CHINA OPEN SF – Han and Zhou topple the top pair

20-year-olds Han Chengkai and Zhou Haodong upset the world #1s to duel with the Danish 8th seeds for the biggest title of either pair’s career so far. By Don Hearn.  […]

20-year-olds Han Chengkai and Zhou Haodong upset the world #1s to duel with the Danish 8th seeds for the biggest title of either pair’s career so far.

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

The has brought plenty of changes to world badminton but first-time men’s doubles winners has not been one of them.  There have been nine tournaments at Super 500 and above so far this year but only one has been one by a pair who never triumphed in the .

Of course, a major reason for the lack of success for fresh faces has been the continued dominance by Asian Games gold medallists Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Keven Sanjaya Sukamuljo, who added 5 of the first 9 top events this year to the 7 Superseries titles they racked up last year.  This week at the , though, they suffered only their fourth loss of the year.

In fact, the world #1s have only lost once this year to another pair from the top ten.  At the Malaysia Open, it was then world #31 He/Tan who got the better of them and before that, it was a scratch from Thailand at the Thomas Cup.  This time, the 2016 World Champions Han Chengkai and Zhou Haodong (pictured top) – ranked #23 in the world – bounced back from a one-sided loss in the second game to take back control in the decider and send Gideon and Sukamuljo packing.

The Chinese youngsters were in one Gold final prior to winning their World Junior title in 2016 but their biggest title to date is the Super 100 they won in Lingshui earlier this year.  Their opponents in the final also are going for the biggest win of their career.

Denmark’s Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen (pictured above) have 3 Grand Prix Gold wins to their name but had never reached a Superseries final when they became runners-up at the India Open this year.  They became European Champions in April but have yet to top the podium in a World Tour event.  The Danes had to struggle in their second game against Wang Chi Lin and Cheng Hung Ling of Chinese Taipei but they kept the pressure on and finished their semi-final off in straight games.

Taking on the World Champions

In all other disciplines, there is a World Champion to be either crowned or beaten.  However, in both women’s disciplines, the World Champion is officially the underdog, at least according to seeding.

In the women’s doubles, World Champions Mayu Matsumoto / Wakana Nagahara (pictured above) are ranked just below their opponents and compatriots Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi.  More importantly, their biggest prize money event to date is last month’s Spain Masters .  When they won the world title, they hadn’t done better than the Grand Prix title they won in Canada last year.

Still, Matsumoto and Nagahara were runners-up at the Indonesia in July and they are back looking for a bigger payday in Changzhou this weekend.  On Saturday, they denied the first of 3 European Champions to appear in the China Open semi-finals.  They shut down Gabriela and Stefani Stoeva effectively in two quick games.

In the women’s singles, Chen Yufei (pictured above) is seeded one rung higher than World Champion Carolina Marin but the Spaniard nudged above the home favourite in the world rankings this week on the strength of her win in Japan last Sunday.  Marin is clearly the more decorated of the two ladies, with 3 world titles and an Olympic gold to her name, as well as half a dozen Superseries wins.

Chen Yufei successfully came through her eighth meeting this year with World #2 Akane Yamaguchi, winning in three games.  Her only major title to date was in the 2016 Macau Open Grand Prix Gold so she could become the third player – after Zhang Beiwen and Sayaka Takahashi – to go from being empty-handed in the Superseries to taking a major World Tour title, something she was already close to doing at the Indonesia Super 1000 in July.

To move up to the top of the podium, however, she will have to beat the World Champion.  In fact, her first encounter with Carolina Marin was just last week at the Japan Open, when she was beaten soundly in straight games.  On Saturday in Changzhou, Marin lost her first game against Nozomi Okuhara (pictured left) before winning the next two convincingly to repeat the success she had a week earlier in the Japan Open final.

Finals day will begin with Kento Momota taking on Anthony Ginting.  The two players traded victories at the Asian Games last month but Momota is coming off his success at the Japan Open and he is also about to be named the new world #1 in men’s singles.

In the semi-finals in Changzhou, Kento Momota ensured that China’s Shi Yuqi (pictured right) would not ascend to the #1 spot in his stead.  He repeated his success from the World Championship final in even less time to book his second straight Sunday appointment.

Anthony Ginting (pictured left) has already taken care of the previous three World Champions – Lin Dan, Chen Long, and Viktor Axelsen – in historical order and now will test his mettle against the reigning king of men’s singles.  In the semis, he exacted some payback from Chou Tien Chen, against whom he had match point in the Asian Games semi-finals but was unable to convert it to reach that important final on home soil.

Mixed doubles features a continuation of the incredible run by China’s Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong.  Last week, they followed up their golds at the World Championships and Asian Games with a Super 750 title and now they will take their third crack at the big paycheque at a million-dollar event and they are not even a year into their partnership.

The expected 4th instalment of their rivalry with Wang Yilyu and Huang Dongping was not to be, however.  The world #2 pair were beaten by compatriots Zhang Nan and Li Yinhui (pictured bottom) in three games.  While Zhang has won nearly everything there is to win in world badminton, Li is still looking for a title bigger than a Grand Prix Gold and it doesn’t get much bigger than the China Open Super 1000!

Finals line-up
MS:  Kento Momota (JPN) [3] vs. Anthony Sinisuka Ginting (INA)
XD:  Zheng Siwei / Huang Yaqiong (CHN) [1] vs. Zhang Nan / Li Yinhui (CHN) [5]
WS:  Chen Yufei (CHN) [5] vs. Carolina Marin (ESP) [6]
WD:  Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi (JPN) [2] vs. Mayu Matsumoto / Wakana Nagahara (JPN) [8]
MD:  Kim Astrup / Anders Skaarup Rasmussen (DEN) [8] vs. Han Chengkai / Zhou Haodong (CHN)

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