THAILAND MASTERS 2016 Finals – World Champs crowned again

In the inaugural Princess Sirivannavari Thailand Masters on Saturday in Bangkok, current and former World Champions and world #1s like Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei ruled the day but Ratchanok […]

In the inaugural Princess Sirivannavari Thailand Masters on Saturday in Bangkok, current and former World Champions and world #1s like Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei ruled the day but Ratchanok Intanon sent the partisan fans home happy with a close victory in the women’s singles.

Story and Photos by Gerald Jew, live in Bangkok

The first edition of the Princess Sirivannavari Thailand Masters Gold featured both youth and experience but most of all some fantastic on-court action.  The match that first got the crowd going was actually the all-Chinese women’s doubles final.  The World Champion pair of Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei beat Yu Yang and Tang Yuanting (pictured top) in a match that saw fairly easy wins in the first two games by both pairs, before a close 3rd game that had the Thai fans roaring with approval. Yu and Tang fought off two match points and held a match point of their own before finally succumbing, 21-23.

Tang wasn’t too disappointed by her loss: “[Tian and Zhao] are very strong and I think because they have played together for a long time, their experience was the difference in the close points. We beat them one time before and maybe we will do better next time.”

Regarding her goal of qualifying for the Rio Olympics, “We have many, many tournaments to go before we can qualify; hopefully we can qualify after 4 or 5 more tournaments. We will try again starting with the Asian Badminton Championships next week in India.  I think we can do it.”

The victory for Tian/Zhao will put them into the top 8 for the first time, a position that, if they can maintain it, will permit them to be sent to Rio as a second Chinese pair.  Tang and Yu finish the week just over 4,000 points off the pace but with three Chinese pairs likely to finish in the top 8, they will also have to convince the Chinese coaches that they are a better bet for gold than Tian/Zhao or the Luo twins.

The day’s first match was the only one that featured opponents of very different ages, unless one counts the 21-year-old Tang Yuanting, who has already spent 8 months in the world’s top 10.  In the mixed doubles final, the young, unseeded Chinese pair of Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen continued their rapid ascent in the rankings by toppling the 7th seeded Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying (pictured above) of Malaysia.

Zheng and Chen, the reigning World and Asia Junior Championships, were looking to collect their 3rd Grand Prix Gold title, and the two 18-year olds were able to accomplish their goal in a relatively quick, 38-minute match. In both games, the Malaysian pair kept the score close in the early stages before Zheng and Chen were able to exert their dominance and cruise to the victory podium.

Experience wins over experience

The men’s singles saw two older – indeed oldest – veterans, Korea’s Lee Hyun Il (pictured above) and Hong Kong’s Hu Yun square off against one another in a match that featured the 35-year old Lee, looking to add to his numerous gold medals against the 34-year old Hu, who was hoping for his first major tournament title. Sadly for Hu, he will have to continue his quest for his first title, as Lee was able to complete his sweep of winning back-to-back Grand Prix Gold tournaments in Thailand, in a close two game match.

Lee had not only won the SCG Thailand Open last October, but last winter, he started off his 2015 season by winning the Thai International Challenge.

About his match with Hu, Lee said, “I have been watching and playing against Hu for a long time, so I know how he plays. He was very tough today. I knew that he had some tough 3-game matches before today and I was able to get to the finals playing only 2-game matches, so I thought it would be easier for me. I expected a tough match today because it was a final, I did my best and fortunately I was able to win.”

In the men’s doubles, Korea’s two Kim’s, 2nd-seeded Kim Ki Jung and Kim Sa Rang, jumped out to 1-0 lead with a relatively easy win in the first game against reigning World Champions and top seeds Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan (pictured above) of Indonesia. Any thoughts the Korean pair had of an upset were quickly dashed as Ahsan and Setiawan came storming back to take the 2nd game by a score of 21-15 and the 3rd game by a score of 21-12, a dominating game in which they led from the very start and never trailed.

Ratchanok gives the people what they wanted

In the last match of the day and most definitely the match most of the fans in attendance came to see, Thailand’s badminton darling Ratchanok Intanon (pictured) gave the fans exactly what they were hoping for, with a closely contested 3-game win over China’s 4th-seeded Sun Yu. The 2nd seeded Intanon, who become the highest seed remaining after India’s top-seeded Saina Nehwal withdrew, took the first game 21-19.

Sun, who had the distinct disadvantage of not only facing Intanon, but thousands of raucous Thai fans as well as a couple of dubious line calls, captured the 2nd game, 21-18. In a very close 3rd game that was tied at 17-all, Intanon reeled off the last four points of the match to win her first tournament since last year’s Indonesia Open.

All of the finalists, except for the mixed finalists and Lee Hyun Il, are now headed to Hyderabad for the Badminton Asia Men’s and Women’s Team Championships.

Final results
XD: Zheng Siwei / Chen Qingchen (CHN) beat Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying (MAS) [7]  21-17, 21-15
WD: Tian Qing / Zhao Yunlei (CHN) [3] beat Tang Yuanting / Yu Yang (CHN) [5]  11-21, 21-12, 23-21
MS: Lee Hyun Il (KOR) [1] beat Hu Yun (HKG) [3]  21-18, 21-19
MD: Mohammad Ahsan / Hendra Setiawan (INA) [1] beat Kim Ki Jung / Kim Sa Rang (KOR) [2]  12-21, 21-15, 21-12
WS: Ratchanok Intanon (THA) [2] beat Sun Yu (CHN) [4]  21-19, 18-21, 21-17

Click here for complete results

Additional photos: Antoine Roullet / Badmintonphoto (archives)


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