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.

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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Fu Haifeng Bids Goodbye

Fu Haifeng, one of the all-time greats of world badminton, has called time on his career.

The 33-year-old left-hander was among the most highly accomplished practitioners of Men’s Doubles, with his trophy cabinet including four World Championships titles and two Olympic gold medals, besides a vast number of other illustrious crowns.

Fu (featured image, left) made his senior international debut at the 2002 China Open and since then was a fixture in the all-conquering Chinese squad. At one time the possessor of the world’s hardest smash, Fu combined brilliantly with Cai Yun, winning the World title in 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Fu and Cai won silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. At the next Olympics they went one better, winning the gold medal to complete a Chinese sweep at the Games. Following Cai Yun’s retirement, Fu partnered Zhang Nan and the new pair continued to sparkle at events around the world. Most memorably, at the 2016 Rio Olympics, they saved three match points in the quarter-finals and two in the final before they clinched the gold medal.

Fu’s last hurrah was at the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup in Gold Coast, where he and Zhang Nan gave China the lead against Korea. Although China were eventually beaten, Fu left the stage knowing there was nothing left for him to conquer.

Highlights:

-World Champion: 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011

-Olympic Games champion: 2012, 2016

-Olympic Games silver medallist: 2008

-Badminton Asia Championships: 2011

-Multiple Thomas Cup and Sudirman Cup titles

-Multiple World Superseries crowns

‘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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Canada Bounce Back: TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017: 1 Day 1 Session

Canada fought back from the brink of defeat to post a 3-2 victory over Scotland in sub-group 2A at the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017 in Gold Coast today.

In other ties of the opening session, China, Vietnam and New Caledonia posted identical 4-1 wins over Hong Kong (1A), New Zealand (2A) and Guam (3A) respectively.

It was Men’s Doubles pair Jason Anthony Ho-Shue and Nyl Yakura (featured image) who saved Canada from near-certain defeat against Scotland. Going into the fourth match with Canada 1-2 behind, the two Canadians were involved in a nail-biting clash against Martin Campbell and Patrick MacHugh. The Scots had the chance to wrap up the tie with a 20-18 lead, but the Canadians kept up their attacking momentum under pressure and extracted the errors, eventually pulling off a 22-24 23-21 21-17 win in 66 minutes.

“I was a bit disappointed after losing my Men’s Singles because I wasn’t at my best,” said Ho-Shue. “But I tried to let it go and focus on the game.”

Their win set the stage for Michelle Li and Rachel Honderich in the final Women’s Doubles; the Canadians were dominant over Julie MacPherson/Eleanor O’Donnell, winning the tie for Canada with a 21-6 21-11 result.

Scotland had the perfect start to the tie with Adam Hall and Eleanor O’Donnell beating Nyl Yakura/Rachel Honderich 14-21 21-17 21-10 in Mixed Doubles. Kieran Merrilees made it 2-0 (Men’s Singles) over Ho-Shue 21-18 21-12.

The tide turned for Canada in Women’s Singles. Michelle Li, on the comeback trail following surgery, prevailed over Kirsty Gilmour in a close contest, 21-12 22-24 21-18.

“It’s almost a little strange, it’s so long since I’ve been on the international stage, I’m not used to high intensity matches, especially with so many tight points,” said Li. “But it’s a good start, and I’m excited and looking forward to the next couple of years.

“I tried to make sure I didn’t put any pressure on myself, because if that happens I get tight. Coming back from injury, I can’t expect too much of myself yet, and I don’t want to push myself too hard because I don’t want to get injured again. So it’s one step at a time. It’s just nice to play without pain now.”

China Roll Over Hong Kong

Defending champions China had little trouble against Hong Kong in their opening sub-group 1A assignment, the only hiccup being the loss of Mixed Doubles pair Zheng Siwei/Chen Qingchen to Tang Chun Man/Tse Ying Suet in the fifth match, 10-21 21-16 21-18.

Hong Kong chose to go into the tie without their highest-ranked players in four of the five categories, and they paid dearly. Rio Olympic winners Fu Haifeng/Zhang Nan, having reunited in March after their gold medal-winning exploits last August, made it past Law Cheuk Him/Lee Chun Hei 21-15 26-24.

Sun Yu routed young Women’s Singles player Fan Ka Yan, before Lin Dan sealed the tie in Men’s Singles, jogging past Hu Yun 21-14 21-13.

Bao Yixin/Tang Jinhua were likewise untroubled by Ng Tsz Yau/Yeung Nga Ting in Women’s Doubles, 21-11 21-13, before Tang/Tse salvaged some pride for Hong Kong by over-coming the rusty-looking Zheng/Chen in three close games.

Vietnam Ease Past New Zealand

New Zealand had their chances at taking the opening Mixed Doubles over Vietnam but Oliver Leydon-Davis/Susannah Leydon-Davis narrowly fell short against Do Tuan Duc/Pham Nhu Thao 21-13 18-21 22-20.

Veteran Nguyen Tien Minh breezed past Dylan Soedjasa (Men’s Singles) but Kevin Dennerly-Minturn/Oliver Leydon-Davis kept the Kiwis in the hunt beating Do Tuan Duc/Pham Hong Nam 21-18 14-21 21-12 in Men’s Doubles.

Vu Thi Trang (Women’s Singles) and Nguyen Thuy Linh/Pham Nhu Thao (Women’s Doubles) made it 4-1 for Vietnam.

New Caledonia Beat Guam

Sub-group 3A saw New Caledonia seal their tie against Gaum in the first three matches. Jeremy Lemaitre gave New Caledonia a sound start winning his Men’s Singles before Johanna Kou added a point in Women’s Singles. Ronan Ho-Yauges/Morgan Paitio made it 3-0 beating Sunardi Li/David Yao 21-7 21-15 in Men’s Doubles.

Guam got a point in Women’s Doubles through Grace Cai/Sarah Cai, but New Caledonia completed the rout winning the Mixed Doubles for a 4-1 score.

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