MALAYSIA MASTERS SF – 1st final for Li & Zheng

Li Wenmei / Zheng Yu beat 2019 runners-up Polii/Rahayu to reach their first ever Super 500 final at the Malaysia Masters. By Don Hearn, Badzine correspondent live in Kuala Lumpur.  […]

Li Wenmei / Zheng Yu beat 2019 runners-up Polii/Rahayu to reach their first ever final at the .

By Don Hearn, Badzine correspondent live in Kuala Lumpur.  Photos: Mark Phelan / Badmintonphoto (live)

Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu (pictured right) may have been runners-up at the last edition of the Malaysia Masters but their semi-final opponents on Saturday had their own tradition to continue.  In 2019 as well, China’s Li Wenmei and Zheng Yu (pictured top) were in the final of the first tournament of the season.  That time it was the Thailand Masters Super 300 but this year, the world #10 will be looking to do one better and an event one level higher.

In the opener, the Chinese pair surged ahead from 16-19 down to take the one-game lead.  Then in the second, the Indonesians maintained the upper hand to even things up.

In the decider, the 8th seeds looked to have the upper hand at 13-10 but Li and Zheng were hungry for the win and they took back the momentum until they had a 19-15 lead.  The Indonesians crept back into contention as the Chinese made a few errors in their efforts to keep the pressure on but soon they claimed victory and their spot in the final.

“Even though we are playing against our team-mates, we will still will do our best,” said Li Wenmei of the upcoming final.  She said that Kang Kyung Jin, who began coaching their squad in the autumn, had been focusing on working on the basics with them.

In fact, the other women’s doubles semi-final was perfectly in sync at one point on the adjacent court.  In that match as well, the Chinese pair – in this case Du Yue and Li Yinhui (pictured) – won the opening game but couldn’t get the lead to finish it in two straight.

Late the respective second games, the score itself was repeatedly identical, with numbers like 15-14 and 18-16 showing simultaneously on both scoreboards.  The scores later diverged slightly but the two Game 2s still finished seconds apart.  The syncronicity ended in the deciding game, however, as Du/Li dominated Japan’s Nami Matsuyama / Chiharu Shida to claim their own spot in the final.

The omega and the alpha

Soon after the ladies finished on both courts, it was the turn of mixed doubles to produce an all-Chinese final.  This was completely expected, of course, and indeed neither Wang Yilyu and Huang Dongping (pictured) nor Zheng Siwei / Huang Yaqiong had any trouble in finishing their semi-finals in straight games.  Like the women’s doubles, they happened simultaneously and unlike the women’s doubles, the two matches finished within minutes of each other.

More interesting is the other pattern in evidence, from the previous match.  That is, both mixed doubles and women’s singles will be repeats of the finals in Guangzhou last month.

Both Chen Yufei and Tai Tzu Ying won their matches convincingly, both in straight games.  Chen took a little longer on court, needing 50 minutes to see off the challenge from three-time World Champion Carolina Marin (pictured left).

“I think my chances in the final against Tai Tzu Ying [pictured bottom] are about 50/50 but I’m going to give my best to win it,” said Chen after her win.

On the difference between this meeting with Marin and their previous matches, she said, “I think I was more confident this time than the past times I’ve played against her.”

Chen downplayed the idea that her new status and string of success makes her the contender to beat: “I don’t think too much about being world #1.  I just prepare match by match to face any opponent.”

She added, “It’s still too early to say who the favourite will be for the Olympics.  There are still 6 or 7 months to go so everyone has a chance.”

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 @