LIN DAN LIVES UP TO SUPERSTAR STATUS IN BARFOOT & THOMPSON NZ OPEN WIN
He came with top billing, he came with superstar status, Lin Dan did not fail to deliver – on any count at the Barfoot & Thompson New Zealand Badminton Open during a week of record breaking crowds, a best ever field of players (40 players or combinations ranked in the top fifty in the world) and incredible finals.
From his arrival into New Zealand and a waiting crowd at the airport, to the stadium on day one when record crowds turned out to the North Shore Events Centre, to the winning point and the immediate stripping of his shirt in today’s final, Lin Dan wowed all who came to see the two-time Olympic Games gold medalist.
Jonatan Christie (INA) certainly gave as good as he got – almost. The second seed lived with Dan throughout much of the match, in particular the second game when he led 19-16 and looked certain to take the final into a third and deciding game, but then Lin Dan rattled off five straight points, and the rest was bare-chested history.
Dan was a cool customer throughout, albeit he had given up on the second game before he won those points to win the match.
“I was not worried about the second game, having already won the first, I was just looking to conserve energy and get ready for the third game.
“This is my first time to New Zealand, I have not won a tournament yet this year and I have prepared well for the New Zealand Open and I am pleased that I have been able to win in front of such a wonderful crowd of supporters.”
While the stars might yet have to align, 34-year-old Lin made it clear he would like to return to New Zealand.
“No matter the level of tournament I want to come here and perform for the fans and play my best while my body still allows. I have enjoyed my time here and of course, I would like to come back and defend my title if everything allows me the chance to do so.”
Meanwhile the top seed lived up to expectation with an easy win in the women’s singles final at the Barfoot & Thompson New Zealand Badminton Open, Sayaka Takahashi (JPN) taking out the match 21-13, 21-14 over unseeded Zhang Yiman (CHN).
Zhang gave her all but in truth was never a match for Takahashi, but the 21-year-old can nonetheless reflect on a wonderful tournament that will surely see her world ranking of 119 rise considerably in the weeks ahead.
Takahashi never takes favouritism for granted though, after suffering what could have been a career ending injury before the Rio Olympics, she just enjoys every match.
“Even though I am top seed and the favourite, I never think about this. Ever since I suffered injury at the Rio Olympics and thought perhaps I would not play again, I am just focused on every point and enjoying every match. I am just happy that I can continue playing.”
The opening match of the day on finals day set a high standard for others to follow, with Wang Chi-Lin and Lee Chia Hsin (TPE) taking out the mixed doubles title in thrilling fashion over Seo Seung Jae and Chae Yujung (KOR), 21-19, 14-21, 21-19.
The match saw the third seeded combination winning out over the fifth seeds, but in truth it could have gone either way, with small moments deciding the outcome.
Wang used his powerful aerial game and smash to good effect, combining brilliantly with Lee who prowled the net and defended superbly.
“Playing the Koreans was quite difficult, we have played them before and lost twice and we have not handled the game of Seo well at all, he has always been tough to counter,” said Wang.
Ayako Sakuramoto and Yukiko Takahata enjoyed one of their greatest moments as a doubles pairing, taking out the Barfoot & Thompson New Zealand Open Women’s Doubles title, defeating Cao and Yu (CHN) in straight games.
Runners up in 2017 in New Zealand, the went one better in a match they always had under control, with Sakuramoto describing their tactics against the more powerful Chinese pairing.
“We have never played this pair before but recognised their strength was in their power, we had to make sure we did not make mistakes, keep getting the shuttle back and stay in every point for as long as we could,” said Sakuramoto.
The sold-out crowd stayed on in big numbers to witness a fitting conclusion to the tournament, as Chen and Wang (TPE) took out a thriller, the top seeds just edging the second seeds Angriawan and Hardianto (INA) to take the title they also won in 2017.
The Chinese Taipei pair mix youth and experience, with 32-year-old Chen the guiding hand and 23-year-old Wang providing the power with his height and reach, a combination that has them ranked 7 in the world.
Chen spoke of how well his younger partner played throughout, with the straight games win not a true indication perhaps of just how close a match it was.
“We played very well as a combination today and all week, today Wang played a very good match and carried us to the win.”
Barfoot & Thompson New Zealand Open
Women’s singles: Sayaka Takahashi (1) (JPN) def Zhang Yiman (CHN), 21-13, 21-14 (38 mins)
Men’s singles: Lin Dan (1) (CHN) def Jonatan Christie (2) (INA), 21-14, 21-19 (52 mins)
Mixed doubles: Wang Chi-Lin and Lee Chia Hsin (3) (TPE) def Seo Seung Jae and Chae Yujung (5) (KOR), 21-19, 14-21, 21-19 (65 mins)
Women’s doubles: Ayako Sakuramoto and Yukiko Takahata (JPN) def Cao Tong Wei and Yu Zheng (CHN), 21-9, 21-19 (50 mins)
Men’s doubles: Chen Hung Ling and Wang Chi-Lin (1) (TPE) def Berry Angriawan and Hardianto (2) (INA), 21-17, 21-17 (43 mins)