CANADA OPEN Finals – Li Shifeng wins first senior title

It was youth over experience as 19-year-old Li Shifeng bested India’s Parupalli Kashyap but podium experience counted as past champions prevailed in two other finals at the 2019 Canada Open. […]

It was youth over experience as 19-year-old Li Shifeng bested India’s Parupalli Kashyap but podium experience counted as past champions prevailed in two other finals at the 2019 .

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

Youth and experience shared the laurels at the 2019 Canada Open.  There were first titles, consecutive titles, repeat titles, titles for teenagers and titles for ageless veterans.

The teen titles

It was only a matter of time before Youth Olympic gold medallist Li Shifeng (pictured) put his mark on the senior international badminton tour.  The 19-year-old started off the year with two runner-up finishes at International Challenge events.  Then he reached the semi-finals of the first event of the year and on Saturday in Calgary, he avenged that loss by beating Koki Watanabe to reach his first major tournament final.

But it was never going to be easy.  Parupalli Kashyap (pictured) of India has always been a tough competitor and he was hungry for the win in Calgary and pulled out the first game 22-20.  Even in the second and third games, when Li looked to be running away with it, Kashyap was patient and cool and kept narrowing the gap.

In the end, though, the Chinese teenager was able to hold his nerve and keep it together to come up with the win in three games.  It was the second time this year that a Chinese teenager won a Super 100 event in men’s singles.  In the entire 11 years of the Superseries, men’s singles titles at the equivalent, level, went to teenagers only 3 times.

In the women’s singles, it was absolutely inevitable that a teenager would win.  However, it still wasn’t to be for Asian Junior Champion Wang Zhiyi (pictured bottom).  The 19-year-old world #165, who already has two International Challenge titles to her name, had to be content with just making it to her first major final this weekend.

Instead, it was the second major title for 17-year-old An Se Young (pictured).  An may not have scored the high profile victories this week like she did in the New Zealand Open or the Sudirman Cup, but she was ecstatic on court after Wang saved 4 match points and An was forced to win it on her fifth, in extra points.

An is vying for a spot in the Tokyo Olympics and although the Canada Open victory will only give her a small boost into the top 40, it will again make her the front-runner in actual Olympic points.  To stay in the top 16, though, she will have to start performing at the bigger tournaments and this month, after the U.S. Open, she has qualified for her first Super 500 event, the Thailand Open.

2nd in a row, 1st major for new Danish duo

Mads Conrad-Petersen may have won just an International Challenge a few weeks ago with new partner Mathias Boe (pictured) but he still came to Canada looking for his first major title since being crowned European Champion back in 2016.  Even for Boe, it had been over a year since he and former partner Carsten Mogensen took the Swiss Open title.

The Danes won decisively in the final, beating Japan’s Okamura/Onodera and relegating them to runners-up in their first major final.  Boe, who is 38 for just a few more days, thus became the oldest major tournament winner since Robert Mateusiak won the Bitburger Open in 2015 just a few months before his 40th birthday.

For the Danes, it was a second straight title and they will hope to do one better as they proceed to the U.S. Open Super 300, where they will have the same opening encounter as they did in Calgary.  It may have been the first time playing in Canada for either Dane but in the U.S. Boe is a two-time champion, having won men’s doubles in 2016 and in mixed doubles way back in 2001.

The repeaters

One of the biggest surprises came in the women’s doubles.  Korea has seemed able to produce winning combinations no matter how they put their top players together.  In the final, they were looking to former All England champion Chang Ye Na in a new pairing with Kim Hye Rin.

But 2016 Canada Open champions Setyana Mapasa / Gronya Somerville had other ideas.  They kept up the pressure on the Korean pair and stayed focused and consistent and they were able to close out the match in two straight games.

Since winning the Dutch Open in 2016, the Australians had no major successes to boast of but this puts them right back in the hunt.  They will be firmly in the top 50 by the time they start playing at the U.S. Open, after which they are due to cross the Pacific to play in the Super 1000 event in Indonesia.

The last final of the day saw Asian Junior Champion Guo Xinwa appearing to toy with Korean veterans Ko Sung Hyun and Eom Hye Won for most of both games, only to watch the Koreans creep up and pass him and partner Zhang Shuxian to win it in two.

Ko Sung Hyun had not played in Canada since winning the men’s doubles title here back in 2011.  For Eom Hye Won (pictured), it had been slightly longer.  She had travelled to Canada in 2010 with her university team for one of her first international appearances after graduating from the junior circuit.  At that time, she reached the women’s doubles semi-final with the totally unknown (at the time), Kim Ha Na.  Now, she has taken Kim’s place, in a way, alongside former world #1 Ko and the pair now have two major international titles to their name.

When Ko and Eom won the Korea Masters last year, they showed real promise but were also resigned to the fact that the Badminton Korea Association was still refusing to register Eom in any tournaments outside of Korea.  Now the pair, who actually won their first ever tournament together back in 2011, are looking much more confident as they head down to the U.S. Open.  With the result in Canada alone, they should have enough notional ranking points to begin playing Super 500 tournaments and more by September.

Final results
WS:  An Se Young (KOR) [5] beat Wang Zhiyi (CHN)  21-15, 22-20
MD:  Mathias Boe / Mads Conrad-Petersen (DEN) [8] beat Hiroki Okamura / Masayuki Onodera (JPN)  21-12, 21-18
WD:  Setyana Mapasa / Gronya Somerville (AUS) [7] beat Chang Ye Na / Kim Hye Rin (KOR) [5]  21-16, 21-14
MS:  Li Shifeng (CHN) beat Parupalli Kashyap (IND) [6]  20-22, 21-14, 21-17
XD:  Ko Sung Hyun / Eom Hye Won (KOR) beat Guo Xinwa / Zhang Shuxian (CHN)             21-19, 21-19

Click here for complete 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