HONG KONG OPEN 2013 SF – More top seeds meet their Waterloo

Semi-finals day at the Yonex-Sunrise Hong Kong Open started auspiciously, as mixed doubles top seeds Zhang Nan / Zhao Yunlei’s dream of a 3rd straight title in Hong Kong Open […]

Semi-finals day at the Yonex-Sunrise started auspiciously, as mixed doubles top seeds Zhang Nan / Zhao Yunlei’s dream of a 3rd straight title in Hong Kong Open was broken by unseeded English pair Chris and Gabrielle Adcock and more upsets were still to come…

By Renee Yang, Badzine Correspondent live in Hong Kong.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

It might be a little heavy-handed to call Chris Adcock a nemesis to Zhang Nan / Zhao Yunlei.  While he and former partner Imogen Bankier did get the better of the world #1 pair twice in first round matches last year, since Adcock was reunited on court with his wife Gabrielle (formerly “White” and still wearing her old shirts), the Chinese pair have won three in a row, all in BWF events beginning with the Denmark Open this year.  The Olympic champions certainly did not expect they would face their Waterloo in their 4th time meeting the English pair.

The Adcocks were quite active in front of the net as soon as the match started, created some opportunities for attacking, while Zhang/Zhao were relatively slow to go into competition mode.  The Chinese made many unforced errors in the first half of Game 1 on serve and receive, and their line judgment was also off.

After the interval, the Chinese pair still could not boost their status.  The English pair seized the chance to widen the gap to 15-6.  Then the Chinese woke up, they improved the quality on serve and receive and compete with their opponents in the frontcourt, and narrowed the gap to 10-15.

Rather than getting nervous, the English pair simply changed tactics and began using deep serves several times to interfere with their opponents’ advantage on service return, and defused their advantage at the net.  Zhang/Zhao were obviously not prepared for this and lost points rapidly, finally losing the first game 12-21.

In the second game, the English pair kept using their tactics which had proved to be quite successful in the second half of the 1st.  The Chinese pair seemed to have no solution and their challengers got out to a 9-5 lead before the defending champions changed their pace and placement, attacking the English in the first three strokes and levelled the score to 16-all.  But the Chinese could not keep it up, while the English were much more stable, got 5 points in a row, and won the match in straight games, marching to the final of a Superseries event for the first time.

“The key factor of today’s failure was service and return,” said Zhang Nan after the match.

“Our opponents used a lot of deep serves during the match.  I think that normally, a service judge may permit 1 or 2 such deep serves during one match, but today you could see, the service judge didn’t call a fault even once.  We felt a little regret on this matter.”

When asking about why they made so many errors, Zhang said: “After playing almost every Superseries tournament this year, we feel exhausted at the moment.  Our stamina and mental state may have made it difficult to support our play.”

As for his misjudgement of shuttles landing in or out, Zhang just said he hoped the BWF could use instant review technology on international events as soon as possible.

“It’s simply incredible to play like this! We need to honeymoon more often!” laughed Gabrielle White after their impressive success.

“It’s true that it’s been an amazing week and this match was one of the best we’ve played. Touch wood that it continues for the final,” added Chris Adcock.

Former champion back in the final

In the second match of the afternoon, 2009 champion Wang Yihan (pictured above) faced Porntip Buranaprasertsuk (pictured below) just one week after being beaten by the Thai in 3 games, in the 2013 China Open quarter-final.  The 22-year-old from Thailand has explosive wrist strength which gives her a powerful attack.  In the first game, she took advantage of this ability, keeping her opponent moving to the baseline with quick attacking clears and when her opponent could not return the shuttle deep enough or was out of position, she gave a finishing shot.

These tactics worked effectively and it seemed Wang had no answer.  After Porntip took the 1st game 21-17, the supporters from Thailand burst into cheers and were keen to see another upset.

But in the 2nd and 3rd game, Wang found the answer and changed tactics quickly.  She became more patient, control the sidelines, slowed down the pace, and forced the Thai to move, seeking her own chances to finish.  Porntip became impatient since the second half of 2nd game and was anxious to attack, which cost her many unforced errors.  Finally the upset did not come as expected, Wang took the match in three.

Twos down, one #1 to go

In the third match of the day, Lee Chong Wei became the only 1st or 2nd seed to survive until the Hong Kong Open final when he dispatched Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana in just over half an hour.  Immediately following, Christina Pederson / Kamilla Rytter Juhl (pictured below right) were the favourites to reach their fourth Superseries final of the year but they were unable to handle unseeded Tang Yuanting / Ou Dongni (pictured below left) of China.

