HONG KONG OPEN 2018 SF – Son is back!

Korea’s Son Wan Ho scored his first win over Kento Momota in 3 years to reach his first final in nearly 2 years, at the Hong Kong Open. By Don […]

Korea’s Son Wan Ho scored his first win over in 3 years to reach his first final in nearly 2 years, at the .

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Raphael Sachetat / Badmintonphoto (live)

Son Wan Ho (pictured) may have spent several weeks as the world #1 men’s singles shuttler last year but it was consolation when he was unable to win a title, or even to reach a final, all year.  In Hong Kong, this weekend, he ended that long wait and will attempt to end an even longer one by winning the title, as he hasn’t won one at this level since he was the champion here in Hong Kong back in 2014.

He was still quite consistent, reaching 7 semi-finals and finishing at the top of that table but he was again unable to make it to Sunday in Dubai, losing to Lee Chong Wei in the semis after beating him in the group stage.  His woes continued in 2018, as he started off with two more promising semi-final appearances but then suffered injury problems that put him out of two big money tournaments and then kept him home from the World Championships.

On Saturday in Hong Kong, Son Wan Ho remained steady throughout his 90-minute battle with Kento Momota (pictured below), even as the current world #1 fluctuated in energy and consistency.  Momota seemed to be struggling with stamina after his three straight days of 3-game battles but still came up with quality replies that made it look like Son was lucky to be able to force a deciding game.

In the third game, Son seemed able to dictate the rallies and move his opponent around at will but his attacks were still met with impossibly tight replies and he was not able to pull away.  By the latter part of the game, it looked as if Momota had a second wind and the Korean was under pressure.  But Son responded with continued patient play and some perfectly directed attacks allowed him to earn match point first and he finished the game on his first opportunity.

His opponent in the final will be Kenta Nishimoto.  Nishimoto, who kept Son out of the medals at the Asian Games this past summer, ousted the last home shuttler from the Hong Kong Open, beating Lee Cheuk Yiu in straight games.  The winner will clinch a berth in the World Tour Finals in Guangzhou, while the loser will be going along to the season-ender as long as Sameer Verma does not win the Syed Modi next week.

Son’s compatriot Sung Ji Hyun was unable to pull off a similar feat against Ratchanok Intanon (pictured right).  The Thai repeatedly allowed Sung back into the deciding game after building up promising leads but after 17-all, put together a run of 4 straight points to take the match and book her spot in the final.  Intanon will be against Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara, who advanced when top-seeded Tai Tzu Ying retired early in their second game.

There will still be two Korean title opportunities on Sunday, however.  Lee So Hee and Shin Seung Chan (pictured bottom) converted their 3rd straight semi-final appearance into their 2nd straight final, beating Japan’s Tanaka/Yonemoto in straight games.  After beating the World Champions last weekend, they will attempt to claim an upset against world #1 Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota.  The Japanese pair outlasted Indonesia’s Polii/Rahayu but the last two games of their 105-minute marathon had quite one-sided scorelines.

Japan will be looking for a title sweep on Sunday in Hong Kong.  While their champion mixed pair of Watanabe/Higashino won their semi-final as expected, Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda (pictured left) had a much harder time of it with Asian Games silver medallists Fajar Alfian / Muhammad Rian Ardianto.  Their win managed to keep the Indonesians both from setting up an all-Indonesian final and from staying in the race to Guangzhou.  As it is, the Japanese pair will still need the Hong Kong title to stay ahead of 3 pairs who all have the chance to accumulate more points next week in India.

For a Japanese sweep, men’s and mixed doubles pose major challenges.  Kamura/Sonoda have done it before, of course, but world #1 Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo are now in their 4th straight final and looking for their 9th major title of the year.  They haven’t looked quite as convincing this week, perhaps, being pushed to 3 games by 3 different pairings of aging veterans, but they will be the heavy favourites in the final.

In mixed doubles, the Japanese pair will be looking for their first win in 6 attempts against world #2 Wang Yilyu and Huang Dongping.  The World Championship runners-up beat Thailand’s Puavaranukroh/Taerattanachai handily on Saturday and will be looking to make the most of the opportunity of a final without their world #1 compatriots in the way of what could be their second title of the year.

Finals line-up
WD:  Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota (JPN) [1] vs. Lee So Hee / Shin Seung Chan (KOR) [7]
WS:  Ratchanok Intanon (THA) [6] vs. Nozomi Okuhara (JPN) [7]
MS:  Son Wan Ho (KOR) [6] vs. Kenta Nishimoto (JPN) [8]
XD:  Wang Yilyu / Huang Dongping (CHN) [2] vs. Yuta Watanabe / Arisa Higashino (JPN) [7]
MD:  Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (INA) [1] vs. Takeshi Kamura / Keigo Sonoda (JPN) [4]

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