Scintillating Sindhu in Final – Thaihot China Open 2016: Day 5
Saturday, November 19, 2016
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO

PV Sindhu kept her nerve in an absorbing semi-final and entered the title bout of the Thaihot China Open 2016 in her quest for a first World Superseries title.

5day_sung-ji-hyunThe Indian (featured image) saved three match points to progress at the expense of the hapless Sung Ji Hyun, whose heroic performance proved insufficient to take her to tomorrow’s Women’s Singles final against home hope Sun Yu.

At the end of the day’s action, China had booked places in four of five finals – the only category evading them being the Men’s Doubles, which will feature Denmark’s Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen against Indonesia’s Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo.

Li Yinhui powered China’s campaign today, winning both her semi-finals: in Women’s Doubles with Huang Dongping and Mixed Doubles with Zhang Nan. Men’s Singles Olympic champion Chen Long will also feature on finals day, his opponent being Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen.

There was little indication even a fair way into the second Women’s Singles semi-final of a rich drama waiting to unfold. Sindhu was scratchy; Sung was her balletic best. The match eventually caught fire late in the second, with the exchanges gradually becoming longer and longer pugilistic battles – both contestants doubling over with exhaustion at the end of each rally. Sung had three match points and probably hurried her shots, giving Sindhu the lifeline she needed.

The third proceeded with the same intensity; Sung saved one match point but Sindhu gave it everything on the second – arching like a bow and sending the shuttle past Sung’s outstretched racket. The Indian collapsed in a heap; Sung challenged the call but the shuttle had found the line: 11-21 23-21 21-19 in 84 minutes.

“I immediately knew that the shuttle was in,” Sindhu said. “It was such a tough match, one of my best wins. There were such long rallies. I was so far down in the second, but I could come back. I thought let me just play and see. I had made so many errors. There were so many rallies, each point was a rally. She didn’t leave anything. I wasn’t tired. Even though we played long rallies, we had breaks in between. Neither of us was leaving the shuttle. My jump smashes worked in the end.”

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Sindhu has the opportunity of matching what her compatriot Saina Nehwal did in 2014. “Hopefully, I can do what Saina did,” said the Olympic silver medallist.

Her opponent in the final will be Sun Yu, who had it rather easy against an erratic Tai Tzu Ying, 21-8 23-21. The Chinese Taipei player was far too charitable, gifting numerous points before she belatedly woke up.

Chen Beats Axelsen

Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen needed to be his best against Chen Long. Unfortunately for him, his momentary lapses were all Chen needed to force his way through: 21-18 9-21 21-14.

The Dane enjoyed some good spells, particularly in the second, when he had Chen scrambling around and open to his attack. His momentum was quickly dashed in the third, for Chen shored up his defence once again, and the Olympic champion was able to make some stunning returns under pressure. To add to his woes, Axelsen wasn’t able to capitalise on the chances that he created.

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His compatriot Jorgensen however weathered a spirited challenge from Iskandar Zulkarnain. The Malaysian fought doggedly despite missing four game points in the first, and stretched it to a decider, but Jorgensen proved his superiority in the end.

“It was a messy match,” stated Jorgensen. “I knew he would try to spin on the net and get the attack. I felt good in the second, and slowed down a bit, it was stupid to lose the second after I stole the first, which was his game. At 2-4 in the third, I told the coach, let’s just play a long rally. Let’s see what happens, and he suddenly made a lot of mistakes.”

About his opponent for tomorrow, Jorgensen had no illusions on how difficult it could be: “Chen’s very tough, the best player this year. He’s very good in finals. China Open is a special tournament. I was in the final in 2009, and am very proud to make the final seven years later. It’s a big achievement for me.”

Li in Two Finals

Li Yinhui and Huang Dongping were helped by an uneven performance from Denmark’s Christinna 5day_chang-ye-na-lee-so-heePedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl. The Danes were far from their usual consistent selves, and the errors provided sufficient cushion for the Chinese to close it out comfortably: 21-16 21-18.

“We are disappointed, but we have been playing terrible this week so it was a surprise we got into the semi-finals,” said Rytter Juhl. “We had to keep fighting because we were struggling to find the rhythm. We had to adapt to their game and it took too long today. Normally it’s our game in the front court. Today they were a bit higher than us. So yes, we are disappointed, but it’s difficult to be in the final when you’re playing like that.”

Later, after she and Zhang Nan had outplayed Korea’s Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na in the Mixed Doubles semi-final, Li said she had to conserve her energy as much as possible: “It’s the first time I’m in two finals. Before the tournament, I didn’t even imagine I’d be in one final. I now have to think of saving my energy for the second match.”

Li and Huang face Korea’s Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee, who prevented an all-China final by beating Luo Ying/Luo Yu in straight games.

The Mixed Doubles final has Zhang/Li pitted against Olympic champions Tontowi Ahmad/Liliyana Natsir, who prevailed over Korea’s Choi Solgyu/Chae Yoo Jung 21-17 25-23.

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Sukamuljo/Gideon Prevail

Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon, shackled by the unceasing attack of China’s Chai Biao and Hong Wei and in considerable danger, freed themselves with some classic thrust and parry. Keeping the shuttle flat and making quick forays to the net, the Indonesians wormed their way back in. Sukamuljo’s reflexive return off a smash – which the Chinese assumed had won them the point – helped them gain the edge, and they converted the first match point.

“We were under pressure in the first game,” said Sukamuljo. “They’re bigger than us and their attack is quite intimidating and they’re very fast. They were leading in the second and then we tried to take the initiative.”

Their opponents in the final will be Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen, who survived some anxious moments late in the second before coming through against new Chinese pair Zhang Nan and Liu Cheng.

“It was tough, China were extremely good,” said Boe. It’s a good combination, Liu Cheng is strong at the back and Zhang Nan at the net. We knew that and we challenged them in the first four strokes and we succeeded and were in control throughout but at the end it got more exciting than it should’ve been.”

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