The Chinese players are both quite young and just started their partnership for 6 months.  The Hong Kong Open is only their 3rd Superseries tournament.  Two months back in Japan open, they were beaten by the Danes in straight games but today, they got sweet revenge.  The Danes seemed quite impatient today and made a lot of unforced errors.

The Chinese pair played very smart, tried to play more drives than lifting the shuttle and varied their placement so that the Danes didn’t get enough chance to perform their powerful attacking.  Finally the Chinese youngsters won 21-13, 21-15.  During post-match interview, the Chinese girls were quite shy and modest, but still they admitted they were happy and satisfied by their performance in this tournament.

“Against the Danes, we were underdogs.  We understood the gap of strength between us,” said Ou Dongni.  “In this case, we had no pressure but just need to play our best.  The last time we met them, in the Japan Open, we lacked experience and confidence and became a little bit scared by their attacking.  This time, as we had played against them once, we felt much better and were not afraid of them.”

“Before the match, we had watched match videos of the Danes, studied their favourite placement, and our coach suggested some special tactics aimed at beating them,” added Tang.

“I think we played really badly today,” said Christinna Pedersen after the match.  “Nothing really worked, not even the basics so that makes it very difficult to win a match.  Sometimes you just don’t hit it and we really weren’t there today.”

Asked to rate their opponents, Pedersen said, “I think they are number 4 or 5 in China.  In the world, I don’t know.  We don’t know them that well.  They have not been playing so many tournaments.

“We played them in one match so we know them from that match only but they have improved since we played them in Japan and they played better than us today.”

Korea locks up men’s doubles

Later in the evening, Hendra Setiawan / Mohammad Ahsan looked strong to be a second top seed in action on finals day.  However, they first had to get past Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong (pictured below) in what was, without a doubt, a competition between the top two pairs of this year.

Both pairs were outstanding at the net, the Koreans were good at defending and attacking, while the Indonesia pair were superb in their drives and off the serve.  There were few long rallies, as most of the battle happened in the front and middle of court with first three strokes after serve.  The key factor which had decided the match seemed to be the mental side, where the Korean pair proved to be much tougher and more stable at crucial points and this helped them to win the match in straight games.

In the afternoon men’s doubles match, Kim Ki Jung / Kim Sa Rang beat Andrew Ellis / Chris Adcock (pictured below) in two games, ensuring that the men’s doubles title will go to Korea for a fifth time in the 2013 Superseries, a figure that matches the number won by Indonesia.

The English pair has performed quite well recently.  In 2013 French Open, they had won over this same Korean pair in the second round after beating Cai Yun / Chai Biao in the first round.

Chris Adcock, though denied that they have simply had some sudden improvement, saying, “I know we’ve had a few good tournaments in a row but we’ve been having these kinds of results on their own for quite a while and it’s just about putting them together and we’ve had a good run of tournaments.

“Obviously the better the people we beat, the more confidence it gives us but I don’t think it’s a confidence issue.  We always know we can beat the top pairs it’s just making sure that we can bring that level on the day.”

The shortest match of the day was Sony Dwi Kuncoro’s victory, by default, over compatriot Tommy Sugiarto.  It was a battle between two generations in a way, of Indonesian men’s singles, even though there is only a 4-year age difference.  Unfortunately, it seemed the younger player could not compete in all aspects.

Back in form, Sony’s play was elegant and unhurried.  Like a master of Tai Chi who could control the pace and route on court, he manoeuvred his opponent with transitional shots and waited for his chances to finish.  He took the first game 21-14, and when led 8-3 in the 2nd game, Tommy asked for a medical timeout and then announced he was retiring due to a foot injury.

Finals line-up
XD: Chris Adcock / Gabrielle White (ENG) vs. Liu Cheng / Bao Yixin (CHN)
WS: Wang Yihan (CHN) [3] vs. Wang Shixian (CHN) [4]
MD: Kim Ki Jung / Kim Sa Rang (KOR) [4] vs. Lee Yong Dae / Yoo Yeon Seong (KOR)
WD: Bao Yixin / Tang Jinhua (CHN) [5] vs. Ou Dongni / Tang Yuanting (CHN)
MS: Lee Chong Wei (MAS) [1] vs. Sony Dwi Kuncoro (INA)

Click here for complete semi-final results

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