Mixed Doubles – Peng Soon Chan, Liu Ying Goh triumph for Malaysia
Malaysia’s Peng Soon Chan and Liu Ying Goh are the SKYCITY New Zealand Badminton Open Mixed Doubles champions after beating Zheng Siwei and Li Yinhui of China, 21-19, 22-20.
This was a final all about young-up-and-comers with third seeds Chan and Goh accounting for number one seeds Ko Sung Hyun and Kim Ha Na in an epic semi-final, 21-19, 10-21, 24-22.
Their unseeded Chinese opponents had themselves beaten two Korean pairs, fourth seeds Solgyu and Eom Hye Won in the first round and second seeds Shin and Chae Yoo Jung in the semi-finals.
Chan and Goh started the match as favourites on paper courtesy of their role as third seeds but in truth this final was there for the taking.
In a pulsating opener, both pairs exchanged points all the way with Goh sealing a 21-19 victory in a combination of stunning defence and subtle racket work.
With the game at match point, Goh repelled a series of unrelenting and bludgeoning smashes by the impressive Siwei before dropping the perfect shot in vacant space. Li Yinhui took a swing at the shuttle and missed, succeeding only in putting off Siwei who watched haplessly as it landed on the court floor.
Siwei made up for the mistake when in the second game his racket broke. The quick-thinking Chinese player grabbed another and in the nick of time smashed a superb shot with his new racket to take a 5-3 lead.
The mostly Chinese-supporting crowd loved every minute of this mini-revival and Li Yinhui responded in kind, winning two vital points with deft shots close to the net. An unforced error by Li Yinhui offered a way back for Chan and Goh, a chance they took to build a 15-13 lead.
With the game level at 18-18, Siwei and Li Yinhui took to trying to slow the pace of the match down to stymy the momentum of the Malaysians, a tactic that drew the ire of umpire Richard Bramley of New Zealand.
The drama broke Goh’s concentration when she popped an easy shot into the net to leave the Chinese in control 20-19, until Li Yinhui made two errors to take the game to match point.
Chan and Goh then completed a fairytale comeback for the duo but more particularly for Goh, who underwent reconstructive surgery and now plays with both knees heavily strapped.
Goh downplayed the win but was clearly ecstatic to share the winners podium with Chan.
“We are very happy with the result but Peng Soon Chan played better than me today. I made some simple mistakes but luckily we didn’t pay for that. They had an advantage because of their youth and speed so we had to use our experience to get the win.
“Mentally we were strong and we believed in ourselves. We didn’t do too much preparation for this tournament but we analysed our opponents and tried our best to not give away easy points. This is an Olympic year and it gives us great confidence for our next tournament but especially Rio,” Goh said.
Siwei was upbeat despite the loss and said it was all part of building toward brighter and better things for himself and Liu Yi Yinhui.
“In the second game we were coming up short with some of our shots and so that made life tough for us. Losing is not a bad thing because we have learned a lot in New Zealand and can use it to become better players in the future.
“Defensively, the Malaysians were very good and we tried everything to win but they were persistent. They were able to then turn that into attack and it was tough for us,” Siwei said.