Riichi Takeshita of Japan / image brainjam.co.nz

Takeshita too slick for Tien Minh Nguyen, reaches final

Riichi Takeshita of Japan remains on track for a second SKYCITY New Zealand Badminton Men’s Singles title win after he defeated ninth seeded Vietnamese player Tien Minh Nguyen, 21-15, 21-17, to move into the final.

The Japanese veteran last won the SKYCITY New Zealand Open in 2013 and will face China’s Huang Yuxiang in the final after he ousted Malaysia’s Teck Zhi Soo 11-21, 22-20, 21-14, in the day’s other semi-final.

Takeshita has slipped down the rankings in recent times and is not seeded for this competition but what he lacked in recent form he made up for with ability and no shortage of luck.

Midway through the second game with the score level at 14-all, Nguyen lost an important line call that had the Vietnamese player remonstrating with New Zealand umpire Justin Zuo.

Tien Minh Nguyen

Vietnam’s Tien Minh Nguyen’s previous matches were closely studied by Takeshita

Nguyen fell further behind when he seemed to lose track of the shuttle in the arena lights for what appeared to be a regulation shot at the back of the court.

Both proved to be key moments as Takeshita pressed home the advantage working Tien Minh Nguyen around the court at every opportunity including a logic-defying lob to the back court after Nguyen looked to have had Takeshita all but laid out on the floor after a slice shot at the net.

Takeshita followed that up with a fantastic smash that blew the doors off Nguyen’s hopes to take the game to match point at 20-17. Takeshita sealed victory with the gentlest of lobs at the net to complete an impressive win.

Takeshita was delighted with the victory and said his pre-match analysis of Nguyen’s previous games had proved invaluable.

“I watched Nguyen’s last game and everything turned out in the semi-final as I imagined it would. He likes to play a fast game so it was important for me to slow things down by playing lobs to the back of the court.

“I had some difficult situations but I managed to overcome those. I tried to get the game played at my pace and my opponent lost his focus at times and I took full advantage,” Takeshita said.

The action was closer in the first of the men’s singles semi-final with yesterday’s underdog hero Huang Yuxiang of China ultimately too slick for Malaysia’s Teck Zhi Soo, 21-18, 21-17.

The 23-year-old Chinese player displayed the form that knocked out number one seed Son Wan Ho of Korea to take the first game.

“Obviously, I am happy to have won the game but it was tough because Teck Zhi Soo was strong on the smash and was able to play very good shots on both sides of the court that tested me.

“Yesterday’s win was hard but I don’t look at games in front or behind of me, only on what I have to do in the moment. He attacked whenever he could but I was patient and forced him into making key mistakes at important moments,” he said.