U.S. GRAND PRIX 2014 SF – Close shave for Hsu Jen Hao

A first-time Grand Prix winner will be crowned in men’s singles in Orange County after Hsu Jen Hao won a 90-minute semi-final to face Czech Petr Koukal in the final. […]

A first-time winner will be crowned in men’s singles in Orange County after Hsu Jen Hao won a 90-minute semi-final to face Czech Petr Koukal in the final.

By Brandon Redekop.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

The longest match of the semi-finals went to no. 1 seed Hsu Jen Hao (pictured) of Chinese Taipei who was in a battle with Thai teenager Sitthikom Thammasin.  Hsu’s luck was there when he needed it to be as he recovered from being caught at 18-all in the decider to take the three more points he needed to secure the match and another chance at his first Grand Prix title.

It was also a big day for Petr Koukal, seeded eighth, who broke through to his first Grand Prix final with a straight-game victory over the #2 seed Misha Zilberman.  Koukal, from the Czech Republic, will celebrate his 29th birthday the day after the final.

Another story of breakthrough is in the women’s singles, where 18-year-old Canadian Rachel Honderich (pictured) will also make her Grand Prix tournament final debut, although she did score a second-place finish at the Pan Am Championships for just as many ranking points.  Awaiting her is the daunting task of taking on current world no. 12 Zhang Beiwen, who is back in competition in her new homeland after reaching Superseries quarter-finals in Denmark and France.  Zhang is looking for her fifth title of the year after winning the Brazil and Dutch Grand Prix, along with the U.S.  Grand Prix Gold.  Both women had comfortable semi-final victories, over Zuzana Pavelkova and Brittney Tam respectively.

The men’s doubles final will be contested by Japan’s only representatives at the tournament, Yoshinori Takeuchi / Taiki Shimada, whose tight semi-final win over the Pan Am silver medallists Sattawat Pongnairat / Phillip Chew booked their place across the net from top seeds Adam Cwalina / Przemyslaw Wacha.  Cwalina/Wacha of Poland are 13-time International Challenge winners but have not yet secured a Grand Prix title as a pair.

No. 1 seeded Pan American titleholders Eva Lee / Paula Lynn Obanana (pictured bottom) of the USA will be looking to finish the tournament strong after tough three-game matches in the quarter and semi-finals.  Their opponents are Hsieh Pei Chen / Wu Ti Jung from Chinese Taipei, who prevailed over Canadians Alex Bruce / Phyllis Chan in their semi-final.

The walkover given by mixed doubles no.  1 seeds Max Schwenger / Carla Nelte, opens the door for USA’s Howard Shu / Eva Lee to take their spot in the final against Germany’s third-seeded duo of Peter Kaesbauer / Isabel Herttrich who made quick work of USA’s Halim Haryanto Ho / Hong Jing Yu in their semi-final.  The Germans are fresh off an appearance in the final  of the Carlton Irish Open.

Finals line-up
XD: Peter Kaesbauer / Isabel Herttrich (GER) [3] vs. Howard Shu / Eva Lee (USA)
WS: Zhang Beiwen (USA) [1] vs. Rachel Honderich (CAN)
MS: Hsu Jen Hao (TPE) [1] vs. Petr Koukal (CZE) [8]
WD: Eva Lee / Paula Lynn Obanana (USA) [1] vs. Hsieh Pei Chen / Wu Ti Jung (TPE)
MD: Adam Cwalina / Przemyslaw Wacha (POL) [1] vs. Taiki Shimada / Yoshinori Takeuchi (JPN)

Click here for complete semi-final results


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