Liew Daren and Minatsu Mitani were the surprise winners of the Yonex French Open Superseries 2012, each earning their first ever title. While Liew Daren got the best of Denmark’s future sensation Viktor Axelsen, Mitani prevented a second victory for Saina Nehwal in women’s singles after the Indian’s success in Odense. Meanwhile, Ma Jin notched her fourth victory in two weeks, conquering both the mixed and women’s doubles in Paris.
By Tarek Hafi, Badzine Correspondent live in Paris. Photos: Yohan Nonotte for Badmintonphoto (live)
On Sunday, in a packed Coubertin Stadium, Liew Daren (photo) joined his famous compatriot Lee Chong Wei on the honour roll of the Yonex Internationaux de France after a brilliant win in straight games over Viktor Axelsen. Neither of the players – who were today playing their first ever Superseries final – seemed to be bothered by what was at stake, playing at a very high level from the beginning. Quickly, the edge was given to the Malaysian, who played fast and furious.
“I managed to remain very focused from the beginning. This is the final. Nothing was more important than me winning the match,” explained the 25-year-old Kuala Lumpur-born shuttler. And he got it right, leaving the Dane frustrated throughout the match.
Closing the opening game by a slight margin, 21-18, Liew Daren was under constant pressure from his opponent, sticking with him on the score board. While Axelsen was getting more and more frustrated, two line calls did go against the Malaysian. Still, Liew kept his calm and took one point after the other, under the eyes of both his coaches Rashid Sidek and Tey Seu Bock. If the long protests with the umpire following the dubious calls left the Malaysian unfocused for a little while, he was back on track to finally beat the Danish youngster to clinch his first ever Superseries title.
“I was really upset with the line calls. He scored four or five points in a row, and then I remembered that I was playing a final, and I shouldn’t let it go just for that,” said Liew.
After forty-two minutes of play, the twenty-five year-old Malaysian scored the last point at 20-17, falling onto the court, staring at the ceiling, realizing he had finally made history, as being the first Malaysian – apart from Lee Chong Wei – to win a Super Series title in the men’s singles event.
The impressive Minatsu Mitani (photo) was probably inspired by Daren Liew, earning her own Superseries title in her first final appearance as well, making history in Paris, for being the first Japanese shuttler to win such a title in the women’s singles discipline.
Mitani was facing the ultra favourite Saina Nehwal, recent bronze medallist in London and winner in Denmark the previous week. In a constant tight score from the beginning, Mitani impressed the crowd with her excellent offensive clears and strong will to go for every shuttle. Despite trailing behind most of the first game, the 21-year-old never gave up and found the right resources to grab it 21-19. Something wrong was happening as the crowd realized the top seed was in clear danger and showing signs of frustration.
In spite of a slow start in the second game, Minatsu Mitani quickly caught back, cleverly forcing Saina to enter longer rallies, and intercepting every shuttle to perfection. The 21-year-old was obviously banking on that boost of confidence from the first game – on top of Keita Masuda’s constant cheers and advice from the coach’s chair – and was bringing back Saina’s attacks, like an unbreakable wall. The Indian had no solution and kept hammering smashes, taking more and more risks with inevitable mistakes, putting Mitani in the lead.
It looked impossible for Saina to come back, despite having beaten her opponent last week in Denmark as in the two previous times they had met, and the Indian prodigy capitulated in the second game, 11-21. Mitani’s impressive performance was a delight to watch for the French crowd as her milestone as a Japanese women’s singles shuttler came after two failed finals appearances this year by her veteran team-mate Eriko Hirose, at the Yonex All England and the Yonex Japan Open.
Ko, Lee logical winners
The Korean coach must have felt proud of yet another newly-formed pair. Lee Yong Dae and Ko Sung Hyun took home the men’s doubles title, after a long fight against Thailand’s Issara and Jongjit. However, it didn’t start as they wanted in the first game, which the new pair lost 22-24.
“The first game was difficult. We had trouble finding our mark, but it was all better in the second and third games,” said Ko Sung Hyun, all smiles after his win.
And it did indeed go better, despite a short time trailing behind. “Our tough quarter-final against Koo and Tan probably helped us be more confident, since we had lost last week against them,” confessed Ko.
The spectators, clearly enjoying the fantastic rallies played by the two teams, seemed unable to choose a pair to support and were just cheering after each of the amazing points, no matter who the winner was.
The experienced Lee Yong Dae and Ko Sung Hyun (photo), focusing constantly on their match, ran toward victory 21-17, 21-11 in the last two games. Ko Sung Hyun, however, admitted it was still hard to adapt to a new partner: “Since it hasn’t been long that we’ve playing together, we still lack coordination, but we are working hard to make it perfect.”
After match point, the Koreans were rewarded in music as the P.A. system again erupted, playing the hit Korean track “Gangnam Style”.
“We felt really happy hearing a Korean song during our match, but as we don’t know how to dance it, we preferred to simply walk out onto the court,” added a laughing Lee Yong Dae.
Second doubles double for Ma
Ma Jin and Tang Jinhua had concluded the first final of the day by a win over against Denmark’s Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Christina Pedersen in straight games. The Chinese girls had to save four game points in the second to overcome their opponents on Sunday but eventually won after forty four minutes of hard play, 21-12, 23-21.
Ma Jin struck again later on, in the mixed doubles with Xu Chen (photo) against their compatriots Qiu Zihan and Bao Yixin, in three tough games 21-17, 19-21, 21-18 after a splendid battle. This marks Ma Jin’s fourth victory in two weeks although her partner Xu Chen finished off with an injury, walking off the court with difficulty. It didn’t prevent them and the rest of the team from going for a shopping tour with Pi Hongyan, a luxury tour guide after the French player had been rewarded earlier in the week-end for her long career.
XD: Xu Chen / Ma Jin (CHN) beat Qiu Zihan / Bao Yixin (CHN) 21-17, 19-21, 21-18
WD: Ma Jin / Tang Jinhua (CHN) beat Christinna Pedersen / Kamilla Rytter Juhl (DEN) 21-12, 23-21
MD: Ko Sung Hyun / Lee Yong Dae (KOR) beat Bodin Issara / Maneepong Jongjit (THA) 22-24, 21-17, 21-11
MS: Liew Daren (MAS) beat Viktor Axelsen (DEN) 21-18, 21-17
WS: Minatsu Mitani (JPN) beat Saina Nehwal (IND) 21-19, 21-11
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