THAILAND OPEN – 1st-time finalists victorious!

Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja and Hafiz Faizal made the most of their first ever post-Superseries final, as did Kanta Tsuneyama, as two of the most lucrative Thailand Open titles to date […]

Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja and Hafiz Faizal made the most of their first ever post- final, as did Kanta Tsuneyama, as two of the most lucrative titles to date went to first-time finalists.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Mikael Ropars / Badmintonphoto (live)

The Thailand Open spent all 11 years of the Superseries era as a next-tier – Gold – event.  But it just so happens that this was most of the previous success was had by two of the finalists in Bangkok on Sunday.  With the Thailand Open upgraded to a Super 500 – basically the replacement for the Superseries in the new format – both Hafiz Faizal / Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja (pictured) and Kanta Tsuneyama, none of whom had ever been in a final bigger than a Grand Prix Gold, made the most of the chance and came away with the biggest titles of their career.

Prior to this week, Hafiz Faizal, in fact, had never been in a final bigger than an International Challenge, though Widjaja had won one Grand Prix Gold title back in 2014 with another partner.  But Faizal had been in 4 major semi-finals in the past year, including last week at home at the Indonesia Open 0, where they saw off a couple of former All England champions before losing to the reigning Olympic and World Champions.

Two-time Superseries winners Chris and Gabrielle Adcock just couldn’t mount a challenge to the ever-improving Indonesians.  They went down in straight games.  It was still one of the English pair’s best results this season.  They have two titles so far in 2018, but at the Commonwealth Games and the European Championships.  This was their first final in the new BWF World Tour, which began in January.

Prior to today, Kanta Tsuneyama (pictured) had one major title, last year’s Canada Open Grand Prix, and was once a runner-up in a Grand Prix Gold event.  Like the Indonesians earlier in the afternoon, the 22-year-old Japanese shuttler was up against a seasoned winner.  Tommy Sugiarto has one Superseries title to his name, along with 3 Grand Prix Golds and 2 Grand Prix victories.  Not only that, but he had won titles on his last two trips to Bangkok for the Thailand Masters.

Still, Tsuneyama did not let his lack of finals experience get in his way.  He got out to a one-game lead and after allowing Sugiarto to catch back up, he dominated the deciding game to claim the $26,250 cheque all for himself.

While luck was on the side of the first-timers, it continued to elude the hapless Hiroyuki Endo.  Endo added a second World Tour runner-up performance to the 7 had already had in the Superseries.  His 9th was, in fact, a lot like the 8th, as he and Yuta Watanabe again found themselves unable to make it past team-mates Takeshi Kamura / Keigo Sonoda (pictured bottom).  The world #5 pair took it in straight games.

For Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu (pictured), it was not their first major title.  They already had a Superseries and a Super 500 title in their collection.  It wasn’t even their first title in Thailand, as they came in as defending champions, having won the event when it was a Grand Prix Gold last year.  It was, however, their first win over Olympic gold medallists Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi.

The two finalists had met each other 5 times already, even though Rahayu and Polii only paired up last spring.  As with the mixed doubles earlier, the win was unexpectedly one-sided in favour of the Indonesians.  Polii and Rahayu picked up the 4th international title of their partnership in straight games.  The scores were both convincing but the match still took just under an hour.

The afternoon ended with another match-up that has had several iterations in the past year, starting with the World Championship final last summer.  However, Nozomi Okuhara and Pusarla Venkata Sindhu (pictured) had not met each other since the All England this year.  Known for their marathon encounters, Sindhu and Okuhara threatened to put on another thriller as Sindhu caught up at 18-all in the second game but the tall Indian couldn’t control her attacks well enough in the closing rallies and Okuhara was able to finish it in two.

For whom the schedule tolls…

Not surprisingly, most of Sunday’s finalists will be taking a break before the World Championships kick off in Nanjing on July 30th.  Interestingly, both the Adcocks and Tommy Sugiarto are slated to play next week as well, at the Singapore Open.  For both, it will be their 4th tournament in a row.

Men’s singles winner Kanta Tsuneyama, meanwhile, is taking next week off but is back on at home for the Akita Masters Super 100.  That event finishes on July 29th, exactly one day before the Worlds, for which Tsuneyama got an 11th-hour invitation.

Final results
XD:  Hafiz Faizal / Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja (INA) [8] beat Chris Adcock / Gabrielle Adcock (ENG) [1]  21-12, 21-12
MD:  Takeshi Kamura / Keigo Sonoda (JPN) [1] beat Hiroyuki Endo / Yuta Watanabe (JPN)   21-17, 21-19
WD:  Greysia Polii / Apriyani Rahayu (INA) [4] beat Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi (JPN) [3]  21-13, 21-10
MS:  Kanta Tsuneyama (JPN) beat Tommy Sugiarto (INA)  21-16, 13-21, 21-9
WS:  Nozomi Okuhara (JPN) [4] beat Pusarla Venkata Sindhu (IND) [2]  21-15, 21-18

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