Mixed doubles world #1 Zheng Siwei has reached his first men’s doubles final in over a year, as he partnered star Fu Haifeng after a long hiatus. Team-mate Huang Yaqiong will face Zheng again as she herself looks for a doubles double in Kuching.
By Don Hearn. Photos: Mikael Ropars / Badmintonphoto (live)
In 2015, both before and after Zheng Siwei became the first male player in 9 years to score a doubles double at the World Juniors, he was also doing it in Grand Prix tournaments. In the meantime, he has been busy becoming the top mixed doubles player in the world but it was not until he teamed up with two-time Olympic gold medallist Fu Haifeng (pictured) that he made it into his first Superseries men’s doubles final. Not surprisingly, Zheng is also in the mixed final where, incidentally, he will face another player who is in the running for two titles, Huang Yaqiong.
In the opening match on Saturday morning in Kuching, Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen opened proceedings with a straightforward win over team-mates Zhang Nan and Li Yinhui. Zhang and Li have two Grand Prix Gold titles already this year but they have not contested a Superseries final since the China Open in November. The world #1s, by contrast, were in the final last week in India but haven’t titled since Dubai in December.
Zheng was back on court in the mid-afternoon to take on a couple of other compatriots. He and Fu Haifeng, who hasn’t played internationally since his one match at the French Open in October, took on world #3 Chai Biao / Hong Wei. Chai/Hong, the runners-up at this event last year, took the opening game but let their unseeded challengers run away in the second. In the decider, Chai/Hong fought back from 11-18 down, nearly catching the underdogs with an 8-2 run, but in the end it was the scratch pairing of past and present world #1s that prevailed.
In the final, Fu and Zheng will face Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo. Already assured of being back up to world #1 on Thursday, the Indonesians won the speed battle by demonstrating that they are among the select few who can stay a step ahead of Kamura/Sonoda of Japan.
Huang Yaqiong similarly scored a quick victory in her mixed doubles semi-final. She and Lu Kai saw off defending champions Tontowi Ahmad / Liliyana Natsir and thus booked a berth in their third straight Superseries final.
In her women’s doubles match, Huang Yaqiong and Tang Jinhua (pictured above) had to fight hard to wrest the opening game from All England champions Chang Ye Na / Lee So Hee. The Koreans bounced back to take the second game but Huang and Tang stayed out of reach in the decider.
Like Zheng, Huang will be appearing in two Superseries finals for the first time ever. Her last double finals appearance is a year further back than Zheng’s however. She won her only previous doubles double in Malaysia, actually, at the Grand Prix Gold in Johor Bahru in 2014 and a few weeks later won gold and silver at the China Masters.
While Zheng Siwei will be playing in his first ever Superseries final in men’s doubles, Huang and Tang’s opponents in the women’s doubles final, Yuki Fukushima (pictured) and Sayaka Hirota, did one better than last week and became the only players to be making their maiden appearance on a Superseries Sunday. Like Huang and Tang, they had to beat a pair of Olympic gold medallists to do it and they too did so in straight games.
Korean woes, crowd’s dream final
The loss by Chang and Lee in women’s doubles was Korea’s last chance for a win on Saturday. In the early session, Son Wan Ho played a close match against Lin Dan but could not see it through. Then Sung Ji Hyun pulled off a marvellous comeback to win her opener against Tai Tzu Ying (pictured) only to lose the match in three as the world #1 just kept the Korean guessing with her creative shot placement.
Tai will play her first ever final against #2 seed Carolina Marin. Marin beat Nozomi Okuhara in straight games.
The men’s singles final will mark the first time legends Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei have met in a final since the 2013 World Championships, when Lee was forced to retire on match point with a leg cramp. Lee Chong Wei (pictured bottom) made quick work of Hong Kong’s Wong Wing Ki. Lee and Lin have not met on Malaysian soil since the Thomas Cup Finals back in 2010.
XD: Zheng Siwei / Chen Qingchen (CHN)  vs. Lu Kai / Huang Yaqiong (CHN) 
WS: Tai Tzu Ying (TPE)  vs. Carolina Marin (ESP) 
MS: Lee Chong Wei (MAS)  vs. Lin Dan (CHN) 
WD: Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota (JPN) vs. Huang Yaqiong / Tang Jinhua (CHN)
MD: Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (INA)  vs. Fu Haifeng / Zheng Siwei (CHN)