ASIAN GAMES SF – No home gold for Olympic gold medallists

World Champions Zheng/Huang crashed Liliyana Natsir’s dream of getting her first Asian Games gold medal, while Tang/Tse have a big opportunity to win Hong Kong’s very first doubles badminton gold. […]

World Champions Zheng/Huang crashed Liliyana Natsir’s dream of getting her first gold medal, while Tang/Tse have a big opportunity to win Hong Kong’s very first doubles badminton gold.

Story: Naomi Indartiningrum, Badzine Correspondent live in Jakarta
Photos: Raphael Sachetat  / Badmintonphoto (live)

Liliyana Natsir’s dream of finishing her career with an Asian Games gold medal was gone.  Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad (pictured right) must be satisfied with adding a bronze medal to their silver from 2014 in Incheon.  They were defeated in the semi-final round by China’s world #1 pair Zheng Siwei / Huang Yaqiong.

Although supported by thousands of host supporters, the Olympic gold medallists appeared to be under lot of pressure and were left behind from the moment the match began.  Zheng Siwei / Huang Yaqiong (pictured below), meanwhile, played neatly and continued to give difficult attack for Ahmad/Natsir.  The 2018 World Champion closed the first game 21-13.

The host pair actually had a chance to catch back up in the second game.  Unfortunately, mistake after mistake by Ahmad and Natsir led to an 18-21 defeat in the second game.

“We were lacking in terms of power and speed so when we were in a defensive position, we were easily attacked and lost the points.  On the contrary when we tried to attack, it was difficult to stop them.  That made us feel difficulty in keeping up in the score,” said Liliyana Natsir.

“I’m definitely disappointed and we are aware that these opponents are indeed tough opponents.  At least we can get a medal at the 2018 Asian Games,” Natsir added.

Despite the Indonesians havingo settle for bronze at the 2018 Asian Games, they can take solace in the notion that once again, it took a reigning World Champion to deny them gold.  At the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, Korea, Ahmad / Natsir also had to settle for a silver medal after being defeated by Zhang Nan / Zhao Yunlei in the final, again just a few weeks after they had claimed their second of three career World Championship titles.

Hong Kong in the hunt for the first doubles gold

In Monday’s final, Zheng and Huang will face the Hong Kong pairing of Tang and Tse.  The fourth seeds won their ticket to the final after defeating another Chinese pair, Huang Dongping / Wang Yilyu (pictured right) in a perilously close match that ended 22-20, 19-21, 23-21.

Even after the match pushed well past the hour mark, the two pairs continued to provide fierce battle on the court.  It was even right up to 21-all in the third game but then, the Hong Kong pair showed their determination and continued to attack until they had won 23-21.

This victory became a brilliant achievement, because Tse Ying Suet / Tang Chun Man (pictured below) became the first Hong Kong doubles pair ever to advance to an Asian Games final.  In fact, the only previous finalists from Hong Kong came when Yip Pui Yin and Wang Chen won silver and gold in women’s singles back in 2006.

“We played very well.  It was a very good performance because at the last meeting in Nanjing, we lost against them but this time we just wanted to try our best.  At the end of the game we became more confident and relaxed but I saw they were nervous,” said Tse.

“I’m very proud that we can be the first Hong Kong mixed players who reach the finals.  We look forward to winning the gold here,” she added.

Chen/Jia back on a roll

Japan and China managed to place their representatives in the 2018 Asian Games women’s doubles final.   In fact, both finalists managed to complete a revenge mission at the semi-final stage.

For China, it was payback for 2017 World Champions Chen Qingchen / Jia Yifan (pictured right) after they lost to Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota in the women’s team final last Tuesday.  Chen and Jia were the first to confirm their final ticket after managing to beat the Japanese pair, in straight games, 21-17, 21-18.

“From the beginning, actually we tried to increase the tempo of the game, but it didn’t have much effect.  Our opponents gave a lot of variations on attack while we couldn’t finish a lot of shots very well,” Fukushima said.

Having ousted their replacements as world #1, Chen/Jia will now face another formidable  pair of opponents for the gold medal.  The Olympic gold medallists, Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi (picture bottom) will be their opponents in the final round, as they took their place in the final round after defeating the host pair, Greysia Polii / Apriani Rahayu (pictured left).  Greysia Polii was the last of the 2014 gold medallists who still had a chance at individual gold in Jakarta and Matsutomo/Takahashi were the ones she and her previous partner had relegated to silver in Incheon.

The final meeting on Monday will be the 8th meeting between Chen/Jia and Matsutomo/Takahashi.  In a rivalry that began two years ago at the Asian Championships, the Chinese lead 4-3 in their head-to-head record.

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Naomi Indartiningrum

About Naomi Indartiningrum

Naomi began as a Badzine Correspondent in 2015, while still a Business Management student living in Jakarta. A badminton enthusiast since 2007, she mostly spends her spare time writing about local badminton events and also maintaining one of largest badminton twitter accounts in Indonesia.