INDIA OPEN SF – He and Srikanth end finals droughts

Srikanth Kidambi thrilled the Indian fans while He Bingjiao disappointed them as both still see a light at the end of their title droughts. By Don Hearn.  Photos: Mark Phelan […]

Srikanth Kidambi thrilled the Indian fans while He Bingjiao disappointed them as both still see a light at the end of their title droughts.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Mark Phelan / Badmintonphoto (live)

Pusarla Venkata Sindhu (pictured below) finished strong in 2018.  After settling for silver in the Commonwealth Games, World Championships, and then the Asian Games – not to mention at her home early in the year – she bounced back to enjoy the highest payday in badminton history at the inaugural World Tour Finals in Guangzhou.

But on Saturday in New Delhi, she faced a possibly even hungrier He Bingjiao (pictured right) of China.  He was runner-up only once last year but she has not titled since she was a teenager, way back in 2016, when she capitalized on the post-Olympic autumn to take two titles and a Grand Prix Gold in the space of 6 weeks.

Perhaps it was not a complete shock that Sindhu failed to reach a third consecutive India Open final, however.  Despite her impressive list of results last year, losing all 3 meetings against He Bingjiao was perhaps portentous.

In fact, Sindhu lost by a similar scoreline on Saturday to that she enjoyed against Mia Blichfeldt in Friday’s quarter-final.  This time, though, she squandered a 19-13 lead in the opening game, allowing He to snatch that one 23-21, after which she surged at the end again to take the second 21-19.

He’s opponent in the final will be two-time champion Ratchanok Intanon.  Intanon herself blew a convincing lead in her decider against Han Yue before holding on to take it 21-19.

Both of Intanon’s previous India Open titles were very impressive given their context.  In 2013, she became the youngest Superseries winner to date and in 2016, her title in India was the first in a historic 3-week-3-title streak.

Lone Indian hope

Earlier in the afternoon, 2015 champion Srikanth Kidambi (pictured top) assured Indian fans that they would have at least one home shuttler to root for on finals day.  Srikanth dropped his first game to China’s Huang Yuxiang, won the second convincingly, and fought back from 16-18 down to win the decider.

Srikanth reached his last final just under a year ago, when he settled for silver in the Commonwealth Games, losing to Lee Chong Wei in the final.  The Indian’s last title was in late 2017, when his win at the French Open brought him to 4 Superseries titles for the year.

Parupalli Kashyap made a promising surge in his second game against second-seeded Viktor Axelsen (pictured) but the tall Dane maintained his consistency and took the game 21-17 to shut down hopes of an all-Indian men’s singles final.

Longest final drought ended

The end of the longest final and title drought this weekend came at the expense of Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy.  The Indians were already playing in the biggest semi-final of their career, as they had not managed to reach the final four in the Superseries era and topped out at a Super 300 semi-final in 2018.

However, on Saturday, the home favourites were no match for two-time India Open runners-up Ricky Karanda Suwardi / Angga Pratama (pictured).  The Indonesians brushed past Attri and Reddy in less than half an hour.

Suwardi and Pratama have not been in a final since their second straight India Open Sunday in 2017.  In fact, the two players spent most of last year playing with different partners, with Suwardi concentrating on mixed doubles.  This year, they were left off the national team announced in January but are now in the final in their first outing of the year.

The Indonesians will have their hands full in the final, however.  Wang Chi Lin and Lee Yang (pictured) of Chinese Taipei are on another roll.  They are now in their 4th final in their first 6 tournaments as a pair.  On Saturday, they got the better of top seeds Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen.

The Danes went down somewhat tamely in the first game but looked to have recovered in the second, when they enjoyed a healthy and early 9-4 lead.  The Taiwan shuttlers chipped away at that, though, and first tied it up by playing some fantastic defense when trailing 9-10.  Lee Yang made an impossible scoop on an easy net kill by Rasmussen and the new pairing eventually turned it around to win the rally.  They then perpetrated a similar turnaround on the second game and sealed their spot in the final.

The women’s doubles semis were an all-Southeast Asian affair.  Top-seeded Greysia Polii / Apriyani Rahayu finished off their 3-game contest convincingly against compatriots Della Destiara Haris / Tania Oktaviani Kusumah.

It was much tighter for Malaysia’s Chow Mei Kuan / Lee Meng Yean (pictured bottom) but they eventually prevailed over Jongkolphan Kititharakul / Rawinda Prajongjai of Thailand in three games.  India continues to be a lucky place for them as they are now in the biggest final of their career after winning their biggest ever title in Lucknow late last year, at the Syed Modi Super 300.

In the mixed doubles final, last year’s runners-up Praveen Jordan / Melati Daeva Oktavianti (pictured left) will get another shot at the title.  They will face world #2 Wang Yilyu / Huang Dongping, who warded off an all-Indonesian final by shutting down Thailand Open winners Hafiz Faizal / Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja in straight games.

Finals line-up
XD:  Wang Yilyu / Huang Dongping (CHN) [1] vs. Praveen Jordan / Melati Daeva Oktavianti (INA) [5]
WD:  Greysia Polii / Apriyani Rahayu (INA) [1] vs. Chow Mei Kuan / Lee Meng Yean (MAS) [3]
WS:  He Bingjiao (CHN) [3] vs. Ratchanok Intanon (THA) [4]
MS:  Viktor Axelsen (DEN) [2] vs. Kidambi Srikanth (IND) [3]
MD:  Lee Yang / Wang Chi-Lin (TPE) vs. Ricky Karanda Suwardi / Angga Pratama (INA)

Click here for complete semi-final results

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