AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2015 Finals – Six straight points devastation

Lee Chun Hei and Chau Hoi Wah were bitten once when two points from the title, but were not shy when they got close again as they took their first […]

Lee Chun Hei and Chau Hoi Wah were bitten once when two points from the title, but were not shy when they got close again as they took their first title at the Star in Sydney.

By Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent live in Sydney.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

Second time for Chau, first for Lee

Mixed doubles between Hong Kong and China was characterised almost entirely by short rallies in the first game owing to mutual esteem. Hong Kong’s Chau Hoi Wah / Lee Chun Hei Reginald had been beaten three times previously by their opponents of today Bao / Liu but but meeting in a Superseries final today earned them justified newfound respect from the Chinese.

Liu Cheng took it up a notch at 10-11 and 19-20. He knew it was a key moment psychologically at the former stage and it’s-now-or-never at the latter. The first paid off and the second which was game point went their opponent’s way and the crowd loved the fireworks of a long rally full of bang-bang fast missiles.

Frown lines appeared on Bao Yixin’s forehead early in the second game in contrast to non-verbal high five encouragement between Hong Kong’s pairing.  Big occasion tension followed into the second game.  Bao Yixin’s serve into the net was followed by Lee Chun Hei’s.  Hong Kong earned the 4 points outright from 15 onwards to pile on the pressure, being just two points from victory.  Two factors turned the tide: anxiousness leading to a switch to conservative play got the better of Lee as well as accidentally letting Bao Yixin back into the rallies especially at the forecourt.  This made the difference to tying the match at same score for the sixth seeded Chinese, 21-19.

A still rattled Hong Kong fell behind at the start of the third game but Bao’s frameshots on cheap kills helped them back in.  Next, it was China’s turn to be rattled by a comeback when the opponents sneaked ahead 11-10 at the final change of ends. Chau/Lee unbelievably regrouped completely fresh and raced ahead, collecting the biggest bunch of points quickly with minimal resistance while Liu still had his mind on the line call challenge that didn’t go his way at 10-10.  Lee learnt after the second game and forbade nerves or mind wandering to strangle him when having the luxury of a 5 point lead again. The pair that competed with a plan and having the ability to recover swiftly from nerves that naturally strike in a major final won today.  Both sides won six straight points to close out games but Hong Kong’s coming in the decider dealt the deeper irrevocable devastation.

“I have to thank my parents, my coach and partner. They make it possible for me achieve what I did today. I wish I could explain to you how amazing our teamwork transformed to rise to the challenge and the joy of playing all these special players this week”, enthused Chau afterwards to Badzine.

Her partner Lee was grateful she stuck by him after the upsetting conclusion to the second game.  It is Hong Kong’s first trip to the peak of a Superseries podium in a week that saw Chau/Lee beat three top 10 pairs in a row they’ve never overcome.  Deserved 2015 champions and a second time for Chau at the Australian Open.

Tang vs. Tang

In the all-Chinese women’s doubles final, the first game lacked a sense of urgency. Tian Qing, once considered the most exciting and adaptable woman in international doubles, showed off her superior net technique in this new partnership whereas previously with Zhao Yunlei she had been assigned as rear court admiral.  Being able to end rallies in quick time at the net reminded spectators she used to be world #3 in mixed doubles.

Having fallen behind in the second game, the shortest and smallest of the four women on court, Ma Jin decided on the energetic approach which thereafter differentiated them from their compatriots in the blue kit.  It didn’t work quick enough to secure the second but it engaged her partner Tang Yuanting who is the youngest of the bunch.

There was nothing separating Ma Jin and Tian Qing’s captaining contributions. Each Tang, Yuanting and Jianhua, provided the firepower for their teams and it would either be the more consistent of the Tangs or the one whose smash can penetrate the other side who would lead in the deciding game. Former world #2 Tang Jianhua has been providing high quality, solid, unflashy support all week and actually fulfilled both these criteria to set up their match point.

All four ladies went for broke and Ma Jin leveled at 20-20. At deuce where anything can happen, the pair that had practiced being energetic overtook as the new champions, 19-21, 21-16, 22-20.

The princes and the pea & kings of defence

Korea’s Yoo Yeon Seong / Lee Yong Dae were the only successful defending champions who emerged unscathed this week. Liu Cheng had to settle for runner-up again, this time with Kai Lu, 21-16, 21-17.

Facing another tall Chinese pair right after another, Yoo Yeon Seong / Lee Yong Dae had the reflexes preped as far as similarities went. In the first game, the Koreans successfully created continual discomfort for their opponents mainly as a result of their greater natural variation of play which entailed mixing up the speed of the shuttle. Liu/Kai were left flat footed three times in the first 10 points by Korean dropshots, twice from Yoo’s racquet by 2-0.

Also, the Koreans tended to smash against out of balance or slightly out of position opponents whereas the Chinese assaults were akin to punching through a brick wall. The Chinese chose to eke out victories the hard way by smashing utterly ready opposition who were positioned side by side or when one of the Chinese was singled out for attack he’d insist on replying right back to the same smasher than deflect the shuttle with a change of direction.

In the second game, Liu/Kai maintaining a lead from the outset altered the colour of shots returned to them. The Korean’s smashes became less red hot which transformed proceedings to somewhat resembling yesterday’s high octane Korea-China rallies instead of one pair outsmarting the other as witnessed a moment ago.

The Koreans adjusted by the time of the interval to concentrate on defending stronger, relegating attacking to secondary weapon status. Yoo/Lee didn’t have to create this dimension out of thin air or desperation as it is second nature to them.

“Knowing Yong Dae is good at the net we positioned him there. And we relied on my defending abilities. Our main worry was potentially stuffing up in reality.”, explained Yoo of handling the difficult second game.

“Even though meeting a Chinese pair in the final is a tough job, we were confident going into this match today because we do play well in Australia and the atmosphere suits us”, acknowledged Lee of the enthusiastic vocal support for Korea in the stadium in all his experiences.

Final results
XD: Lee Chun Hei / Chau Hoi Wah (HKG) beat Liu Cheng / Bao Yixin (CHN) [4]  21-19, 19-21, 21-15
WD: Ma Jin / Tang Yuanting (CHN) [5] beat Tang Jinhua / Tian Qing (CHN) [6]  21-19, 16-21, 22-20
MS: Chen Long (CHN) [1] beat Viktor Axelsen (DEN)  21-12, 14-21, 21-18
WS: Carolina Marin (ESP) [3] beat Wang Shixian (CHN) [5]  22-20, 21-18
MD: Lee Yong Dae / Yoo Yeon Seong (KOR) [1] beat Liu Cheng / Lu Kai (CHN)  21-16, 21-17

Click here for complete results

Aaron Wong

About Aaron Wong

Aaron Wong only ever coveted badminton's coolest shot - a reverse backhand clear. He is renowned for two other things: 1) Writing tournament previews that adjust the focus between the panorama of the sport's progress, down to the microscopic level of explaining the striking characteristics of players; 2) Dozing off during men's doubles at the London Olympic Games. Contact him at: aaron @