SINGAPORE OPEN 2010 Finals – Success story of the underdogs

It was a one-sided affair in the men’s and women’s doubles final, with both pairs of champions triumphing in two straight games – except it was the unseeded underdogs who […]

Howard Bach, Tony Gunawan (USA)It was a one-sided affair in the men’s and women’s doubles final, with both pairs of champions triumphing in two straight games – except it was the unseeded underdogs who emerged victorious over their seeded rivals in their battles for ultimate glory in Singapore.

By Pearlyn Kwang, Badzine Correspondent, live from Singapore Indoor Stadium. Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

It was just not to be for ex-world champions Howard Bach and Tony Gunawan (pictured left), who were seeking to regain the glory they achieved back in 2005. They split up soon after the victory, forming new partnerships thereafter – Bach with Khan Bob Malaythong and Gunawan pairing up with former team-mate Candra Wijaya. However, they eventually got back together in 2009, and this week in Singapore, made it to their first Super Series finals as a pair.  As Bach joked, both of them are “like a couple who broke up and reconciled”.

But this couple will have to wait for another chance to grab their first ever Super Series title, as their adversaries on finals day of the Singapore Super Series were just too good for them.

Fang Chieh Min and Lee Sheng Mu (pictured below) were also playing in their first Super Series finals, but they managed to step ahead of the more experienced Americans to be promoted to the elusive rank of “Super Series champions” earlier.

The Chinese Taipei duo, who defeated world #3 Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan in the semi-finals, never once gave a chance to Bach and Gunawan during the match, enthralling the crowd with their clever use of tactics and top-notch defence.

sin2010-finals-tpe“We’re very happy to win our first Super Series title in Singapore,” exclaimed the 23-year-old Lee.  “We just fought! We didn’t think too much,” he claimed, when reporters asked for their thoughts on the match.

His partner was more explicit in describing the reason behind their success though: “We made fewer errors today, but relatively, our opponents made more errors. And also, we used speed and our momentum to pressure them, because we have difficulties playing slow paced games since we are still lacking in our skills”.

Chinese Taipei’s #2 pair of Fang and Lee had created some major upsets in the past year or so, but they never managed to sustain their good form for an entire tournament. This week, their impressive run in Singapore provided just that breakthrough they need, in time to make them one of the contenders to look out for in August’s World Championships.

“They stand a chance, definitely,” Chinese Taipei’s coach Chen Zhi Hao commented on the pair’s medal hopes in Paris. “But it will depend on how they grab the opportunity.”

The Americans were gracious with their defeat, as Bach did not attempt to hide his admiration for the victors. “They played better. They placed pressure on us all the way. Basically, they are just a lot better than us today.”

He continued to lavish the two Taiwan players with praise: “Actually, we have to give them the credit. We always have to step ahead of them. So we were the ones with the pressure. And they were always a couple of points ahead, so we had to do all the chasing.  When you’re ahead, it’s easier.

This whole entire week, they have shown and proved that they’re the best. They deserve to win.

With that, everyone present at the press conference broke into a big applause – for the worthy champions and their very gracious opponents.

sin2010-finals-shintaSingapore’s first-ever Super Series title

It was a day the home crowd will never forget. In 20 years, no local player has been crowned champion at the .

But on Sunday, Shinta Mulia Sari and Yao Lei (pictured left) ended their adopted country’s long wait, by upsetting fifth-seeded Kim Min Jung / Lee Hyo Jung (pictured bottom right) to claim Singapore’s first ever Super Series title.

Lee Hyo Jung was out for her third Super Series women’s doubles title, having clinched the 2008 All-England and 2009 Malaysia titles with previous partner Lee Kyung Won, whereas new partner Kim Min Jung was featuring in her first final. Still, the Koreans were the hot favourites for the coveted trophy, as they were part of this year’s Uber Cup-winning team.

Nonetheless, the prowess of the South Korean twosome did not stop the 6,500-strong crowd from cheering on their local heroines. The atmosphere at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, was for once, bursting with excitement, as chants of “Singapura” rocked the entire building.

The Singaporeans, seemingly motivated by the support of their countrymen, quickly raced to a 17-9 lead in the first game. The South Koreans were not about to give up though, fighting back to bridge the gap to just one-point indifference at 18-17. Not to be outdone, the young ladies from Singapore stepped up their game, grabbing three points consecutively to wrap up the first game 21-17, much to the delight of the local fans.

But the real comeback of the day came later, in the second game. Down 16-20, the Singaporeans looked like they were headed for a rubber game against Kim and Lee.

Nonetheless, lady luck did not shine for long on the fifth-seeded Koreans, as she was probably scared away by the incessant roars from the spectators’ seats.

Defying all odds, Shinta and Yao Lei posted their biggest win to date, taking six points in a row to stun the leggy Koreans.

sin2010-finals-Lee-KimUpon witnessing the Koreans’ failure to return Shinta’s smash down the centre of their side of court at match point, the crowd erupted into a deafening ovation, celebrating the monumental occasion that just unfolded before their eyes.

Asked about her thoughts when the Koreans had 4 game points, China-born Yao Lei told reporters during the press conference: “I never thought about whether we were trailing or not. I just treated every point we played as 0-0. That probably calmed us down and helped find our momentum back.”

Yao then shared the key to their conquest: “We played up our strengths and attacked their weaknesses. Our strong mentality helped us too.  We don’t think too much about winning and the pressure we face.”

“We knew we had nothing to lose as we’re the underdog, and we had more confidence today, added Shinta, who is recovering from a hamstring injury.

What a fortnight it has been for the two girls, claiming back-to-back triumphs in India and Singapore!

“Winning at the India Grand Prix last week, and now the Singapore Super Series, it definitely boosted our confidence a lot. But this win is even more special, because it’s on our home ground,” Shinta enthused.

“I’m very happy for them. They played well and have good fighting spirit,” rejoiced Coach Eng Hian, himself a former Singapore Open champion. “Even when they were trailing 16-20, I was confident they could win.”

His next target for the newly-minted Singapore Super Series champion? A silver medal at the New Delhi Commonwealth Games.

The duo will not hear of it though.

“I’d prefer a gold medal,” admitted Yao Lei, laughing.

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About Pearlyn Kwang