CHINESE TAIPEI OPEN 2016 Finals – Chou Tien Chen ends 17-year wait

Chou Tien Chen became the first Chinese Taipei shuttler in 17 years to take the men’s singles title at his home Grand Prix Gold event. By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto […]

Chou Tien Chen became the first Chinese Taipei shuttler in 17 years to take the men’s singles title at his home Gold event.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

The writing has been on the wall for quite some time.  Chou Tien Chen (pictured) won his first Grand Prix Gold title four years ago, just a few short months after reaching his first final at home.  Since then he’d won two more Grand Prix Gold titles, plus a , and reached another final at home.

Last year in Taipei, he beat the reigning Olympic champion in the semis and it took the reigning World Champion to deny him the title.  On Sunday, after spending more than 20 months in the world’s top ten, Chou was facing an unseeded opponent for the first time in the final of his home Grand Prix Gold event.

China’s Qiao Bin had been dominant in his earlier matches, against much higher-ranked Ng Ka Long and Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk.  In the final, too, he was anything but a pushover for the world #7 but late pushes by the driven Chou in both games were enough to give the 26-year-old the title.

Chou Tien Chen thus became the first local shuttler to win the men’s singles title since Fung Permadi in 1999.  Chou also became only the second local in the history of the event to win in this discipline, as the Indonesian-born Fung was the first in an event that was then in its 19th edition.

Preceding Chou’s victory was a much more familiar sight, that of a Taiwan shuttler taking the women’s singles title.  Although historically, the local fans had to wait much longer for Cheng Shao Chieh to become the first to keep this title at home, since she first accomplished that in 2009, half the titles have gone to local players.

Tai Tzu Ying (pictured above) first picked up the mantle in 2012 and although she was prevented from repeating in the 2013 final, she made up for it this year by beating All England runner-up Wang Shixian in straight games.

The first game was a tight one, with Wang leading for most of the second half.  After tying it up at 21-all, Tai finally took the lead for good with a deceptive lift into Wang’s forehand back corner.

The second game was all Tai.  Wang never showed any signs of fatigue or injury and despite the one-sided scoreline, it was not a case of the Chinese star giving up.  She did have some trouble with her flight judgment and may have saved some shots from going out but she fought in every rally, struggling to keep up with Tai’s deceptive play.

The afternoon began and ended with doubles titles for China.  In the opener, Huang Dongping and Zhong Qianxin took their first title as a pair, beating top-seeded twins Luo Ying / Luo Yu.  Interestingly, they became only the third Chinese pair in history to win women’s doubles gold in this event.  The other two were former Olympic gold medallists Ge/Gu in 1996 and Yang/Zhang in 2009.

In the mixed doubles, 19-year-olds Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen each took their third mixed doubles title of the year.  It was only their second together, however, as the first time in 2016 that Zheng had prevailed over Tan Kian Meng and Lai Pei Jing (pictured above) in a Grand Prix Gold final, it was with a different partner.  The Chinese teens ruled both games from start to finish and their winning performance should be enough to put them back in the world’s top 25.

The afternoon ended with what was definitely the most exciting match.  Men’s doubles top seeds Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen (pictured) were looking to go one better than they had in 2014 and take their first title of the year, while local hopes Chen Hung Ling and Wang Chi Lin (pictured bottom) were keen to take their first title as a pair and to keep the men’s double crown at home for the first time since Chen won it in 2009.

All three games were extremely close.  The Chinese finished with a strong push to take the opener but then let their concentration lapse at the end of the second, as Chen and Wang found their stride and put together a flawless 6-point run to deny the Chinese giants the straight-game win.

The home favourites started the deciding game strong but this ended up being the closest game.  Li and Liu earned two match points at 20-18 but after a punishing smash by Chen and some clutch driving by Wang, they found themselves having to save one themselves.  The Chinese youngsters were the ones who won the battle of nerves in the end, and took it 24-22, on their fourth opportunity.

There is one more Grand Prix Gold event before the Olympic Games but none of the Taipei finalists will be crossing all those time zones to this week’s U.S. Open.  Only the singles winners are expected to be sent to Rio but three of the runners-up could still be chosen ahead of compatriots who were ranked higher in May.

Final results
WD:  Huang Dongping / Zhong Qianxin (CHN) beat Luo Ying / Luo Yu (CHN) [1]  21-18, 21-16
XD:  Zheng Siwei Chen Qingchen (CHN) [5] beat Tan Kian Meng / Lai Pei Jing (MAS)  21-13, 21-16
WS:  Tai Tzu Ying (TPE) [2] beat Wang Shixian (CHN) [1]  23-21, 21-6
MS:  Chou Tien Chen (TPE) [5] beat Qiao Bin (CHN)  21-18, 21-17
MD:  Li Junhui / Liu Yuchen (CHN) [1] beat Chen Hung Ling / Wang Chi Lin (TPE) [4]  21-17, 17-21, 24-22

Click here for complete results

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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 @ badzine.net