MACAU OPEN 2008 SF – Title Droughts to End in Macau?

Taufik Hidayat seemed to have regained his form, overcoming the fatigue that seemed to plague him in the last few weeks.  He easily won his semi-final match against Kuan Beng […]

Taufik Hidayat seemed to have regained his form, overcoming the fatigue that seemed to plague him in the last few weeks.  He easily won his semi-final match against Kuan Beng Hong 21-11, 21-12 and is now set to meet the world number one Lee Chong Wei in tomorrow’s final. Meanwhile Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong also made their comebacks in a final after an only slightly tricky win against Kurniawan and Lie from Indonesia. Malaysia’s Julia Wong also grabbed her ticket to the final after saving two match points against Hong Kong’s Yip Pui Yin.

By Tarek Hafi.  Photos: (archives)

After more than a year empty of any title and physical condition in distress, Taufik Hidayat (pictured) has been given a chance to return to the finals in Macau to stop the curse of what might have been his worst year ever. Frequently criticized for this year’s poor results while his teammates Sony Dwi Kuncoro and Simon Santoso, have both done well in recent tournaments, Taufik wants this win to boost his moral, the head of Indonesia’s badminton association told Tempo magazine.  Indeed, Taufik was of course saddened by his defeat in the Olympic Games but he’s putting that all behind him in Macau.

Twenty-nine minutes was all he needed to take care of Kuan Beng Hong from Malaysia, even though Taufik Hidayat admitted himself during the China Masters that he had been struggling lately with fatigue. However, his opponent on Sunday won’t be easy to go through as the world number one, Lee Chong Wei, will be waiting for him and will certainly step confidently on the court, having won their last three encounters.

Julia Wong (pictured) proved once again that everyone should be careful of her fighting spirit.  Most recently, this has resulted in the departure from the tournament of Yip Pui Yin who, despite having two match points in the second game, just couldn’t conclude. After Yip packed the first game 21-17 not letting Julia lead even once, Wong gave her money back in the second where she led continuously.  But with the Malaysian leading 18-15, Yip Pui Yin gathered her last strength to earn five consecutive points, and two match points.  The trouble is the it just isn’t in Julia’s nature to capitulate and she fought on, nabbing her last four points to win the game and stay in the match.

In the rubber, Wong just had to fly away to victory and book her ticket to her second final. The stage is set, however, as Zhou Mi – a player against whom Wong has never won and who reached the final of the last two tournaments, winning one of them – will be Julia Wong’s opponent in tomorrow’s final.

The pressure might have diminished somewhat for Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong, urged by their coaches to win the tournament.  Now one step has already been achieved as Koo and Tan are one match away from a title they won last year. Still, they are trying to end an 11-month title drought and a win tomorrow will certainly be useful for this pair, which their coaching staff has threatened to split up.  Koo Kien Keat has already told journalists that he objected to the idea of being separated from Tan Boon Heong. Therefore a good result on Sunday could either postpone the coaches’ proposed action or even cancel it entirely, something that now only time can tell.

Koo/Tan are now set to meet Taiwan’s Fang Chieh Min and Lee Sheng Mu (pictured), the second seeds and certainly the most dangerous pair of the draw.  Amazingly, though ranked 22nd in the world and coming off a very successful year with plenty of upsets to their names, Fang and Lee are playing in their first ever international final.  Still, Macau seems to be a lucky venue for Fang, who reached his first ever final here last year in the mixed doubles.

A new Chinese women’s double era is currently in process with Zhao Yunlei and Cheng Shu taking part in their third final in a row and a possible third straight title for this brand new pair of contenders. However, their path to the final was not as easy as expected.  Indeed, it took them three games to get through their semi-final against compatriots Wang Si Yun and Zhang Jinkang, even newer names in the badminton world. The China Masters and Japan Open winners will be confronted in the final by two more teammates in 2006 World Junior Champions Wang Xiaoli and Ma Jin, who easily defeated their Malaysian opponents Ng/Woon. Both pairs are certainly China’s future, now that Li Yongbo and his colleagues will have to face many retirements from the women’s doubles field in the next few months.

Yohan Hadikusumo Wiratama and his partner Chau Hoi Wah, kept their number one seed status in mind, helping them to secure their place in the mixed doubles final after an easy win against Chinese youngsters Chai Biao and Wang Xiaoli 21-15, 21-14. They will face a stiffer Chinese threat in the final, however, as two of last week’s finalists, Xu Chen and Zhao Yunlei, took care of Taiwan combination and fourth seeds Wang Chia Min and Wang Pei Rong, 21-15, 21-17.

For complete results from the Grand Prix Gold semi-finals, click HERE

About Tarek Hafi