Vive La Indonesia! – Doubles Finals: Yonex French Open 2017
Monday, October 30, 2017
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO

Indonesia pocketed two doubles titles and Chinese Taipei one as the Yonex French Open 2017 concluded today in Paris.

The day’s action was sandwiched between the Women’s Doubles and the Men’s Doubles finals – both of which saw debut Superseries winners. Indonesia’s Apriyani Rahayu and Greysia Polii won their first crown together in straight games – setting the trend for all five finals and culminating in the Men’s Doubles final which was won by Chinese Taipei’s Lee Jhe-Huei/Lee Yang.

Polii and Rahayu (featured image) brought to life a script straight out of a fantasy novel, winning the  Superseries just five months after they were paired together.

Prior to the final, everything about the Women’s Doubles pair from Indonesia suggested they were the underdogs. Rahayu, just 19 years old, was playing in her first Superseries final. At the opposite end were the attacking Koreans, who had just won the DANISA Denmark Open last Sunday.

And yet, once the final began, the Indonesians were in a zone. With defence well organised and anticipating astutely the attacking shots of the Koreans, Polii and Rahayu had the better of the exchanges. Rahayu was a standout, showing no indication either of her inexperience or the magnitude of the stage. With Polii a constantly smiling and encouraging presence beside her, Rahayu flew around the court, whipping unanswered smashes and just as ably, making quick forays to the net and keeping a fine touch. A reflex third shot to the far corner gave the Indonesians game point, and Rahayu closed out the game with a smash.

The match was slipping away with the Indonesians 12-7 ahead; the Koreans finally shook off the shackles to enjoy their best phase. At 15-all Lee and Shin had a spring in their step, but just as quickly, their touch deserted them. A couple of errors was all it took for Polii and Rahayu to gain their momentum once again and convert the second of their six match points: 21-17 21-15.

“For me, it’s an honour to be with Apriyani, to win the French Open,” said Polii. “It has been a struggle for us to keep this level with the top pairs. I feel blessed today and delighted.

“We kept a positive aura. I kept telling her – don’t lose the aura. We’ve got the game. Until the end, we controlled our minds. A final is not easy, especially for her, but I’m proud of her that she could control everything and move so well.”

Masterclass by Ahmad/Natsir

There was an otherworldly calm that Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir displayed in the Mixed Doubles final. Facing a pair of the quality of Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen, the World champions looked so unhurried and elegant, the occasion might well have been mistaken for anything but the final of a Superseries.

Yet, with their instinctive reading of the lines of the Chinese attack, and with Natsir coolly directing the traffic at the forecourt, the Chinese were harassed no end. The shuttle kept darting at them from unexpected angles; with soft touch and sharp cuts were the Chinese caught, always a split-second late. Even during the sticky end to the first, or midway in the second, the Indonesians radiated assurance while the Chinese had the look of soldiers fighting from the trenches. A momentary revival in the second game proved to be a passing phase, for the Indonesians were on the ball at the end, and Ahmad’s destructive smashing closed the lid on Zheng and Chen’s challenge: 22-20 21-15.

“The key to win was that we were calm and we enjoyed the match. We have beaten them before and we were confident, especially since we have won a few big titles this year,” said Natsir.

“We’ve played together for a long time now, we have good communication and applied the right tactics on court. We enjoyed playing in Paris, the crowd is amazing so our mood was very positive. We’re looking forward to doing well at the Dubai Superseries Finals as that’s a title we’ve never won.”

Lee/Lee On Target

Lee Jhe-Huei and Lee Yang were in their first final of this level, facing a pair that has seen many such occasions – Denmark’s Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen. Yet, it was the younger pair that demonstrated greater composure when it mattered.

In both games, the Taiwanese were required to keep their wits about them as the wily Danes edged close. Their attack though was fierce and on target, and the Danes found themselves constantly on the defensive. The Taiwanese saved one game point before converting their own second match point for a 21-19 23-21 result. The day’s second title for Chinese Taipei meant that it was their most successful Superseries.

“We constantly had to talk to each other as it was such a big occasion and I was nervous,” said Lee Jhe-Huei. “It means a lot to win our first Superseries title. We are doubly happy that our country won two titles today.”

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