Tommy Sugiarto and Huang Kaixiang each won his first international title in over a year as the home team settled for one at the Thailand Masters.
By Don Hearn. Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (archives)
In 2015, Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto (pictured top) and Huang Kaixiang of China both won multiple titles. After a total drought in 2016, they are both back this year with early season victories at the 2017 Thailand Masters in Bangkok.
For Huang Kaixiang (pictured right), 2015 was the first year out of a successful period as a top junior. In 2014, he had won the doubles double at the Asian Juniors and went on to win the world title with Chen Qingchen. By the end of the year, however, Huang had been replaced as the mixed doubles partner of the up-and-coming Chen by his own men’s doubles partner Zheng Siwei and that new pair is, of course, now #1 in the world.
Huang still prospered in 2015 as he and Zheng won two titles and he did the same with his new mixed partner Huang Dongping, each pair winning one Grand Prix and one Grand Prix Gold event. Last year was basically, a partner search, however, as he played with no fewer than five partners. He featured in four Grand Prix Gold semi-finals with Zheng Siwei, then with Wang Yilu he reached a Superseries semi-final in Korea, laying the groundwork for the pair’s first title.
On Sunday, Huang and Wang were one game up and punched out to a 19-17 lead in the second, only to let Chinese Taipei’s Lu Ching Yao / Yang Po Han nose ahead. The Chinese pair saved two game points before finally having to settle for a third and deciding game. They dominated the decider, though, and left the Taiwan pair with their second straight runner-up finish.
Late in the afternoon, Tommy Sugiarto ended his own title drought, reaching the top of the podium for the first time since December 2015. He denied Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangcharoen in straight games. The 18-year-old was the sixth teenager to reach a Grand Prix Gold men’s singles final but, just as Sourabh Verma, Xue Song, Firman Abdul Kholik, Jeon Hyeok Jin, and Ihsan Maulana Mustofa before him, he found himself unable to become the first teenaged Grand Prix Gold champion in the discipline.
Before Wangcharoen suffered his disappointment, his compatriot Sapsiree Taerattanachai was relegated to second best not once, but twice, finishing runner-up in both women’s and mixed doubles. Both Chen Qingchen / Jia Yifan and Zhang Nan / Li Yinhui picked up where they had left off in 2016, winning on their first outing in 2017 after finishing last year the same way. Chen and Jia, of course, had won the Superseries Finals in Dubai while Zhang and Li had closed out their 2016 season by winning the Macau Open.
The bright spot for Thailand on the day was Busanan Ongbamrungphan (pictured). She reversed her disappointing result from her last final in Thailand, beating Thailand Open winner Aya Ohori in straight games to maintain the home team’s lock on the Thailand Masters women’s singles title.
Focus for much of the badminton world now shifts to the respective continental mixed team championships. However, Zhang Nan is the only man from Sunday’s finals in Bangkok who is scheduled to appear at the inaugural Asian event in Ho Chi Minh City this week, while Aya Ohori is the only woman finalist who is not on her country’s list.
WD: Chen Qingchen / Jia Yifan (CHN)  beat Puttita Supajirakul / Sapsiree Taerattanachai (THA)  21-16, 21-15
WS: Busanan Ongbamrungphan (THA)  beat Aya Ohori (JPN)  21-18, 21-16
MD: Huang Kaixiang / Wang Yilyu (CHN)  beat Lu Ching Yao / Yang Po Han (TPE) 21-19, 21-23, 21-16
XD: Zhang Nan / Li Yinhui (CHN)  beat Dechapol Puavaranukroh / Sapsiree Taerattanachai (THA)  21-11, 20-22, 21-13
MS: Tommy Sugiarto (INA)  beat Kantaphon Wangcharoen (THA) 21-17 21-11