MALAYSIA OPEN 2018 SF – Endo back in a major final

Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe beat Asian Champions Li/Liu in a 78-minute marathon match to give Endo an 8th try at a top-tier title. By Don Hearn.  Photos: Yves Lacroix […]

Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe beat Asian Champions Li/Liu in a 78-minute marathon match to give Endo an 8th try at a top-tier title.

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

Hiroyuki Endo boasts an international career that goes back to the second year of the but his rather unfortunate claim to fame was being one of 3 players to lose 7 of 7 finals.  Now he’s back for an 8th, with a new partner.

The has status in the new , making it an heir to the old Superseries Premier.  Hiroyuki Endo has teamed up, since last year, with Yuta Watanabe (pictured), the 21-year-old sensation who already has an All England mixed title to his name.

Endo will be hoping to do with Watanabe what he failed six times to do with former partner Kenichi Hayakawa.  The veteran pair did win a couple of Grand Prix Gold titles in their six years together but never reached the top of the podium in a Superseries event.

Yuta Watanabe was the exact opposite, winning the All England this year in his first ever appearance in the final of a $200,000-plus event.  This is, in fact, his first major final in men’s doubles but we’ll have to wait until nearly the end of Sunday’s proceedings to figure out whether he can do the same thing again.

In the semis, the Japanese pair faced two-time Asian Champions Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen (pictured), who had won a thriller against Watanabe and Keigo Sonoda in the final match of the Thomas Cup, the last international appearance for any of the three men.  The Malaysian semi-final did not disappoint either.  If the tightest scoreline was in the opening game, when the Japanese saved three game points en route to winning 24-22, the on-court action was at least as amazing in the decider, with Endo scrambling off court to change racquets and returning to win the rally at 9-11 and then, at 14-15, Watanabe doing a Matrix-like dive to allow a Liu Yuchen drive to miss his chest and sail long of the back line.

Earlier in the afternoon, Watanabe was denied a spot in the mixed doubles final as well.  Reaching two finals in one day is something that only six players achieved in the Superseries, nearly all of them World or Olympic champions.  World #1 Wang/Huang beat the All England champions Watanabe and Arisa Higashino in straight games and will face last year’s double finalist Huang Yaqiong and defending champion Zheng Siwei (pictured) in the final.  Zheng and Huang will ascend to world #2 when the new rankings come out on Thursday.

Like the mixed, both women’s finals will feature a defending champion.  Zheng’s former partner Chen Qingchen is contesting the women’s doubles final this year. Together with Jia Yifan, the World Champions dominated Korea’s Kim/Kong.  They will face the Olympic gold medallists Matsutomo/Takahashi, who won an even more one-sided match against Indonesia’s Haris/Pradipta.

Tai Tzu Ying lost her first game of the week to Pusarla Venkata Sindhu but she was still very convincing in the decider.  In the final, she will face China’s He Bingjiao.  He was brilliant in her victory over former champion Ratchanok Intanon (pictured), booking a spot in her first final of the year.

Finals day will wrap up with a showdown between Kento Momota and 11-time champion Lee Chong Wei (pictured bottom).  Both men have been playing incredible badminton all week and were also undefeated at the Thomas Cup Finals before that.  Momota hasn’t lost an international match since early March, as he also won the Vietnam International Challenge this year and the Asian Championships, where he beat Lee in the semi-final.

Finals line-up
XD:  Wang Yilyu / Huang Dongping (CHN) [2] vs. Zheng Siwei / Huang Yaqiong (CHN) [4]
WD:  Chen Qingchen / Jia Yifan (CHN) [1] vs. Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi (JPN) [5]
WS:  Tai Tzu Ying (TPE) [1] vs. He Bingjiao (CHN) [8]
MD:  Takeshi Kamura / Keigo Sonoda (JPN) [6] vs. Hiroyuki Endo / Yuta Watanabe (JPN)
MS:  Lee Chong Wei (MAS) [7] vs. Kento Momota (JPN)

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 @