be more than 100 percent to beat the Japanese today.”

“I’m not sure we could’ve won today even if we won in two sets yesterday,” added Pedersen. “But to play extra 30 minutes hard fight yesterday, we used a lot of energy, but I know it would still have been difficult for us today.”

Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda too had things pretty much under control for most of the Men’s Doubles final against Tan Boon Heong (Malaysia) and Hendra Setiawan (Indonesia). The second game was closer than the first, but at the death, it was the Japanese who grabbed the first chance at attack, and the title was won on the 37th minute: 21-17 21-19.

“We didn’t expect to win this one, so that is why we feel so happy about today,” said Kamura.

“As this tournament is just before the World Championships, we now need to seriously think about how to compete there. It’s great that Japan won three titles here – our level has been improving, which makes us feel really happy and we have a lot of young people in our team. We work hard to respond to the expectations and dreams of our people.”

Praveen Jordan and Debby Susanto let slip a handy lead in the final game of their Mixed Doubles final against Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen, and the Chinese pounced on the opportunity to claim their second Superseries crown this year.

The Indonesians were looking totally assured in the final game, with Susanto defending brilliantly and Jordan easing the shuttle into vacant spaces as they worked up a 10-3 lead.

Chen’s astute serving at this point helped the Chinese climb back out of the hole they were in; the Indonesians didn’t do themselves any favours with a few return errors, and suddenly the Chinese had the bounce back in their step. Zheng’s sizzling smashes once again started to punch holes in the Indonesians’ defence, and the final point was won on the 58th minute: 18-21 21-14 21-17.

“There were a lot of ups and downs in this match,” reflected Zheng. “In the first game we were leading and they caught up. In the third game we were behind 1-9 but then we managed to catch up. So it would help us a lot to reflect why we were able to catch up and why we were caught up.

“To lose one game is normal and we expected it before the match, however even though we lost the first game and during the third game our points were way behind, we didn’t want to give up and we believed that we could catch up.

“We need to adjust our mentality and I was always the more anxious one. We need to change that.”

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.”

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.

China, Japan to Face Off – Day 6 (Session 1): TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017

Last edition finalists China and Japan booked a semi-final meeting at the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017 with one-sided victories today in Gold Coast.

There were no surprises in either quarter-final – Japan versus Malaysia and China versus India – although India’s scratch Mixed Doubles combination Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa did create some flutters against World No.2 duo Lu Kai and Huang Yaqiong in the opening match before China took the tie 3-0. A short while later, Japan wrapped up their quarter-final against Malaysia 3-1.

Rankireddy, perhaps the find of the tournament, had the Chinese under pressure with his monster smashes, giving Ponnappa the openings she needed to put away the returns that came her way. Lu and Huang struggled to contain the rampant Indians, who played with great assurance and touch at the front court to deny their opponents any opportunities.

Lu and Huang, veterans of many a battle, seized the initiative early in the second and held their lead. The Indians went ahead briefly in the third but Lu and Huang had started to anticipate the Indians’ lines of attack and reeled in quick points.  Rankireddy and Ponnappa faltered on the delicate shots at net and the Chinese eventually came away winners at 16-21 21-13 21-16.

“We had a good chance, we had the confidence that we could pull it off,” said Ponnappa. “They’re very experienced, while we’re just starting off as a pair. Satwik has to get used to pressure situations. It’s kind of fun playing with him, because he’s strong and his game style complements mine. I’ve started moving into the net. In the past I’ve always run back and never taken charge. Having a promising player like Satwik to partner with is a huge confidence booster.”

World champion Chen Long had a 4-0 career record going into his Men’s Singles match-up with Kidambi Srikanth and nothing suggested that the Indian would get his first win, for the Chinese was at his fluid, powerful best.

Kidambi did little wrong; he varied the pace, worked the shuttle around and fired sharp winners through the narrow openings he crafted. The Indian stayed close but couldn’t quite wriggle free, for the quick-moving Chinese was invariably at the end of the flicks and half-smashes that Kidambi created. The frustration started to show in the Indian’s game and it was 2-0 for China in 48 minutes: 21-16 21-17.

“My opponent was very good, and he strongly challenged me in the second game,” said Chen. “We have to be our best tomorrow. The Japanese Men’s Singles players are quite young and have already got the opportunity to play at this level, so we have to be cautious. More than the pressure from outside, I will be putting pressure on myself to perform well.”

India’s Men’s Doubles pair were just not up to the level required to trouble Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan. Rankireddy returned with Chirag Shetty and the duo were blown off court by the Olympic champions, 21-9 21-11, in just 29 minutes.

Japan’s victory over Malaysia followed the same pattern as in their sub-group 1C tie on Wednesday. For Malaysia, everything hinged on their Men’s Doubles pair of Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong getting past Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda (featured image), given Japan’s superior Women’s Singles and Women’s Doubles. Goh and Tan hit their stride mid-match against Sonoda and Kamura, but the Japanese kept up their high-intensity style, and the energy-sapping rallies started to tell on the Malaysians in the third as they fell apart in the hour-long battle: 21-17 16-21 21-11.

Soniia Cheah replaced Goh Jin Wei in Women’s Singles for Malaysia while Japan fielded Nozomi Okuhara. It was too vast a gulf for Cheah to cover, with the nimble Okuhara controlling the match from start to finish: 21-11 21-9.

Lee Chong Wei, as expected, delivered Men’s Singles for Malaysia over Kenta Nishimoto (21-15 21-13), leaving the burden of salvaging the nation’s hopes on Vivian Hoo and Woon Khe Wei. The Malaysian Women’s Doubles duo had taken only one game off Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi in nine previous matches. The Japanese duly made it ten wins in ten matches with a 21-7 21-14 result.

“We played Malaysia in the group stage as well, we weren’t sure who we would face today,” said Takahashi. “After we won the Men’s Doubles, we went in feeling good and there wasn’t any pressure.

“We lost the Sudirman Cup final to China two years ago. All the Chinese players are good. Our role is that of challengers. We always enjoy playing China and we have to prepare our best. They have won the Sudirman Cup six times in a row and we appreciate the opportunity to fight against them. It’s a big challenge in front of us.”

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