MACAU OPEN 2016 Finals – Lees’ 1st blocks China sweep

Lee Jhe-Huei and Lee Yang took their first career Grand Prix Gold title in Macau today, narrowly preventing China from sweeping the titles. By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives) Coming […]

Lee Jhe-Huei and Lee Yang took their first career Gold title in Macau today, narrowly preventing China from sweeping the titles.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

Coming into the Grand Prix Gold, Lee Jhe-Huei and Lee Yang (pictured top) were already the only doubles pair from Chinese Taipei to have won a major title in 2016.  But despite their two Grand Prix titles, at the Vietnam and Dutch Opens, they were still only third among Taiwan men’s doubles pairs.

Perhaps more importantly, the pair had not been able to advance past the quarter-finals at any bigger event despite some impressive early round victories.  Perhaps the biggest disappointment was at their home Grand Prix Gold, where they were beaten soundly by Hardianto/Haryanto.  They might have first got their revenge on the Indonesians shortly afterward, in Vietnam, but although that put them in their first Grand Prix final, this week, another win over that same pair was what put them in the first Grand Prix Gold final of their career.

Before they could celebrate, they had to deal with a certain two-time Olympic gold medallist.  Even in a scratch pairing, Zhang Nan proved to be a formidable opponent.  Of course, it helped that his partner, Lu Kai, was a man with multiple Grand Prix Gold and Superseries titles to his name in both men’s and mixed doubles.

Zhang and Lu took the first game but the Taiwan pair dealt well with the pressure and got out to a good start in the second.  They were caught late in the second game but managed to surge ahead from 17-all and force the decider.

The third game was neck-and-neck at the start but the Chinese pair managed a two-point lead at the interval.  Lee Yang went to the floor early in the first rally after the end change but the two Lees got back in the rally and one drive hit the tape and forced a loose lift that Lee Jhe-Huei punished, starting off a nice little surge that would bring the momentum back to his side.

The two Lees continued to attack, putting particular pressure on Lu Kai, and they continued to dive and shout and basically do everything they needed to to keep it close.  When Lu and Zhang did get back to a 2-point lead late in the game, Lee/Lee surged ahead again and this time, they held their opponents at bay.  The second seeds celebrated vociferously when they reached match point but it didn’t jinx them as they took it on the first try and then the celebrations began for real.

Zhang Nan was thus perilously close to a doubles double.  He and Li Yinhui (pictured above) had succeeded where they failed in the China Open final.  They saw off Thailand Open runners-up Tang Chun Man / Tse Ying Suet in straight games to start off an amazing afternoon for China.

After being left without a single title in the last two Superseries events, including their home Superseries Premier event in Fuzhou, Chinese shuttlers were closer than they’ve been all year to sweeping all five titles.  It was actually the third time in the last two months that China had taken all but the men’s doubles title but at the Bitburger and French Opens, no Chinese pair had even been close to reaching the final.

Asian and World Junior Champion Chen Yufei (pictured above) took her first major title, beating another 18-year-old Chen from China.  Yufei had been in the semis of the China Masters the last two years running and was beaten a year ago Tuesday in her only previous appearance in the final of a Grand Prix Gold event but today she made good in Macau.

The biggest upset of the afternoon came when 20-year-old Zhao Junpeng (pictured) took his first major career title.  Zhao finished off world #8 Chou Tien Chen in straight games.

China’s Chen Qingchen became the first player ever to win six Grand Prix Gold titles in a calendar year.  She had already tied Ko Sung Hyun’s 2011 record of five when she won two at the Bitburger last month but now with six, she is all alone as queen of the Grand Prix Gold circuit.  Chen and Jia Yifan won handily over Anggia Shitta Awanda / Ni Ketut Mahadewi (pictured bottom).

Chen and Jia now have just a week of rest before they head to Dubai for their first ever appearance in the Superseries Finals.  The same goes for Zhang Nan, should he accept his wild card invitation for a last hoorah with Fu Haifeng, with whom he has not appeared since they won gold in Rio.

Only a few of the finalists will be travelling north for the last Grand Prix Gold event of the year, the Korea Masters.  Lee/Lee are the top seeds in Korea but only they, Chen Xiaoxin, and Zhao Junpeng are on the draw for that event, which will be held for the first time on the southern island of Jeju.

Final results
XD:  Zhang Nan / Li Yinhui (CHN) beat Tang Chun Man / Tse Ying Suet (HKG) [7]  21-19, 21-15
WS:  Chen Yufei (CHN) [6] beat Chen Xiaoxin (CHN)  21-13, 21-18
MS:  Zhao Junpeng (CHN) beat Chou Tien Chen (TPE) [1]  21-11, 21-19
WD:  Chen Qingchen / Jia Yifan (CHN) [1] beat Anggia Shitta Awanda / Ni Ketut Mahadewi (INA)  21-15, 21-13
MD:  Lee Jhe-Huei / Lee Yang (TPE) [2] beat Lu Kai / Zhang Nan (CHN) [5]  17-21, 21-18, 21-19

Click here for complete 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 @