CHINA OPEN SF – Newcomers and number ones

Gao Fangjie, Kim Hye Rin, and Mathias Christiansen all booked career first berths in a Superseries final after their big upsets on Saturday at the China Open in Fuzhou. By […]

Gao Fangjie, Kim Hye Rin, and Mathias Christiansen all booked career first berths in a final after their big upsets on Saturday at the in Fuzhou.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Yves Lacroix / Badmintonphoto (live)

Not counting one win by an Olympic gold medallist whose ranking has dropped, there were exactly three upsets on semi-finals day at the 2017 China Open Superseries Premier.  This time, all three just happened to produce first-time finalists at a Superseries badminton tournament.

While Kim Hye Rin of Korea and Denmark’s Mathias Christiansen had other high-profile finals in their pasts, not to mention top-ranked partners on court with them, 19-year-old Gao Fangjie (pictured left) was all by herself and has only ever been in an International Challenge final previously.  She was undaunted at Saturday in Fuzhou, however, and took down reigning Olympic champion Carolina Marin in a pair of 21-19 games.

Interestingly, Gao is the first teenager to reach a Superseries final in 2017 in a discipline that has had at least one under-20 finalist in each of the 11 years of the Superseries.  Her opponent in the final will be the woman who holds the record as the youngest ever Superseries winner.  Akane Yamaguchi of Japan beat Ratchanok Intanon to book an appearance in her fourth Superseries final of the year but she is still looking for her first title at this level.

Women’s doubles features defending champion Lee So Hee in only her second tournament with new partner Kim Hye Rin (pictured right).  Kim and Lee play for the same professional team in domestic tournaments in Korea but not as partners even there.  After an early exit last week in Macau, the new pair ran all the way to the semi-final in Fuzhou before meeting their first seeded opponents.

They dropped their second game to Superseries leaders Shiho Tanaka / Koharu Yonemoto of Japan but were convincing in the decider and made their way to the final.  Kim Hye Rin has been in the first two major finals of her career this year.  The biggest was the Badminton Asia Championships, which carries equivalent points to a Superseries but this is her first in the actual 12-tournament series itself.

In those continental championships, Kim’s big upset, together with then partner Yoo Hae Won, was beating Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan.  The Chinese youngsters will be the Koreans’ opponents in the final in Fuzhou after they beat compatriots Du Yue and Li Yinhui.

Mixed doubles saw even more success for former world #1 Christinna Pedersen with her new partner Mathias Christiansen (pictured).  Following on from their appearance in the French Open semi-finals, this time they got the better of China’s Wang Yilyu and Huang Dongping to reach their first final together and the first of his career for Christiansen.

In the other semi-final, the in-form Hong Kong pair of Tang Chun Man and Tse Ying Suet became the latest victims of the Macau Open champion Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong (pictured bottom).  The brand-new pair reached their second final in as many weeks after winning in three games.

Actually, it was the loss by Wang and Huang, though, that ensured that Huang Yaqiong would join Zheng in qualifying for the in Dubai.  She and former partner Lu Kai could have been caught by the #3 Chinese pair ony if the latter had won both the China and Hong Kong Opens so Saturday’s loss means that only one mixed doubles spot for Dubai remains up for grabs in Hong Kong next week.

Both men’s events could have stayed on seed for the finals but Chen Long bounced back from a lacklustre second game to embarrass Korea’s 2nd-seeded Son Wan Ho (pictured right).  Son still hasn’t won a tournament since ascending to world #1 in May, a status he has since ceded to the new World Champion.

Three-time champion Chen will thus face his successor as World Champion, Viktor Axelsen, in the final.  Axelsen was not troubled by Ng Ka Long, who will head south a day early to prepare to defend his title at his home Superseries event in Hong Kong.

In the men’s doubles, all but one of the 8 semi-finalist had spent some time as world #1.  In the first semi-final, Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo disposed of China’s Li Junhui / Liu Yuchen in straight games.

While both of those players first earned the #1 spot this year, three players with much older claims to the top spot were active in the other semi-final.  Denmark’s Mathias Boe / Carsten Mogensen (pictured left) reached their fourth Superseries final of the year by beating two-time World Champion Mohammad Ahsan and partner Rian Agung Saputro.  Saputro, who was runner-up at the Worlds this year with Ahsan, thus failed to reached his first Superseries final since 2011.

Finals line-up
WS:  Akane Yamaguchi (JPN) [5] vs. Gao Fangjie (CHN)
MD:  Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (INA) [1] vs. Mathias Boe Carsten Mogensen (DEN) [2]
WD:  Chen Qingchen / Jia Yifan (CHN) [2] vs. Kim Hye Rin / Lee So Hee (KOR) [8]
XD:  Zheng Siwei / Huang Yaqiong (CHN) [5] vs. Mathias Christiansen / Christinna Pedersen (DEN)
MS:  Viktor Axelsen (DEN) [1] vs. Chen Long (CHN) [6]

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