U.S. OPEN SF – Top seeds vie for first title

Lu Ching Yao / Yang Po Han and Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko enjoyed narrow semi-final victories and will face off to determine which will make the 2017 U.S. Open […]

Lu Ching Yao / Yang Po Han and Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko enjoyed narrow semi-final victories and will face off to determine which will make the 2017 the first major title of their career.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto

Only one final at the 2017 Yonex U.S. Open Gold will feature the top two seeds but oddly, the men’s doubles is also the only one guaranteed to produce a first-ever winner.  Top seeds Lu Ching Yao / Yang Po Han of Chinese Taipei are playing in their third final of the year and second-seeded Japanese pair Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko (pictured right) are in their second but to date, neither pair has earned so much as a Grand Prix title, a distinction that can only be held by one after Sunday in Anaheim.

The first to book their spot were Inoue and Kaneko.  They had a little trouble finishing off their opener against Korea’s Choi Sol Gyu and Kim Jae Hwan, finally winning 24-22 on their fifth game point.  The second game was almost as close but they pulled ahead at the end and avoided extra points.

Lu Ching Yao / Yang Po Han (pictured top) traded a pair of very one-sided games with India’s Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy.  Attri and Reddy were the only pair to come into the semi-finals with a Grand Prix title in hand, although both Koreans had titled separately at the Grand Prix Gold level.

Indeed, the Indians had rebounded from a dismal opening game and looked ready to put another early end to the Chinese Taipei pair’s title hopes as they opened up an 18-14 lead in the decider.  But suddenly it was the third seeds who began to show their nerves and a series of errors allowed Lu and Yang back into it and they catapulted from having to save a match point to earning and converting their own to win 22-20.

India’s 6th title on the way

Shortly after Attri and Reddy had been shown the door, India locked up the men’s singles title.  The third all-Indian men’s singles final of the year has ensured that the nation will take a sixth title in this discipline this year, 3 Grand Prix Golds to match the 3 Superseries titles already earned.

Kashyap Parupalli (pictured) completed the rout of the Korean contingent that he had started back on Wednesday, when he did away with top seed and defending champion Lee Hyun Il.  On Saturday, he let the first game against Heo Kwang Hee get away from him but he withstood comeback attempts in the next two games, surging ahead to beat Heo in three.

H. S. Prannoy took his semi-final in straight games against two-time U.S. Open winner Nguyen Tien Minh of Vietnam. Neither finalist has made it to a Sunday contest since the last time he titled. Prannoy’s last triumph was early last year, while Kashyap has neither won nor played a final since 2015.

Li is back, Lee loses a close one

Michelle Li may have had a string of Grand Prix titles at home but it has been nearly four years since her first and only appearance in a Grand Prix Gold final.  She will get another chance on Sunday, however, after winning a fourth consecutive match against Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour, whom she first beat in the 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medal match.

Li’s opponent will be Aya Ohori of Japan after the 21-year-old saved four match points to eke out a 28-26 victory in her second game and stay in the match against Korea’s Lee Jang Mi (pictured).  Lee had similar trouble finishing her quarter-final against top seed Zhang Beiwen.  On that occasion, she blew two match points before losing the second game 24-26 but whereas she followed that disappointment by winning her decider against the American 21-19, on Saturday, it was Ohori who surged at the right time to take the semi-final in three.

The longest match of the day involved four of Lee’s team-mates.  Two-time World Champions Lee So Hee / Shin Seung Chan (pictured), who were reunited for this North American July tour before going back to their regular partners for the Worlds next month, took 92 minutes to beat Chinese Taipei Open winners Chae/Kim 28-30, 21-19, 22-20.

The other women’s doubles semi-final was a more straightforward all-Japanese affair and Mayu Matsumoto / Wakana Nagahara emerged with a chance to win a second title in as many weekends.

For a second straight weekend, the mixed doubles final will see two Korean pairs face off.  This time, it is Kim Won Ho’s partner Shin Seung Chan, who will go for the doubles double.  Last week, the two won the mixed title but Kim lost the men’s.  This time, it is his men’s doubles partner and Chinese Taipei Open winner Seo Seung Jae who will challenge the younger pair for the title.

Finals line-up
WD:  Mayu Matsumoto / Wakana Nagahara (JPN) [7] vs. Lee So Hee / Shin Seung Chan (KOR)
MS:  H. S. Prannoy (IND) [2] vs. Parupalli Kashyap (IND)
WS:  Aya Ohori (JPN) [3] vs. Michelle Li (CAN) [6]
XD:  Seo Seung Jae / Kim Ha Na (KOR) vs. Kim Won Ho / Shin Seung Chan (KOR)
MD:  Lu Ching Yao / Yang Po Han (TPE) [1] vs. Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko (JPN) [2]

Click here for complete semi-final 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