Tan/Setiawan in Title Bout – Day 5: CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017
Saturday, June 24, 2017
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO

Tan Boon Heong and Hendra Setiawan achieved a rare feat on Saturday at the CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017, becoming one of the few trans-national partnerships in a World Superseries final.

The Malaysian and the Indonesian, partners since January this year, showed glimpses of their heyday as they stormed past China’s Liu Cheng/Zhang Nan 21-15 14-21 21-17. They became the first trans-national pair in a Superseries final since Setiwan himself combined with Russia’s Anastasia Russikh to reach the Indonesia Open final in 2010.

With Setiawan in his customary role making sharp interceptions at the net, and Tan unleashing big lefty smashes, the Indonesian-Malaysian combo got off to a strong start and found their way back after losing the second game. It was a Tan Boon Heong special – a 391 kph smash – that set up four match points at 20-16, and it was converted on the second opportunity.

“It’s good that pairs like ours can reach the final of a Superseries – I hope the national teams allow players (to pair up),” said Tan. “I can’t remember the last time I reached a Superseries final. We have been training well together and we hope we can fight it out well tomorrow.”

Tan and Setiawan will have to get past Japan’s Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda. The Japanese ended the run of giant-killers Lu Ching Yao/Yang Po Han (Chinese Taipei) 21-15 21-15.

Japan, having assured themselves of the Women’s Singles crown, have a shot at the Men’s Doubles and the Women’s Doubles. Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi reversed their recent run of losses to Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan, getting the better of the Chinese today in surprisingly easy fashion: 21-17 21-11.

The Women’s Doubles final will see Matsutomo/Takahashi face Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl. The Danes shook off the disappointment of a blown second game to fight their way past Japan’s Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota and make their third World Superseries final this year.

The Danes, who hadn’t lost a game in three previous matches to the Japanese, missed three match points to let their opponents into the contest and make it a sticky affair for them in the third. From 15-all, however, the experienced Danes were able to sting up a sequence of points that gave them the match at 21-16 20-22 21-18.

“The second set was tough to lose,” said Rytter Juhl. “Losing after three match points is hard. In the interval we talked about letting it go and being ready for the third and I think we managed that really well.

“We talked about going onto court in to the third with a lot of energy to show the Japanese that they are not on top even though they won the second set. So we really had to show that both mentally and with our body language. It was important for us to have a good lead because we had a little bit of difficulty playing on one side. It was a great match and great to have the crowd behind us.”

Olympic champion Chen Long gave himself a shot at his first Superseries title this year, struggling to combat the finesse of Korean veteran Lee Hyun Il, but coming away victor in 68 minutes: 26-24 15-21 21-17.

Lee played with the demeanor and control of a monk, pinning Chen to the lines and keeping things tight until he chose his moment to attack. Unusually for Chen, even his airtight defence was frequently blown as he struggled to read the lines of Lee’s attack. The Korean dominated the Olympic champion but failed to convert any of four game points in the opener; unruffled, he took the second and had his chances in the third until a late surge by Chen left him with too wide a gulf to conquer.

“I wasn’t perturbed at missing four game points in the opening game as I’d come in prepared to play a long match,” said Lee. “I’m quite satisfied with my performance this tournament. I feel lesser pressure now as an independent player, that’s why my performances have improved in recent times.”

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