3 countries book 3 titles each while Tang He Tian gets a shot at nabbing a 2nd Grand Prix title for herself and for Oceania.
By Kira Rin, Badzine Correspondent live in Auckland. Photos: Jiacen and Jiajing Lu (live)
Southern Cross shines for the ladies
In a shining moment of Oceania badminton, the women’s doubles pair of Renuga Veeran and Tang He Tian (pictured) overcame their Japanese opponents Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota. In the longest of the match of the day, which stretched past the hour mark, the two pairs exchanged games and points, right up to the deciding game.
Tactically managing stamina played a factor, with the Australian pair playing a careful tactical game, never quite over-committing on a smash lest a defense should catch them off guard. In response, Fukushima and Hirota forced drive wars, attempting to force opportunities for attacking play. But once the plucky Australians opened a 5-point lead, Fukushima and Hirota had to start playing catch-up, playing more carefully calculated attacks to ensure shots didn’t leave the court.
It was in vain however, as only 2 match points were saved before a weak lift opened up to a barrage of attacks from the Australians to seize the match.
In a brief interview, Renuga revealed her playing philosophy: “We played with an open mind. Working together well helped us to win the match. We had to play a more tactical game today, as we normally play an attacking game.”
Tang is the only active player in the Oceania region who has won a Grand Prix title since 2007. She did so at the 2009 Australian Open with then partner Huang Chia Chi. There have been no Oceania Grand Prix finalists since the two that day, when Henry Tam and Donna Halliday were also mixed doubles runners-up.
A singles title in the hand for Taiwan and Japan
Following on from Japan’s upset of top seeds yesterday, it was the fate of 2nd seed Cheng Chi Ya to fall to Japan’s Kana Ito today. For Cheng Chi Ya, perhaps the fatigue of playing 3 disciplines in the tournament was taking its toll, as she was slow in reaching for net shots and committed many unforced net errors.
All Kana had to do to hammer in the last nail was to keep pushing Cheng to the back court and play tight net and drop shots to shake Cheng’s confidence in front court retrieval. An exhausted Cheng could only watch as she sent obviously winning shots wide, her confidence shaken, leaving no chance to recover the match.
After a long thrilling match of nail-biting points, Hsu Jen Hao (pictured above) stepped forward to show his reputation as the top dog of the tournament. Despite his height, he moved like a blur around the court, returning each and every one of Arvind Bhat’s shots. The 34-year-old German Open champion did all he could to try to outsmart and attack Hsu for points, but he soon found his confidence wavering upon seeing almost all of his attempts returned back at him, often with added speed.
On the other side, Arif found himself troubled by Wang Tzu Wei (pictured), last year’s World Junior Championship runner-up. Aggressive play from Wang saw Arif having to pull defensive manoeuvres to bring the shuttle back to play. While Arif could only briefly steal the lead by creating opportunities for smashes, it seemed as if Wang punished even the slightest high shot by punching it down hard.
Wang thus becomes only the sixth teenager in the last ten years to reach a Grand Prix men’s singles final.
3 countries, 3 titles
With Chinese Taipei and Japan having booked their seats at men’s singles and women’s singles respectively, Indonesia added to the bookings with a pair of semi-final wins in mixed doubles.
Under the watchful eye of coach Nova Widianto, youngsters Edi Subaktiar and Melati Daeva Oktaviani overpowered Huang Po Jui and Shuai Pei Ling with punch smashes and driving to empty spots, never giving the Taiwan pair any chance to counter.
Despite being hit in the eye from a chance net kill, Melati shrugged it off, opting instead to let her partner cover a bigger portion of the court while hitting shots to set up opportunities. Only after the match concluded did she get an ice pack to cool her eye.
The mixed doubles final will be a near repeat of the 2012 World Junior Championship final with only Annisa Saufika standing in as the new partner of Alfian Eko Prasetya (pictured), who was runner-up on that occasion.
WS: Nozomi Okuhara (JPN) vs. Kana Ito (JPN)
MS: Hsu Jen Hao (TPE)  vs. Wang Tzu Wei (TPE) 
XD: Alfian Eko Prasetya / Annisa Saufika (INA) vs. Edi Subaktiar / Melati Daeva Oktaviani (INA)
WD: Tang He Tian / Renuga Veeran (AUS)  vs. Shizuka Matsuo / Mami Naito (JPN)
MD: Chen Hung Ling / Lu Chia Pin (TPE)  vs. Selvanus Geh / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (INA)