Indonesia’s Hardianto helped score the first of four wins that produced first time Superseries semi-finalists at the expense of top seeds as he and Berry Angriawan downed Olympic silver medallists Goh/Tan at the Singapore Open.
By Seria Rusli, Badzine Correspondent live in Singapore. Photos: Mikael Ropars / Badmintonphoto (live)
Hardianto (pictured) of Indonesia and Thailand’s Dechapol Puavaranukroh both teamed up with more experienced partners to put down some tough competition and book spots in a Superseries semi-final for the first time in their careers. Dechapol and Sapsiree Taerattanachai will face fellow first-time semi-finalists Tan Kian Meng and Lai Pei Jing to determine who will contest their first final and the same happens in men’s singles, where Sai Praneeth will meet Korea’s Lee Dong Keun, the only semi-final rookie to slip in past an unseeded opponent on Friday.
Berry Angriawan (pictured below) has had his share of partners. Two years ago, he acquired Rian Agung Saputro in a partner swap but late last year, after the pair had reached their first Superseries semi-final and right after they won their second Grand Prix Gold title, they were split up and Angriawan was tried out with both World Champions Ahsan and Setiawan.
2017 saw him with a new partner and new successes and he and Hardianto won the first Grand Prix Gold event of the year and appeared in two more semi-finals. On Friday in Singapore, the two scored a convincing straight-game victory over Superseries Finals winners Goh V Shem / Tan Wee Kiong and both are now poised to enter their first Superseries final.
“For us, we had nothing to lose and so we played our best and brought the best out of our skills,” said Angriawan. “We can also see that they did not really play well in the beginning and so we took this opportunity to gain points patiently.”
“For me, I just played freely, not caring whether I lose or win, just as long as to play my best,” added Hardianto. “I found today’s match is quite difficult to win but the Malaysian pair did a lot of unforced errors and hence, to our advantage, we did not have such long rallies.”
“We started our partnership at the beginning of this year,” said Angriawan. “For a start, we wanted to get to at least the semi-final but if there was a chance to get more than a semi-final, then we wanted to try to get the best possible.”
As they won the opening match of the afternoon, the Indonesians did not yet know that Li/Liu would be their semi-final opponents and Berry Angriawan said, “If we face Angga and Ricky, we kind of know what to expect. If we do face the Chinese pair, we have to be prepared for the long rallies and amore tiring match.”
Indonesia now has 3 active pairs in the world’s top 20 but two new partnerships are continuing to ascend the rankings quickly. The nation’s two most established pairs were also in the final 8 in Singapore but they had different outcomes. Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo continued unimpeded toward what they hope will be a fourth straight Superseries title, while 2015 Singapore Open champions Angga Pratama and Ricky Karanda Suwardi lost a close one to China’s Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen (pictured), who saved a match point in the second game, then withstood a late 6-point run in the decider to claw their way through.
“We were leading 18-16 in the first game and just like the third game, our opponents overturned the score,” said Liu Yuchen after the match. “In the second game, we tried not to stay within the front and middle of the court. We tried to take control of the game by taking defence first and counter-attacking last. I think we succeeded in this strategy.
“In the third game, we were leading but they closed up the scores after that because they began driving and were faster in setting up at the net to create opportunity to attack, hence we lost the points rather quickly.
“I think we were more confident today. No matter what the points were, winning or losing, we did not think too much and focused on scoring point by point.”
Of their upcoming match against Berry Angriawan and Hardianto, Li Junhui said, “We have not really played against them before so we are unsure of their strengths and tactics. We will prepare by watching more of their videos to analyse and respond to their style of play tomorrow.”
Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo won another match in straight games but they were facing one of the few pairs that they’ve had trouble against in recent months. This time, Lee Jhe-Huei / Lee Yang were no match for the world #1s, however.
“The last time when we faced them in Paris, we felt that there was no wind at all and hence it was more difficult to beat them,” Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo. “We were also more patient here.”
The match puts the Indonesians one step closer to a fourth straight Superseries title. Only two men’s doubles pairs have ever achieved that. Lee Yong Dae playing with Jung Jae Sung in 2009-2010 and later with Yoo Yeon Seong in 2015.
