DUTCH OPEN 2017 SF – Titles booked for 3 different continents

Michelle Li and Zhang Beiwen have again booked a final encounter that ensures Dutch Open Grand Prix titles will head to 3 different continents. By Don Hearn.  Photos: Arthur van […]

Michelle Li and Zhang Beiwen have again booked a final encounter that ensures titles will head to 3 different continents.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Arthur van der Velde / Badmintonphoto (live)

It’s not unheard-of to have an all-Pan American final at a Grand Prix badminton event.  Then again, it certainly isn’t common, either.  In fact, the last time it was supposed to happen, it was also Zhang Beiwen up against Michelle Li (pictured top) for the women’s singles title and it didn’t actually happen.

Even rarer is the other pattern that the 2017 Dutch Open repeats.  That same day in July 2016 was the only other time since the current event structure began in 2007 that the finals line-up guaranteed that Grand Prix titles were destined for 3 different continents.  While last year’s Canada Open had one all-Asian final, one Zhang-Li final, and one Oceania-Europe final, this year in Almere, there are three all-continental finals on the docket.

Zhang Beiwen (pictured right) and Michelle Li have been trading the top spot for a Pan Am women’s singles player in the BWF rankings for some time now.  Zhang has qualified for three major finals in the past year, including the one at the Dutch Open 364 days ago where she became the defending champion.

Having spent several months since Rio recovering from surgery, Michelle Li has not won a major title since Zhang gave her a walkover in Canada last year but she did reach the final of the U.S. Open, which became her second career Grand Prix Gold runner-up finish.  If both come to the court healthy this time, it will be their first meeting in a Grand Prix final.  Li had a little trouble in her first game against Denmark’s Natalia Koch Rohde, while Zhang Beiwen made quick work of Ukraine’s Maria Ulitina.

Igarashi’s first win against defending champion

Defending champion Wang Tzu Wei has had some impressive results on the backs of wins over Japan’s Yu Igarashi (pictured).  Four years ago, the unsung Japanese was the first casualty in Wang’s run to the World Junior Championship final.  Just this past August, Wang beat him again on his way to gold at the Universiade.

But it had taken Wang Tzu Wei (pictured bottom) a narrow pair of 23-21 wins to beat Igarashi at home in Taipei and this time the Japanese challenger bounced back with more confidence after losing his first game.  Igarashi took two by convincing margins to make his way into his first Grand Prix final in his first appearance in a major semi-final.

It will be an all-Japanese final in men’s singles as former world #2 continues his march back up the world rankings.  Just a week ago, his win at the Czech Open shot him up 53 spots to #110 and a win in Almere could put him into the top 75.

Momota is now slated to play his first Grand Prix final since he lost out on the Canada Open title in July to another compatriot, Kanta Tsuneyama.  His success came at the expense of home shuttler Mark Caljouw (pictured) who, like Igarashi, was playing in his first ever Grand Prix semi-final.

…and one for Europe

The only success for the home team came in the mixed doubles.  Ranked in the top 20 at the end of last year, Jacco Arends and Selena Piek (pictured below) played only two tournaments in the first half of 2017 and are only now really on their way back up.  They beat U.S. Open semi-finalists Ben Lane and Jessica Pugh in three games to make their way to Sunday.

Piek is responsible for the last two titles for the home team at the Dutch Open, having won the women’s doubles crown both in 2012 and 2014.  Now she has a chance to help Jacco Arends become the first Dutch man ever to win a doubles title at the Dutch Open.

Mixed doubles is also assured of producing a European champion.  India’s Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa seemed to be making up for the withdrawal of their compatriots Reddy and Chopra, who were top seeds but withdrew on the eve of the tournament.  After some impressive upsets and promising three-game contests at the Sudirman Cup and then at the last two Superseries events, the 17-year-old Rankireddy gave the World Juniors a miss and managed to reach his first Grand Prix semi-final.

The Indians’ way to the final was blocked, however, by Lauren Smith and Olympic bronze medallist Marcus Ellis.  This is Smith’s first Grand Prix mixed final but Ellis was in the final of this same tournament back in 2012, with Smith’s then women’s doubles partner, current world #5 Gabrielle Adcock.

Two runners-up look for gold

In both men’s and women’s doubles, the runner-up from the last Grand Prix event, the Vietnam Open, are in their second straight final at this level.  Della Destiara Haris / Rizki Amelia Pradipta (pictured) are in just their second tournament together but the promise their partnership has shown will get a major test on Sunday.  They are up against Indonesia’s most established pair, Anggia Shitta Awanda / Ni Ketut Mahadewi Istarani, who have been together since since Istarani replaced Haris as Awanda’s partner in late 2014.

As for the repeat men’s doubles finalists, Su Cheng Heng was playing in only the first Grand Prix final of his career, in fact right after his first semi.  He and Liao Min Chun came up short in Vietnam and now they face Japan’s Inoue/Kaneko.  The Japanese pair are coming off both their first Grand Prix Gold title a few months ago and their first Superseries final a few weeks ago.  On Saturday, they won in two over Berry Anggriawan, who had relegated them to runner-up in the first Grand Prix Gold final last autumn.

Finals line-up
WD:  Anggia Shitta Awanda / Ni Ketut Mahadewi Istarani (INA) [1] vs. Della Destiara Haris / Rizki Amelia Pradipta (INA)
MS:  Yu Igarashi (JPN) [13] vs. Kento Momota (JPN)
WS:  Zhang Beiwen (USA) [1] vs. Michelle Li (CAN) [6]
XD:  Jacco Arends / Selena Piek (NED)[6] vs. Marcus Ellis / Lauren Smith (ENG) [8]
MD:  Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko (JPN) [2] vs. Liao Min Chun / Su Cheng Heng (TPE) [5]

Click here for complete semi-final 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 @ badzine.net