Lee Lands His First Title at New Zealand Badminton Open
Lee Cheuk Yiu is the toast of Hong Kong after a stunning upset in the final of the men’s singles at the New Zealand Badminton Open at the North Shore Events Centre in Auckland. Playing in his first ever final at a BWF Grand Prix Gold event, Lee showed nerves of steel to fight back from a game down to beat top seed Tzu Wei Wang in the title decider. The unseeded 20-year-old had looked set for a tough day at the office after being put to the sword by the world number 12 in the opening game, with Wang seemingly headed for his second New Zealand title after winning in 2014. But Lee refused to lie down, even when facing four match points in the third game decider, and somehow pegged back the deficit to clinch an epic 11-21 21-15 22-20 victory.
The magnitude of the victory was still sinking in for the newly crowned champion shortly after the match.
“When I was down 20-16 in the third game I just relaxed because I thought I had lost. But somehow in the end I got there.”
It’s a far cry from what Lee expected when he arrived in New Zealand, having not looked beyond a likely second round match against third seeded Indonesian Jonatan Christie. However, beating the third, sixth and seventh seeds, before taking out the top seed in the final, has done wonders for his confidence.
“I now know I can do it. I can trust myself to win against some of the top players in the world.”
Meanwhile, the women’s singles final very nearly followed the same script. World number nine Ratchanok Intanon won the opening game with ease against Japan’s Saena Kawakami, only for the fifth seed to come storming back in the second, to force the Thai into a deciding third game. However, the crowd favourite fended off what would have been a monumental upset, holding her nerve to close out the match 21-14 16-21 21-15.
Intanon says she never panicked after being taken to three.
“I was very well prepared and I was excited to be playing but it’s good to have finished with the win,” she said.
The 22-year-old Thai was well aware of the drama in the men’s singles but says she didn’t let it affect her.
“I didn’t think about it. I just tried to win my own match so I could claim the title.”
The women’s doubles also went to plan, although top seeds Malaysia didn’t have it all their own way. Commonwealth Games gold medalists Vivian Hoo and Woon Khe Wei dropped the opening game against Japan’s Ayako Sakuramoto and Yukiko Takahata, but bounced back to win 18-21 21-16 21-19.
The men’s final was a far more straight forward affair, with Chinese Taipei’s Chen Hung Ling and Wang Chi-Lin claiming the title in straight games. The top seeds were too good on the day for second seeded Malaysians Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi, winning 21-16 21-18.
But the mixed doubles produced yet another upset, with Indonesia’s Ronald and Annisa Saufika the surprise winners. They had been promoted to the main draw from qualifying due to a withdrawal, but have gone all the way to be crowned champions.
The unseeded pair proved too good in the final for Australian eighth seeds Sawan Serasinghe and Setyana Mapasa, winning 21-19 21-14.