Sapsiree making her mark again in Singapore
Thailand’s Sapsiree Taerattanachai first really made a name for herself when she won gold in girls’ singles at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore 7 years ago. Since then, she has become the first player to reach finals and then the first to win titles in all three disciplines at the Grand Prix Gold level.
She and women’s doubles partner Puttita Supajirakul were unable to beat All England winners Chang/Lee to reach their second Superseries semi-final together but in mixed doubles, she brought Dechapol Puavaranukroh (pictured) along for the ride to play in his first Superseries final four. To do that, they had to eliminate former All England champions Praveen Jordan and Debby Susanto, thereby ended the Indonesian challenge in that discipline.
Malaysia’s Tan Kian Meng and Lai Pei Jing (pictured) are still standing in the Thais’ way. They beat Danish veterans Fischer Nielsen and Pedersen in three close games and will themselves be playing in a Superseries semi-final for the first time, with all four players looking to reach a first final at this level.
Men’s singles seedless
Srikanth Kidambi (pictured bottom) and Sai Praneeth of India saw off French and Denmark Open winners Shi Yuqi and Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk respectively to leave the men’s singles final four without a seed.
After his loss, Saensomboonsuk said, “Today I was a little bit nervous and my opponent is really good. I already tried my best. I lost a little bit of focus but in badminton, losing a little bit of focus can make you lose.”
“I feel very good. It’s a good first time, playing the semi-finals,” said Sai Praneeth (pictured). “I’ve been playing three games, three games, three games. I feel that round after round, I’m getting better and better. I’m feeling very happy, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s semi-final.”
“There was a lot of wind today. Also, compared to yesterday, the schedule was a bit faster. Initially I couldn’t get the rhythm. All went into the frame, or into the net, and push, not contacting properly. Initially, when the rally was going on, I thought I was getting used to it, but even in between, I sometimes couldn’t contact it properly. But I am still very happy to manage that.
“The left side was a bit easier than this side. Because from this side, it doesn’t go properly if you do certain shot or if you do it a bit faster, it goes out. Compared to this side, the other side was better. That’s why in the second and third games, he was also trailing. He was comfortable and once I went there, I was comfortable. But every tournament is like that. If I had taken the first game and the game had gone one-all, I’d have been at the advantage at the third game.
“[In the third game], when I covered initially 8-all, after that, I made simple mistakes and it was 11-8. I was a bit irritated that I had played well from 8-3 to 8-all and then, I just gave it away. But shortly after, I went to this side, so I just played patiently, lifting, lifting, lifting and once the score was equal, he was in a hurry.
“The semi-final is open. So slim, anybody can win. I am looking forward to winning the match.
“Now we always have very good support for Indians in Singapore. I think it’s fantastic support for India. I think it’s a very good advantage playing here.”
Sai Praneeth and Korea’s Lee Dong Keun (pictured) will fight over which first-time Superseries semi-finalist will turn that into a career first final. Lee beat Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie in straight games.
Jonatan Christie (pictured below) pointed out that he got what he expected from his match against Lee, but could deliver what he had hoped: “He did not change but I was the one who change. I did not know why but it may be due to the different court. Since two days ago I was playing at the first and second court. When it comes to the third court, the draft is a bit distracting and I don’t find my feeling during the game was not right quite a few times. I tried to fix this feeling but I am not sure why I suddenly could not hit well. Perhaps it is due to the draft as it was quite strong. I think my opponent was more ready for this.
“Actually, after I won the game with Son Wan Ho yesterday, there was a chance for me. But that in turn made me not enjoy the game just now. I felt that everything I did was wrong in the court and was not able to put into action what I had discussed with my coach last night.
Indonesia still has one hope, in Anthony Ginting, who beat Viktor Axelsen in the first round but was unable to capitalize on his own opportunity.
“In the first game, he baited me to run more in the court and his lifts are great,” said Ginting, “but my strategy in the first and second game was similar and that was to play front court by the net. Anyhow, I did not lift and play the back court due to the strong draft. When I played at the front court, he made a lot of errors like hitting into the net or hitting out of the court.
“I think compared to when he played against Viktor, his game was not as great. Perhaps he was nervous, I am not sure.”