Women Serve Up Doubles Match for the Ages as Lin Dan Departs
A full-house at Eventfinda Stadium was treated to a superb day of play at the Barfoot & Thompson New Zealand Badminton Open on semi-final Saturday.
The highest quality play came from an unlikely source with tournament drawcard Lin Dan departing in somewhat mysterious circumstances, beaten in straight games by Ka Long Angus Ng (Hong Kong) and it was left to the women’s doubles to take centre stage, with Korea’s Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong winning one of the longest matches on record at the Open, taking well over an hour and a half to defeat the world number one combination from Japan.
Finals day will feature Olympic Champions, top ten ranked players, unranked teenagers and generally a host of world-class players and combinations fighting to take out the honours at the HSBC BWF 300 Barfoot & Thompson New Zealand Open, as well as vital Olympic ranking points.
Play gets underway at 1pm, with doors open at midday at Eventfinda Stadium, with tickets still available online at www.nzbadmintonopen.com or on the door.
Men’s Singles Semi-finals
Jonatan Christie is back where he was last year, only this time he hopes to go one better and win the Barfoot & Thompson New Zealand Badminton Open. The third seeded Indonesian has already ticked off one major objective, improving his ranking amongst his countrymen. Coming into the tournament ranked behind both Anthony Ginting (top seed beaten in the quarter-finals by Lin Dan) and Tommy Sugiarto (second seed beaten in the quarter-finals also), Christie has immediately boosted his Tokyo 2020 chances at the first tournament in the Olympic qualifying window.
Christie was a comfortable winner over number five seed Kanta Tsuneyama (JPN), 21-12, 21-15 and will go into the final as a warm favourite, thanks to the departure of 7th seed and two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan (China). Dan was lackluster at best in a 21-13, 21-11 defeat at the hands of sixth seed Ka Long Angus Ng (Hong Kong) and was a far cry from the player who took out the top seed in the quarter-finals. Ng however has played superbly throughout the tournament and will fancy his chances of taking out the title against Christie.
Mixed Doubles Semi-finals
Praveen Jordan and Melati Oktavianti (Indonesia) booked their place in the mixed doubles final with a 21-12, 23-21 win over Wang Chi-Lin & Cheng Chi Ya (Chinese Taipei), showing great focus to close out the second game after saving game point.
The number five seeds pointed towards their greater experience as a combination as being crucial to the victory.
“Wang is a good player in men’s doubles and Cheng is a very good singles player, so he is powerful and fast and she is a very good player, but I think that we have the advantage in our mixed doubles strategy, I think that is where we won the match,” said Jordan.
“We are very happy with the way we played and enjoyed the match, now tomorrow we will play in the final and focus on another good game,” said Chan.
The final is a mouth-watering prospect up against 2016 Rio Olympic silver medalists and second seeds Chan Peng Soon & Goh Liu Ying (Malaysia). The impressive Malaysians eased through 21-14, 21-18 over the number four seeded Indonesians Haifz Faizal & Gloria Widjaja.
“We are happy with our performance today,” said Goh. “We are going to be ready for tomorrow’s final, with the Olympic qualifying points to win, it is very important to play well and try to win.”
“Today we played very well, the combination and our understanding was very good. Tactically we were very clear today to win the match. They key for us is our personal skill and understanding as a partnership, this was key to winning the match today.”
Women’s Singles Semi-finals
Se Young An continued her giant killing run at the Barfoot & Thompson New Zealand Open, the Korean 17 year old overcame some nervous moments to defeat the number seven seed Aya Ohori (Japan) in three games, but only after coughing up a 19-16 lead and lose five straight points to lose the second game.
“At the end of the second game I became very nervous and could not play relaxed and allowed Ohori to close the gap, but in the third game I attacked and smashed more and was able to get the win. I look forward to the final tomorrow and will try and play my best again.”
An will play Li Xuerui (China) in the final, with the 2012 London Olympic champion gaining real momentum on her return to the top of the sport as she recovers from a knee injury, as she defeated top seed Akane Yamaguchi in three enthralling games, 13-21, 21-19, 21-13.
Women’s Doubles Semi-finals
It was expected that the Japanese women would dominate the doubles, but with a field stacked with the top ten ranked combinations in the world that was never a given, but the fashion in which Korea’s Kim So Yeong & Kong Hee Yong made the final was quite remarkable.
Given the honour of Barfoot & Thompson match of the day billing, the Koreans had to survive one of the greatest matches ever seen at the tournament, taking a remarkable 102 minutes and 53 shuttles to see off the top seeds and world number one combination of Yuki Fukishima & Sayaka Hirota (Japan), eventually winning the marathon 18-21, 24-22, 21-18.
“That is the best win in our career so far,” said an elated and exhausted Kong at the end of the match that saw both Koreans slump to the court in exhaustion. “Our partnership and work for each other was the key to the win, we never gave up and encouraged each other always.
“Tomorrow will be another tough match against another Japanese pair, so we must go now and prepare with rest and massage to be ready to play at a high level again.”
Misaki Matsutomo & Ayaka Takahashi ensured that Japan will at least be represented in the final, the number two seeds easing to a close straight games win over Don Wenjing & Fen Xueying (China), 23-21, 21-19.
Men’s Doubles Semi-finals
If the semi-finals are anything to go by, tomorrow’s final will be one to watch with Hiroyuki Endo & Yuta Watanabe upsetting their Japanese countrymen and top seeds Takeshi Kaumura & Keigo Sonoda in an absolute thriller 21-12, 23-21 in a match in which the score does not do it justice. The quality of play from all four players was top drawer, but it was the less likely of the combinations who played the big points best to progress to the final.
They will have their hands full if they are to repeat and win the title though, coming up against two-time world champions Mohammad Ahsan & Hendra Setiawan (INA) after they came out on top in a close three-game match against Goh V Shem & Tan Wee Kong (Malaysia), easing away to win 21-14 in the third.
Play gets underway on finals day on Sunday at 1:00pm, with doors open at midday. There are limited tickets available for purchase, either online at www.nzbadmintonopen.com or at the door at Eventfinda Stadium on the North Shore.