INDONESIA OPEN 2015 SF – Zhang leaves home team with one finalist

China’s Zhang Nan extinguished the home team’s two brightest title hopes in the semi-finals of the BCA Indonesia Open Superseries Premier, leaving Greysia Polii / Nitya Krishinda Maheswari to carry […]

China’s Zhang Nan extinguished the home team’s two brightest title hopes in the semi-finals of the BCA Premier, leaving Greysia Polii / Nitya Krishinda Maheswari to carry the Indonesian flag into finals Sunday.

By Mathilde Liliana Perada and Naomi Indartiningrum, Badzine correspondents live in Jakarta.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

China’s Zhang Nan is looking for not only his third but also his fourth title at the BCA Indonesia Open 2015.  The home team was carrying three representatives in the semi-finals but  Indonesian fans had to settle for seeing just one flagship, Greysia Polii / Nitya Krishinda Maheswari in the final round as the home medal hopes in both the mixed and men’s doubles were forced to admit defeat to China’s own top pairs.

Another lost hope

Playing with the full support of thousands of local supporters, Tontowi Ahmad / Liliyana Natsir started their match against Zhang Nan / Zhao Yunlei with a 21-18 victory in the first game.  Being a game down did not necessarily discourage the London Olympic gold medallists easily.

In the second and third, the Indonesian pair were pressured by Zhang / Zhao with the rapid changes in rhythm of play and attacking strategy.  Liliyana Natsir admitted later that they did not anticipate the changes in the strategy undertaken by the Chinese pair.

“We were careless in the third game,” added Tontowi Ahmad after the match.  “After the score of 14-14, and we were directly left behind by three points.  For us, to pursue that gap was too difficult, even though we already tried our best.”

Indonesia was forced to admit the superiority of world #1 pair, losing 16-21, 22-24 in 76 minutes.  In the final round, Zhang / Zhao will against their compatriots Xu Chen / Ma Jin, who defeated the second-seeded Danish pair, Joachim Fischer Nielsen / Christinna Pedersen 21-15, 21-19.

Indonesia’s other stalwarts, Hendra Setiawan / Mohammad Ahsan also suffer the same fate in the men’s doubles category.  Also facing the formidable Zhang Nan, seeded eighth together with two-time winner Fu Haifeng, the 2013 World Champions were subdued in three games.

The men’s doubles semi-final match was very tight and thrilling and the crowd support was indistinguishable from an actual final. In the third game, Setiawan made a lot of unforced errors that gave the window for their opponents and eventually an open path for the Chinese pair to storm through to the final.

“They are not easy to stop but neither are we.  We were easily beaten by our own mistakes and often wasted the prime points for nothing.  We were in a rush and wanted to finish the rallies too fast,” said Hendra.

As for Zhang Nan this is happiness because he was able to go to Sunday’s final round in two events: “There is no special preparation for tomorrow’s matches, just practicing and getting ready again to win,” said Zhang Nan.

The defending men’s doubles champions, Lee Yong Dae / Yoo Yeon Seong, had to admit defeat to their team-mates and former partners, Ko Sung Hyun / Shin Baek Cheol.  Each of these four men has played doubles with each of the other three in the quartet so their knowledge of each other’s style goes far beyond the 3.75 matches the two pairs had completed head-to-head.

The world number one pair led 17-15 in the first game but they let go for a six-point run until the first game ended in favour of the reigning World Champions.  Lee/Yoo opened the scoring in the second game as well, but unfortunately it was again Ko and Shin who held the lead to the end of the match and took it in two.

“The match was between two Korean men’s doubles.  We already know the advantages and disadvantages of the opponents, so we played as well as possible,” said Shin Baek Cheol after the match.

Lee Yong Dae, who is one of the favourites among Indonesian badminton supporters, revealed that both he and Yoo felt a little bit burdened because they were returning to maintain the title they’d won the previous year:  “Our opponents played more loose and their defense was tighter than usual,” said Lee.

Sweet victories keep the red and white flags flying high

In the men’s singles, Kento Momota managed to send India’s Kashyap Parupalli home a day early, winning in three tiring games 12-21, 21-17, 21-19.

“I’m very upset, very disappointed, because I know I could have done it at the end when I was ahead 19-17,” Kashyap explained, on losing four points in a row to finally gift the victory to the Japanese representative.

“I saw he was sweating more.  He looked exhausted, so I tried as hard as possible.  I feel lucky,” said Momota.

Momota’s performance, including that never-give-up attitude is something the coach, Keita Masuda, said he has always tried to motivate his athletes to maintain: “I want to improve their mental attitude to not to give up easily and do their best.”

Momota’s compatriot Yui Hashimoto, meanwhile, perpetrated by far the biggest upset of the day when she took down former champion Wang Yihan in the women’s singles.  She has already beaten the 2014 and the 2011 World Champions in her discipline and now if she wants to title in her first ever Supeseries final, she will have to clean up against the 2013 champion Ratchanok Intanon.

Ratchanok spent far less time on court, beating Wang Shixian in straight games.  The Thai will be contesting the final for the second straight year and will be looking for her second career Superseries title.

Biggest cheers for the Asian Games gold medallists

For local fans, after the two crushing semi-final defeats, hope still remains for Indonesia on finals day.  Greysia Polii (pictured) and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari managed to keep the road open for an Indonesian title in a discipline that has been missing home gold for long time.  It may not match the 14-year drought in women’s singles or the ten-year wait in mixed, but Polii and Maheswari are still keen to win the women’s doubles title for the first time since Marissa and Natsir won it for Indonesia back in 2008.

The Indonesians performed very well in the first game, getting out to a promising 16-11 lead, but they lost the opener 20-22.  With the support of the thousands of spectators who packed the Istora Senayan in Jakarta, the reigning 2014 Asian Games champions finally managed to steal the next two games and win by 21-13 and 21-14.

“We prepared a strategy to face our opponents by discussing it with the coach.  On court, our strategy ran well as we started to attack and win the first game.  Our strategy was to keep Yu Yang at the back so they couldn’t attack us well,” said Nitya Krishinda.

With this victory, Greysia and Nitya made it to the final, becoming the first Indonesians to contest the women’s doubles final at the Indonesia Open since Vita Marissa and Nadya Melati finished as runners-up in 2011.  Meanwhile, that last title here for Indonesia in 2008 was actually the last time an Indonesian women’s doubles pair won a Superseries title.  Is this chance on home soil the best yet for Greysia and Nitya to win another for their country as well as a first for themselves?

Click here for complete semi-final results

Mathilde Liliana Perada

About Mathilde Liliana Perada

Mathilde has been a Badzine Correspondent since 2013. She is currently living in Jakarta and is working for a financial advisory firm. She also spends her time writing about badminton and helps local badminton communities to organize events related to badminton.