China Super League – Qingdao oh-so-close to repeating

As the BWF calendar draws singles to a close, the latest edition of the China Badminton Super League, which has been a sideshow to the Superseries and Grand Prix events […]

As the BWF calendar draws singles to a close, the latest edition of the , which has been a sideshow to the Superseries and Grand Prix events of the last three months, finally came to an end when two-time defending champion Qingdao faced Guangzhou in the final this past weekend.

By Renee Yang, Badzine Correspondent.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

Qingdao Beer Badminton Club, champion the last two years running, came to the final stage after defeating the Army team, while Guangzhou Yueyu Badminton Club defeated Hunan at the semi-final stage.

Qingdao’s two titles came when they had Fu Haifeng and Wang Xin on the team. But Fu was kept on the Guangdong Oppein team this year while Wang was injured; thus Qingdao imported Thai talent Ratchanok Intanon and Du Pengyu and Hong Wei and with existing players like Ma Jin, Shen Ye and Qiu Zihan, they formed a balanced team.

Guangzhou was 6th at last year’s competition. To a city which considers badminton as their city game is home to more than 3 million badminton players, obviously such a result could not be accepted. This year, they imported several big-shot such as former world champions Taufik Hidayat, Lu Lan, and Zheng Bo, as well as Malaysia’s Koo Kien Keat / Tan Boon Heong and talented youngster Bao Yixin to go along with existing players like Wang Zhengming and Zhong Qianxin to form a shining team.

The first best-of-5 tie was played on December 6th at Guangzhou’s home court, beginning with women’s doubles between Ma Jin / Luo Yu and 2010 World Junior Champions Bao Yixin / Ou Dongni.  Qingdao seemed to have a slight edge against Guangzhou as Ma Jin / Luo Yu had were undefeated in this year’s events while their rival Ou Dongni was just a youngster from national reserve team who played substitute until Zhong Qianxin was injured.

But Ou surprised us with her strong attacking play and solid defence skills, she and Bao Yixin (pictured top) played brilliantly against their opponents, who were obviously not on their game.   The Guangzhou pair won the match 21-19, 21-12.

The second match was women’s singles between Ratchanok Intanon (pictured right) and Deng Xuan. The World Junior Champion gave no chance to the 2010 Youth Olympic runner-up and won the match with her brilliant net play and powerful shots at score 21-16, 21-17.

The third match was men’s doubles between Liu Jingru / Zhang Moran and Koo Kien Keat / Tan Boon Heong. Qingdao could not sent their strongest pair Hong Wei / Shen Ye due to appearance limit to player of A and A- level within one tie and instead sent a scratch pair to the match. They lost to Koo/Tan in straight games 16-21, 13-21.

Now the pressure went to Wang Zhengming (pictured) of Guangzhou.  If he could not win against Du Pengyu, his club may lose the first tie as Qingdao’s strong mixed doubles pair Ma Jin / Hong Wei had the edge in the deciding mixed doubles match. On the other hand, Wang and Du are competitors inside national team competing for the third men’s singles place. Du had 3-1 head to head record against Wang and his performance in BWF tournaments is also better than Wang. The match lasted for 68 minutes, with the lead frequently alternating.

As teammates training together for years, they were familiar with each other on tactics and approach, and neither could find effective attacking chances easily, even winning one point often required more than 20 shots. Wang was always criticized for his weak mental strength and stamina but this time he was tough enough to stand the long-lasting torture. He won the match at 21-15, 22-20 by better net play and active attacks, ending the first tie 3-1, and becoming the hero for Guangzhou.

The second tie was held on December 8th and transferred to Qingdao club’s home court. The stadium was the one which 2011 Sudirman Cup was held and could accommodate 60,000 spectators. But for unknown reason, the stadium was so empty at the day with fewer spectators on the stand, which may have foreshadowed Qingdao’s defeat.

In the first match, men’s doubles, Qingdao gambled by sending Hong Wei to face Koo/Tan with Shen Ye (pictured below).  This meant that Ma Jin could not play both women’s and mixed doubles as per appearance limit rules. The thought was reasonable as Ma Jin seemed have stamina problems during the first tie while Hong/Shen had good head to head record against the Malaysians.

When the match started, the Malaysian duo dominated the front court by changing the approach and placing the shuttle which made their opponents could not handle easily and took game 1 at 21-17. In the second game, Hong/Shen got used to their approach and rhythm and found some tactics to control the game, once leading by 8 points, but the Malaysia duo were more experienced.  They levelled by winning 8 consecutive points and eventually won a reversal at 22-20.

The second match was another men’s singles between Wang Zhengming and Du Pengyu, almost a remake of their previous match. Wang took Game 1 by winning key points, and Du took Game 2. In the deciding game, Du ran out of gas and Wang took the game easily at 21-7.

In mixed doubles, Ma Jin / Hong Wei showed their power of attack against Zheng Bo / Bao Yixin and won the match rapidly. Then Intanon won the women’s singles over Deng Xuan at 2-1 and levelled the score at 2-2.

But the victory on mixed doubles and women’s singles could not help Qingdao to win a reversal, as they could not send Ma Jin to play in women’s doubles, thus Guangzhou had a big advantage on this item. The duo from Guangzhou Bao Yixin / Ou Dongni took the match quickly as expected with no resistance from their opponents. Thus, the Guangzhou Club took the second tie in 3-2 and became champions of the 2012 China Badminton Super League.

About Ying Yang