NEW ZEALAND OPEN 2014 Finals – A second for Oceania!

New Zealand and Australia may share many rivalries, but both had a common cause to celebrate when a Grand Prix title landed at the feet of Oceania Badminton. By Kira […]

New Zealand and Australia may share many rivalries, but both had a common cause to celebrate when a title landed at the feet of Oceania Badminton.

By Kira Rin, Badzine Correspondent live in Auckland.  Photos: Jiacen and Jiajing Lu (live)

Womens Doubles: For the first time in forever…

Who knew Australia had a Grand Prix title back in 2009?  For years Oceania has yearned for it and finally, for the first time in forever, they have another one today!  Oceania, Australia – and in fact even Tang He Tian personally – all have a second Grand Prix title!

This time, Australia’s Tang He Tian had her new partner Renuga Veeran (pictured top) to stand beside her at the moment of victory.  Their opponents on the other end were the former world #3 Shizuka Matsuo and Mami Naito (pictured right) of Japan.

Suspense ruled the atmosphere when the Aussies opened strong and kept attacking towards an 8-point lead.  The game played more like men’s doubles, with the ladies opting to hit downwards more often rather than clearing to the back.  Tension was palatable when the Japanese came back with 3 points from counter attacking, but later turned to early jubilations when the Aussies responded with their own 3-point streak to own the game.

Matsuo and Naito wasted no time in responding with a counter-attack stratagem, baiting the Australians and hitting consistent defensive shots to earn winners from errors and well-positioned shots.  Before the Australians knew it, a third game was in the works.

Come the third game, strategy and tactics had to be juggled up to take into account stamina factors, especially more so for the Aussies who had endured a gruelling hour-plus match just yesterday.  However, with this being the last match of the tournament, the Aussies opted to throw stamina considerations out the window and attacked with everything they had.

Smashing their way to a 7-point lead, however, the Aussies needed a lot of confidence to focus on the match when the Japanese attempted an audacious comeback with a streak of 3 points and then 5 points in a row.  It took the Aussies every ounce of stamina to keep on an attacking game of smashes to reach the final 3 points.

A very pleased Australian coach, Lasse Bungaard heaped praises on his players: “It was one of the best games we ever played.  In the third set, they played the right game and the Japanese panicked a bit at the end.”

Renuga also revealed the focus they had during the game: “We watched their game before.  In the first set we played well, but in the second set, they changed tactics.  In the third set, we revisited tactics from the first game, increased the pace and didn’t care about the Japanese coming back, only focusing on our own points.”

Badminton Oceania now has 2 international titles of Grand Prix level and above in the era, both earned by Australia’s Tang He Tian with 2 different partners.

Singles – Teens surpassing veterans

Both singles finals became matches of nearly one-sided dominance, with the losing side struggling to maintain their dignity.  For women’s singles, it became a game of clubs, as well as generations, with 18-year-old Unisys shuttler Nozomi Okuhara facing off against 28-year-old Renesas veteran Kana Ito (pictured).

Nozomi moved quickly around the court, often leaving Kana out of reach of most shots, and even when Kana was able to reach for a shot, she was mostly off balance once she made contact.  Only a few points coming from a combination of strategy and luck helped to salvage her dignity as a player.

22-year-old Hsu Jen Hao had it better when he was able to get 22 points, compared to Kana’s 18.  Wang Tzu Wei, 3 years his opponent’s , kept Hsu moving around the court, never really giving the top seed the chance to attack, while making the use of every attack opportunity he had.

Wang seemingly had almost unlimited stamina, being able to unleash smashes at almost every opportunity.  Hsu responded by playing a tactical retrieval game, however Wang also knew how to play the game with his endless reserve of stamina, with his smashes as an additional weapon.  Even when Hsu could catch up to 13 – 15 in the second game, Wang lengthened it again with a 6-point streak to end the match.

“I trained very hard to get every shot perfect,” said Wang Tzu Wei (pictured) after winning his first international title.  “I feel very happy that I am a champion having won the title.”

Friends vs. Friends

Alfian Eko Prasetya and Annisa Saufika were the next in line for the podium, facing off against friends and training partners Edi Subaktiar and Melanti Daeva Oktaviani.  Knowing each other’s game proved to be an advantage and disadvantage.  After all, knowing your opponent well also means that your opponents themselves will also know your own game too.  Tit-for-tat exchanges ensued, with the margin only increasing in the final game due to quick attacks from Prasetya/Saufika and Edi missing opportune attacking chances.

“We were very focused on our game and played with a clear mind as we were facing our own friends whose weaknesses we already know,” Saufika commented after her victory.

1 versus 3

To round off a day of finals, Indonesians Selvanus Geh and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (pictured) upset second seed Chen Hung Ling and Lu Chia Pin.  With the experienced Nova Widianto watching his former mixed adversary from the coach’s seat, Selvanus and Kevin were able to able to learn tips on how to deal with Chen’s game play.  Chen and Lu might have had their comeback victory in the second game if it hadn’t for some forced drive errors from Chen.

Facing 3 opponents, including a formidable one sitting in the coach’s chair who had experience playing him, proved too much for Chen Hung Ling, who was unable to extend his defensive coverage to return the fast shots.

Final results
WS: Nozomi Okuhara (JPN) beat Kana Ito (JPN)  21-15, 21-3
MS: Wang Tzu Wei (TPE) [6] beat Hsu Jen Hao (TPE) [1]  21-9, 21-13
XD: Alfian Eko Prasetya / Annisa Saufika (INA) beat Edi Subaktiar / Melati Daeva Oktaviani (INA)  21-18, 17-21, 21-12
WD: Tang He Tian / Renuga Veeran (AUS) [4] beat Shizuka Matsuo / Mami Naito (JPN)  21-13, 10-21, 21-18
MD: Selvanus Geh / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (INA) beat Chen Hung Ling / Lu Chia Pin (TPE) [2]  15-21, 23-21, 21-11

Click here for complete, detailed results

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Indonesian mixed doubles finalists: (from left) runners-up Melati Daeva Oktaviani / Edi Subaktiar, champions Alfian Eko Prasetya / Annisa Saufika © Jiacen Lu for Badzine

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