China put its foot down in the afternoon session of the Li-Ning China Masters semi-finals, brooking no more upsets by any visiting shuttlers but Jiang Yanjiao and Qiu/Tang had to work hard for their finals tickets.
By Don Hearn. Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live from Changzhou)
Jiang Yanjiao (pictured) is practically the elder stateswoman on the Chinese badminton team. With Wang Xin out with the nastiest of injuries, Jiang is the most experienced singles shuttler still in action and is senior to all but two of China’s women’s doubles players.
Who better, then, to put upstart P.V. Sindhu (pictured below) of India in her place after her ousting of Olympic champion Li Xuerui yesterday? Jiang certainly played her part but her 17-year-old opponent has already proven she is not just a flash in the pan and she again proved that she is a force to be reckoned with, even for the world’s top echelon.
After being dominated in the first game, Sindhu found her touch at the net in the second and capitalized on many a short lift with her powerful smash. In the decider, the same tactic allowed her to pull of a 4-point run to eke out a 17-16 lead but too many of her smashes found the wrong side of the tape and Jiang Yanjiao was the one with the consistency and the nerve to finish victorious.
The other youngster riding a wave of confidence into her semi-final was 20-year-old Sapsiree Taerattanachai of Thailand. She had beaten Liu Xin and then Wang-beater Minatus Mitani on her way to a final four showdown with might Wang Yihan but she was unable to make any impact and the reigning World Champion shut her down in two.
Suspense in mixed
The longest match of the day saw Qiu Zihan (pictured below) again getting the better of Thailand’s Sudket Prapakamol. Qiu had scored a first-round win over Sudket to kick off his run to his first ever international title at this year’s Thailand Open.
Today, though, the young Chinese shuttler was able to deal Thai veteran defeat in the latter’s strong suit. Qiu and Tang Jinhua emerged victorious over the second seeds, winning 21-16, 19-21, 21-17 in 74 gruelling minutes.
The last match of the day looked for a while as though a Chinese semi-finalist might finally be put under the pressure of a first-game loss until Xu Chen and Ma Jin blazed out an 8-point run to win after being down 13-18 in the opener.
Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying did put it together to take the second game, going a long way toward easing the agony of their one-sided loss to the eventual silver medallists at the Olympics, where they finished 0-3. However, they didn’t have enough in the end and defending champions Xu/Chen romped through the deciding game and booked themselves a second consecutive finals berth – and third for Xu personally.
It will also be a third all-Chinese final as Cheng Shu and Luo Yu beat out third-seeded Shizuka Matsuo / Mami Naito of Japan to meet BaoYixin and Zhong Qianxin in the women’s doubles final.
One Chen gives, another Chen takes
Hong Kong’s Hu Yun (pictured) may have thought he was lucky to finish off his semi-final in two games, withstanding a late rally by Ajay Jayaram to win the second 21-18 and avoiding the exertion of a deciding game. In fact, his luck started much earlier in the week when second-seeded Chen Jin had to forfeit their second-round match and thus obviating the major upset Hu would otherwise have had to produce in order to reach his first Superseries final.
However, his Sunday opponent had the real fortune on the weekend as a different Chen was himself the beneficiary of a walkover and was able to rest on Saturday evening before taking on the world #21 on finals day.
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