Titles Shared on Final Night of SKYCITY Badminton Open
The SKYCITY NZ Badminton Open wrapped up at the North Shore Events Centre on Sunday night, a week of world class badminton concluding in fitting style in front of one of the biggest crowds ever seen at a tournament in New Zealand.
Sung Ji Hyun (Korea) started the finals session with a straight games win over Aya Ohori (Japan) in the women’s singles final. The world number 5 and top seed at the SKYCITY Open has improved with each outing during the week and was at her best against the 20 year old, winning 21-15, 21-17.
Sung overcame a scare at 11-10 in the second game when she rolled an ankle in lunging to the net, with replays on the big screen causing concern amongst the crowd as the top seed received attention from the tournament doctor.
The metronomic Korean stayed focused and patient though, opening up a 3 point margin at 18-15 with a brilliant shot to the back of the court after Ohori had unloaded a flurry of smash shots.
“I’m very happy to win and it means preparation work we did paid off. I analyzed my opponents’ game. Physically, I was okay after the fall but I was worried and nervous afterwards and I tried to recover. From here, I’ll try my best for the rest of 2016. I’ve got tournaments in Singapore and Malaysia to come and I want to do well,” she said.
The mixed doubles brought the crowd into finals day big time, in particular the large and vocal Chinese contingent, with Zheng Siwei and Li Yinhui up against the number 3 seeds Peng Soon Chan and Liu Ying Goh (Malaysia) and it was the former world number 3 ranked combination from Malaysia that started stronger, taking out the first game 21-19 in a high quality affair.
Zheng and Li seemed to feed off the support of the crowd though and appeared to take control in the early stages of the second game, but the Malaysians had answers for all the Chinese could throw at them, including the remarkable sight of Zheng running off court and changing rackets during a point (and winning it) due to a broken string, finally staving off a game point before closing it out 22-20.
Goh downplayed the win but was clearly ecstatic to share the 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 analyzed 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.
The men’s singles final was perhaps the most clear cut victory of the night for China’s Huang Yuxiang, the number 13 seed continued his march to the title with a 21-12, 21-17 victory over Riichi Takeshita (Japan).
Takeshita was valiant in defeat and at 11 all in the second game was hinting at a fightback, but 5 straight points to Huang gave the 23 year old the impetus to win the title and vital Olympic ranking points in his quest for Rio.
“Riichi has won in New Zealand twice before in competitions so to win here gives me a lot of confidence for the future. I am happy with how I played and now look ahead to the Olympic Games and hopefully as part of the Chinese team,” he said.
The women’s doubles final saw Japanese pairing Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota continue a giant killing run through the tournament and go one better than their runner up finish in 2015, as they defeated the number 2 seeds Chang Ye Na and Lee So Hee (Korea) 21-13, 21-16.
“We were very confident coming into the game because we always back ourselves. We lost in this tournament last year so to win the title this year is a big sign of our progress and we’re both very happy with the way we played. Our next target is the Indian tournament next week and we go into that feeling positive about our form,” Fukushima said.
In a week when all disciplines of play delivered world class play, it was perhaps the men’s doubles that thrilled the crowds most, and so it proved in the final. In a match contested by the current world number 9 and 11 ranked combinations, the rallies were both long and short, the shuttle was struck with violence and yet at times caressed over the net and the fans were totally engaged throughout.
2nd seeds Ko Sung Hyun and Shin Baek Cheol (Korea) came out on top of 3rd seeds Angga Pratama and Ricky Suwardi (Indonesia) in game one, but only by the barest of margins, winning 21-18 with the lead changing 8 times along the way.
The second was a different story, with the class of the 28 year old Korean pairing showing through and highlight why they have been as high as 3 in the world rankings, taking out the game and the match, 21-14, much to the delight of the strong Korean contingent of fans in the Events Centre.
Event Director and former international Julie Carrel described a simply outstanding week of badminton.
“This has blown every one away, the quality of play and the desire from the players in Olympic year to secure ranking points, sometimes at the expense of their fellow countrymen or women, it has just been one of the greatest weeks the sport has ever seen here in New Zealand.
“So many people have made this possible, from our principal partners such as SKYCITY and Major Events New Zealand to our amazing volunteers and officials for the hours of time and dedication and to the fans who have come along and helped create such a wonderful atmosphere.”