CHINESE TAIPEI OPEN – A new Lee, a new hope?

Lee Zii Jia became the first Malaysian men’s singles player other than Lee Chong Wei to win 5-figure prize money in the last 6 years. By Don Hearn.  Photos: Yves […]

Lee Zii Jia became the first Malaysian men’s singles player other than Lee Chong Wei to win 5-figure in the last 6 years.

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

Back in 2000, the now legendary Lee Chong Wei was a humble bronze medallist at the World Championships.  Two years later, one of his first big wins was against a decorated veteran from Chinese Taipei and at age 20, he reached his first big final.

Fast forward just over a decade and a half and Lee Zii Jia (pictured top), a World Junior bronze medallist reached three Grand Prix Gold semi-finals at age 19 but at age 20, he beat world #4 Chou Tien Chen to reach the final of the .  Not only that, but he won the event, beating Riichi Takeshita in three games to pocket US$37,500 in prize money.

Well, perhaps comparisons to Lee Chong Wei are premature, but one can’t take away the importance of Lee Zii Jia’s win for Malaysian badminton.  6 years ago, Liew Daren became the only Malaysian other than Lee Chong Wei to win a men’s singles title.  In fact, no other Malaysian has won anything above a Grand Prix in the discipline and the four players with Grand Prix titles are either retired or banned for over a decade.

Riichi Takeshita has a lot more competition on his national team with Kento Momota and Kanta Tsuneyama both having won major titles this year and Kenta Nishimoto and Kazumasa Sakai appearing in multiple .  Takeshita’s last final at this level was the 2016 New Zealand Open and once again he had to settle for a runner-up finish.

Like Takeshiita, the struggle for Alfian Eko Prasetya / Marsheilla Gischa Islami (pictured bottom) is to make a name for themselves in a discipline where their nation is already teeming with talent.  Still, only 4 mixed doubles titles have gone to Indonesian shuttlers so far this year and today marked the first as Prasetya and Islami beat home favourites Yang/Wu in straight games.

For both Indonesians, this was the first title at this level.  Prasetya already had a couple of Grand Prix titles to his name, while for Islami, her best result previously was when the pair lost the final of the Vietnam Open in August.

Men’s and women’s doubles were both fought over by two pairs wearing the same flag.  Neither pair is a stranger to the podium but amazingly, it was the first time on top for Japan’s Nami Matsuyama / Chiharu Shida (pictured left).  They had been in a total of 4 finals already this year but were beaten by compatriots every time.  This week, they beat the pair responsible for relegating them to runners-up 3 of those times – Ayako Sakuramoto / Yukiko Takahata – at the semi-final stage and then took out Kurihara/Shinoya in the final.

In the men’s doubles, Wang Chi Lin and Chen Hung Ling took their second title of the year, dominating compatriots Liao Min Chun / Su Ching Heng in their second game.  Both pairs took advantage of the extra week of competition to move up in the top 4 of the qualification standings for the in Guangzhou.

Last but far from least, Taipei’s badminton queen Tai Tzu Ying dropped one game before winning the next two convincingly against Denmark’s Line Kjaersfeldt (pictured right).  The Dane was playing in her first final at the Super 300 level but her winnings as the runner-up at this $500,000 event are easily the biggest of her career so far.

Most of the finalists will be taking a week off and then coming back for the .  However, Matsuyama and Shida will not be playing either event in Europe and will instead be hightailing it over to the Netherlands for the Super 100.

Final results
XD:  Alfian Eko Prasetya / Marsheilla Gischa Islami (INA) [8] beat Yang Po-Hsuan / Wu Ti Jung (TPE)  21-15, 21-11
WD:  Nami Matsuyama / Chiharu Shida (JPN) [4] beat Ayane Kurihara / Naru Shinoya (JPN)  21-10, 21-17
MS:  Lee Zii Jia (MAS) beat Riichi Takeshita (JPN)  21-17, 16-21, 21-11
MD:  Chen Hung Ling / Wang Chi-Lin (TPE) [1] beat (TPE) [3]  22-20, 21-9
WS:  Tai Tzu Ying (TPE) [1] beat Line Kjaersfeldt (DEN) [3]  17-21, 21-10, 21-13

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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