SINGAPORE OPEN 2010 QF – Rising stars shine

Semi-finals day of the Singapore Super Series will see a league of nations competing for a shot at the coveted women’s singles and doubles trophies – with the youths leading […]


Semi-finals day of the Singapore Super Series will see a league of nations competing for a shot at the coveted women’s singles and doubles trophies – with the youths leading the challenge.

By Pearlyn Kwang, Badzine Correspondent, live from Singapore Indoor Stadium. Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

They may not be about to achieve world dominance any time soon with the veterans still actively participating in the circuit, but the youngsters sure look poised to do so – if their performance this week at the Singapore Indoor Stadium is any indication. The average age of the women’s singles semi-finalists is a mere 19, with the youngest just about to turn 16 on Sunday.

Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying (pictured left) awarded herself an early birthday present after successfully defeating Bulgaria’s Linda Zechiri 21-10, 16-21, 21-15.

Either player could have been the miracle stories of the competition – relatively unknown to the badminton world but silently and gently trudging into the quarter-finals of the Super Series. There could only be one who would achieve greater honour from this tie though, and it was the much lower-ranked Taiwan player who will feature in Saturday’s semi-final – successfully exposing herself as a player to watch in the near future.

It is definitely no mean feat for someone who made it this far from the qualifying rounds, but the 15-year-old still seemed to be pretty harsh on herself: “I shouldn’t have lost (the second set). I didn’t grab the opportunity so I felt that it was a bit wasteful as I could have won the match in just two sets.”

“I think it is because of the confidence I have in myself,” replied the shy young Tai Tzu Ying, when asked what propelled her to do so well in this tournament. Did that confidence stem from defeating fifth-seeded Eriko Hirose in the first round? Apparently not, as Tai mentioned that she barely knows who the top players in the circuit are, since she does not watch out for any particular players during tournaments. “I didn’t know she (Hirose) was a top player until after the match.”

sin2010-qf-BaeShe will play fellow teenager Bae Youn Joo (pictured right) on Saturday. “I don’t think there will be any preparation, I’ll just go out there and play how I usually do and not expect too much from it.”

Her South Korean opponent, on the other hand, boasts a more illustrious resume. Bae is certainly no stranger to the Super Series semi-finals, having made it on two occasions early this year – in Malaysia and Switzerland. A finalist in Malaysia, her form has been impressive this week in neighbouring Singapore, where she has not dropped a single game en-route the semi-finals.

In Friday’s quarter-finals, she demolished sixth-seeded Yao Jie 21-16, 21-18 in a nifty fashion, needing just 35 minutes to wrap up the match.

Sweet revenge

The other side of the draw will see top-seed Saina Nehwal face off against reigning world champion Lu Lan – setting up a mouth-watering clash for spectators to look forward to.  Fourth seed Lu Lan made light work of her Thai adversary to advance into the top 4, crushing 17-year-old Porntip Buranaprasertsuk 21-12, 21-9.

Similarly, Saina did not need too long to dispatch her opponent, but it was a match that the Indian, who herself only turned 20 in March, will probably not forget as it screamed “revenge!”  The last time Saina Nehwal met Li Xuerui was in April, at the Badminton Asia Championships. Back then, the Chinese defied the odds to stun Saina, seeded first there too, 21-17, 21-11, in the semi-finals.

This time, it was sweet revenge, as Li Xuerui was sent packing home by a comparable scoreline, 21-17, 21-14, leading the world #6 to say that it was “a fantastic feeling”. It will be her second time in the top 4 in Singapore, previously appearing in 2008, when she was still a young star waiting to shine. This year, she is here as the top seed, so she is positive of her chances to take it one step further. “I’m still in form from winning last week’s India Grand Prix, and also I’m the top seed here, so I will play with that confidence in tomorrow’s match.

sin2010-qf-geysiaSeeded vs Non-seeded x 2

For the women’s doubles event, the two semi-finals will be interesting match-ups between a seeded pair and a non-seeded pair. Favourites Kim Min Jung / Lee Hyo Jung, coming off their historic Uber Cup win, will be battling Meiliana Jauhari / Greysia Polli for a berth in the finals, after the unheralded new Indonesian pair upset their compatriots Jung Kyung Eun / Ha Jung Eun 13-21. 21-13, 21-11.

Backed by a pack of boisterous Indonesian fans, Meiliana and Greysia (pictured left) continued their extraordinary run in the tournament. After upsetting the second-seeded Japanese pair Mizuki Fujii / Reika Kakiiwa in the Round of 16, it was the Koreans  – who had played only one match together internationally before this week but were still seeded seventh – who were victimized by their inspiring performance today.

Said Greysia after their victory, “I think there is only one word to describe the key to our success today: composure. If we had not been composed and calm, we wouldn’t have been able to find ways to break our opponents.

“We learned from our match yesterday against the Japanese. We were under so much pressure yesterday and we know that for us to make a comeback, we have to think clearly and stay positive.”

Meiliana accredited the win to her more experienced partner, “It is important to have a good partner. I think especially for me, I tend to get nervous and rushed through the game. Sometimes I also made unforced errors. That was when Greysia came in, calmed me down and reminded me to focus and stay positive.”

sin2010-qf-shinta2Also making their first-ever Super Series semi-final was the local duo of Yao Lei and Shinta Mulia Sari (pictured right), who prevailed over India’s giant-killing Jwala Gutta and Ashwaini Ponnappa. It was a rematch of last week’s India Grand Prix final, except that this time, the Singaporeans required only two sets to secure their history-making victory.

They are the first Singaporean women’s doubles pair to appear in the semi-finals in Singapore this millenium, giving the home crowd something to cheer about.

Their Indian opponents just could not find the form they had yesterday against the top seeded Japanese, as they simply had no answer to the Singaporeans’ accurate shots and powerful attack from the back court. 

Whether or not they rewrite the history books again will be up to fourth seeds Chien Yu Chin / Cheng Wen Hsing, who will unquestionably not make it an easy affair for the Singaporeans on Saturday, as the Taiwan pair seeks to capture the elusive title that just slipped by their reach in 2008.

When asked about their preparation for the semi-finals, Yao Lei replied, “We haven’t thought about it. We’re just going to work hard and take it from there.”

Added Shinta, “We’re just going to take it step by step and play our game according to our strategy.”

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About Pearlyn Kwang