SS FINALS – Gideon/Sukamuljo make their 1st title a 7th

Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo became the first men’s doubles pair to win 7 Superseries titles in a year as they beat the World Champions at the Superseries […]

Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo became the first men’s doubles pair to win 7 titles in a year as they beat the World Champions at the Finals in Dubai.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

The most Superseries titles ever won by a single player or pair was 9, by Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang in 2011.  Lee Chong Wei has won 7 titles in one season twice, though in 2011, his 7th title came a couple of weeks into the following January.  Before this week, the record for men’s doubles was 6, set by Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong in 2015.

While Wang/Yu’s record still stands, Lee’s figure has been matched and Lee/Yoo’s surpassed as Indonesia’s Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (pictured top) put in a flawless performance to relegate World Champions Liu Cheng / Zhang Nan to second place, in two thrilling games.  Gideon/Sukamuljo thus finish 2017 the same way they started it: with 3 straight Superseries titles.

The Indonesians’ 7 titles came after they appeared in an amazing 9 in 2017.  In fact, the only players who featured in more – 10 each – just happened to be the duo starting off the Dubai victories.  Zheng Siwei was in one men’s doubles final this year and 9 mixed finals, while Chen Qingchen (pictured below) was in 7 mixed and 3 women’s doubles finals.

On Sunday, though, the two Chinese players were in form and focused.  With Zheng set to focus on mixed and Chen on women’s doubles in 2018, it was their last collaboration for the foreseeable future and they made the most of it, with Zheng raining down punishing smashes and unreachable angles and Chen destroying everything loose offered at the net by their opponents.

Hong Kong’s Tang Chun Man and Tse Ying Suet did not go down without a fight, of course.  The highlight of their year was an incredible come-from-behind victory over this same world #1 pair in the Denmark Open final and while they did surge ahead to earn a game point this time as well, they could not produce enough magic to force a decider and Zheng and Chen took the title for the second consecutive year.

Pusarla Venkata Sindhu has been in 3 finals in the second half of this year.  At a ‘mere’ 94 minutes, this one was well short of the 1-hour-50-minute marathon she played at the World Championships.  Still, it was longer than the rematch she played with Okuhara a few weeks later in Korea.

Unfortunately for the Indian star, her opponent Akane Yamaguchi (pictured) seemed to have peaked for this tournament.  Just a few weeks after collecting the China Open title, Yamaguchi was just a tiny bit more consistent in the final rallies and she overcame her own fatigue to chase down Sindhu’s best efforts to get her out of position.

After two games of big lead swings, thing tightened right up into a neck-and-neck race after the last interval but Yamaguchi was the one who kept her focus and she finished it off 21-19.  It was the 5th Superseries title of her career for Yamaguchi, and just her 2nd since she turned 20 earlier this year.

Improved, but not foolproof

For the third straight year, the Superseries regular season ended with more than two Japanese pairs in the top 8 in women’s doubles.  In fact, this year, it was up to 4 from 3 in 2015 and 2016 and not only were the Olympic champions – and winners in Dubai 3 years ago – not one of the two qualifiers for 2017 but neither Shiho Tanaka / Koharu Yonemoto nor Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota (pictured) had been among the pairs even in the top 20 in the two previous years.

The form that both Japanese pairs have shown this year continued to carry both of them into the final in Dubai.  Fukushima and Hirota won their first Superseries title last spring, reached the final of the World Championships in August, and then last Monday were named the Most Improved Players by the .

But it was Tanaka and Yonemoto who did the heavy lifting this past week in Dubai.  In the group stage, they helped block the defending champions and world #1 from advancing, then in the semis, they took care of the Olympic silver medallists and 2013 winners.  Their momentum carried through the final match, where their compatriots just couldn’t find the formula and never once managed even to grab the lead.

Still champion, still #1

Viktor Axelsen had his work cut out for him after dropping the first game of the men’s singles final to 4-time winner Lee Chong Wei (pictured).  The Dane had a 5-point lead late in the second summarily erased by the Malaysian veteran and at 19-all, was in danger of conceding both the momentum and the match.

Axelsen snatched the last two points, however, and forced a deciding game, which he won most decisively.  He thus held onto the title he won last year, in addition to securing the world #1 spot, where he will finish his amazing year.  Axelsen became the only 2017 World Champion to also cash in at the Dubai Superseries Finals.  While this feat has been accomplished 8 times in the past, Axelsen is one of only three men’s singles players to do it, the others being Chen Long in 2014 and Lin Dan in 2011.

Final results
XD:  Zheng Siwei / Chen Qingchen (CHN) beat Tang Chun Man / Tse Ying Suet (HKG)  21-15, 22-20
WS:  Akane Yamaguchi (JPN) beat Pusarla Venkata Sindhu (IND)  15-21, 21-12, 21-19
MD:  Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (INA) beat Liu Cheng / Zhang Nan (CHN)  21-16, 21-15
WD:  Shiho Tanaka / Koharu Yonemoto (JPN) beat Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota (JPN)  21-16, 21-15
MS:  Viktor Axelsen (DEN) beat Lee Chong Wei (MAS)  19-21, 21-19, 21-15

Click here for complete 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