THAILAND MASTERS 2016 SF – Junior Champions march on

18-year-olds Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen are already gunning for their third career Grand Prix Gold title at the Thailand Masters. By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives) Zheng Siwei finished […]

18-year-olds Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen are already gunning for their third career Gold title at the Thailand Masters.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

Zheng Siwei finished 2015 by winning the Eddy Choong Award as Most Promising Player.  This weekend, Zheng and one of the players he beat out for that honour, Chen Qingchen (pictured above), are in the final of the Thailand Masters, where they will be looking for their third career Grand Prix Gold title, all before either has turned 19.

Zheng’s promise has already been in evidence this year, actually, as he won the Malaysia Masters with Li Yinhui.  Now back with Chen, they have returned to the incredible track they were on.  When they first paired up in late 2014, they promptly caused upsets over England’s Adcocks and Indonesia’s Ahmad/Natsir.  This week, they have already bested top-seeded Koreans Ko/Kim and then they followed it up with a domination of Australian Open winners Lee Chun Hei / Chau Hoi Wah, winning the shortest match of the day in straight games.

The Chinese youngsters’ opponents in the final will be Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying (pictured above) of Malaysia.  Chan and Goh began what was a mostly disappointing day for home fans when they bested Bodin Issara / Savitree Amitrapai in a match that was more thrilling than the scoreline would suggest.

Thailand’s woes continued on the centre court.  Busanan Ongbamrungphan showed flashes of brilliance against Chinese giant Sun Yu but simply could not get to enough of the steep smashes and fast drops from the Singapore Open champion.

Next up, Thailand Open winner Lee Hyun Il showed no age, only experience, as he expertly dispatched Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk.  The 35-year-old Lee was never in trouble as he finished both games 21-11.

An all-Korean men’s singles final looked like a possibility until Son Wan Ho blew three match points in his second game against Hong Kong’s Hu Yun (pictured).  Hu clawed back to win the second game 24-22 and then withstood a late surge by Son, taking the last 6 points in succession to seal the win.  Hu was one of the casualties last winter when Lee Hyun Il took his first of four major titles on the year but he will be keen to change his lot this year.

Something to sing about

The Thai fans finally got their wish when Ratchanok Intanon (pictured) nabbed her fourth straight victory over another Thailand Open champion from Korea.  Sung Ji Hyun showed some excellent retrieving and some solid backhand clears but too often, she kept the rallies going long enough to give Ratchanok the opportunity to wow the crowd.

The Thailand supporters cheered and sang and they frequently had to stop in mid cheer as the rallies continued, only to erupt each time Ratchanok won a point.  The match itself reached a wonderful climax as the home favourite had to save a match point before closing the second game 22-20 to pave her way to the final.

Intanon’s only loss to Sun Yu came at last year’s All England, when she had to retire mid-way through the deciding game after 67 minutes of play.

World Champions through to finals

The women’s doubles final will be an all-Chinese encounter.  Tang Yuanting and Yu Yang made quick work of Vivian Hoo / Woon Khe Wei but this week’s points should be enough to put the Malaysians into tentative contention to qualify for the Rio Olympics as the 13th pair.

In the other semi-final, reigning World and Olympic champions Tian Qing / Zhao Yunlei were more than able to weather the attacks from Korea’s hard-hitting Shin Seung Chan / Jung Kyung Eun.  With a win in Sunday’s final, they can see themselves in the top 8 of the Rio standings, forcing Japan to scramble upward to reclaim a spot for a second Olympic qualifier.

In the men’s doubles, the current and former World Champions did battle.  Ko Sung Hyun / Shin Baek Cheol (pictured), who are in the top 8 but are still chasing compatriots Kim/Kim for Korea’s second Rio spot, were unable to hold their nerve.

The Koreans looked to be outclassed when they trailed 12-17 in the deciding game but after closing the gap to just one point, they committed some costly errors at the net and ended up having to concede victory to their predecessors and successors as World Champions, Mohammad Ahsan / Hendra Setiawan.

Kim Ki Jung / Kim Sa Rang proved they were still too much for Chinese youngsters Huang/Zheng.  The Koreans will be looking to finally score their first victory abroad over Ahsan/Setiawan.  Their only wins to date against the two-time World Champions have come at the Korea Open.

Finals line-up
XD: Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying (MAS) [7] vs. Zheng Siwei / Chen Qingchen (CHN)
WD: Tian Qing / Zhao Yunlei (CHN) [3] vs. Tang Yuanting / Yu Yang (CHN) [5]
MS: Lee Hyun Il (KOR) [1] vs. Hu Yun (HKG) [3]
MD: Mohammad Ahsan / Hendra Setiawan (INA) [1] vs. Kim Ki Jung / Kim Sa Rang (KOR) [2]
WS: Ratchanok Intanon (THA) [2] vs. Sun Yu (CHN) [4]

Click here for complete semi-final results

Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @