SUPERSERIES FINALS 2014 – And the last trophies go to…

Taiwan‘s Tai Tzu Ying didn’t commit the same mistake twice as she did one better than last December and marched towards victory over a shaken Sung Ji Hyun at the […]

Taiwan‘s Tai Tzu Ying didn’t commit the same mistake twice as she did one better than last December and marched towards victory over a shaken Sung Ji Hyun at the BWF Destination Dubai World Finals. Korea’s superstars Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong imposed a bit more their supremacy, after a dangerous final and Japan’s Matsutomo and Takahashi got their biggest title yet.

By Tarek Hafi.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live from Dubai)

Four players got the biggest titles of their careers so far and five players got their biggest payday to date as the 2014 BWF World Superseries ended with a lot of joy for eight lucky winners.  Dubai itself was the other lucky winner as organizers and spectators there got their first taste of the very top echelon of world badminton.

A step higher for Tai Tzu Ying

She was only given a second place last year after Li Xuerui decided she needed a second straight title; however, in Tai Tzu Ying’s second straight final at the , she was not willing to be that obedient this year.

The Taiwan ace appeared extremely focused from the beginning of the match, not ready to give out any points to her Korean opponent, Sung Ji Hyun. The twenty-year-old player used all her repertoire of shots while releasing some of her famous smashes down the line, rendering the match a nightmare for Sung Ji Hyun, who was forced to abdicate 21-17, 21-12.

It was even revenge for Tai Tzu Ying (pictured above), after she was beaten in two finals last year by Sung, including in the final of her home event in Taipei.  Tai was in Sung’s place last year when she conceding the final to Li Xuerui but she relished her very different fortune in 2014, which saw her holding the trophy she bravely earned, as well as a winner’s cheque for US$40,000.

A new king is born?

He is without any doubt the new badminton star of this and proved once again he wasn’t here to play an extra role on the circuit. In the absence of his illustrious compatriot Lin Dan – as well as Lee Chong Wei, whom he will replace as world #1 in 4 days – Chen Long did indeed live to expectations and has kept on delivering one prestigious title after another.

The young Chinese player played a magnificent tactical and technical game to overcome his opponent of the day Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (pictured left with Chen Long), who was unable to compete with his tall Chinese opponent. The man chosen as ambassador for this event remained unbeaten throughout the week, foreseeing a very promising and brilliant 2015 season, which will see the commencement of the Olympic qualification period in May.

Fool me once, shame on you…

Korean stars Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong (pictured), probably felt they had no other alternative but to win this final title, after spending most of the year dominating their category. And Sunday’s task was not mean one, since they had to compete with the same pair that had beaten them a few days ago in the group stage.

An enormous amount of mental strength was therefore necessary, as China’s Chai Biao and Hong Wei (pictured bottom) started pressuring the Korean from the very first point, with Hong Wei’s heavy smashes and Chai Biao improved net play. An incredibly tight first game went to the Chinese, but this was countered by the Koreans in the second game, which was just as thrilling.

Finally, Lee and Yoo were able to create a huge gap in the third, but with their 12-point lead whittled down to just 3 by the Chinese, a smash from Lee Yong Dae solved this equation, giving the title in Dubai to the favourites.  It was a superb present for Yoo Yeon Seong.  Not only is this his most prestigious and most lucrative title to date, but he is very soon getting married to his Japanese fiancée, who joined the team in Dubai and supported her husband-to-be.

Zhang and Zhao unbeatable?

Often cited as the new Chinese sensations, Liu Cheng and Bao Yixin, will still have to wait to beat their prominent compatriots and team-mates Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei (pictured). The latter gave a short lesson to their younger opponents for the fifth time on the international stage, winning, as with all their encounters, in straight games.  It was a spectacular 21st Superseries title together for Zhao Yunlei and Zhang Nan as they grabbed back the title they last earned in 2011, after which they were denied twice by Joachim Fisher Nielsen and Cristina Pedersen.

World number two Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi (pictured) got a well-deserved spot at the highest step of the podium in Dubai after a shocking straight-game win over the Olympic and World Champions Zhao Yunlei and Tian Qing. The Japanese ladies deployed their unbreakable wall throughout the 66-minute final.

It was a sweet moment of glory for the Japanese, considering how they have remained extremely consistent this year, being seldom beaten by non-Chinese players.  Despite having beaten the top Chinese pairs and winning major tournaments, this was the first time they combined the two elements of success in one match.

Thus, with the last trophies of this year handed out, the players can enjoy the end-of-year celebrations with a little relaxation.  In a first for the badminton circuit since the beginning of the Superseries, the BWF has pushed the Malaysia and Korea Opens out of the January schedule, allowing all the top players a Superseries-free two-month holiday if they want it, until the All England in March.

Final results
MD: Lee Yong Dae / Yoo Yeon Seong (KOR) [1] beat Chai Biao / Hong Wei (CHN)  19-21, 21-19, 21-16
WD: Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi (JPN) [1] beat Tian Qing / Zhao Yunlei (CHN) [3/4]  21-17, 21-14
MS: Chen Long (CHN) [1] beat Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (DEN)  21-16, 21-10
WS: Tai Tzu Ying (TPE) beat Sung Ji Hyun (KOR)  21-17, 21-12
XD: Zhang Nan / Zhao Yunlei (CHN) [1] beat Liu Cheng / Bao Yixin (CHN)  21-15, 21-12

Click here for complete results

About Tarek Hafi