SINGAPORE OPEN 2011 Finals – Of drama and dominance

Much of the crowd of the Li-Ning Singapore Open 2011 finals probably headed home crestfallen. Team China once again extended their dominance, pocketing four gold medals almost too easily. It […]

Much of the crowd of the Li-Ning 2011 finals probably headed home crestfallen. Team China once again extended their dominance, pocketing four gold medals almost too easily. It also did not help that Lin Dan had contracted gastroenteritis in the morning of the finals day, thus depriving spectators at the Singapore Indoor Stadium of a men’s singles final showdown.

By Serla Rusli and Pearlyn Kwang, live from Singapore. Photos (live): Badmintonphoto

The day had started promising with an exciting mixed doubles match worthy of a Super Series final when world number 5 Lilyana Natsir/Tantowi Ahmad faced unseeded Chinese Taipei pair Chen Hung Ling/Cheng Wen Hsing (both photo left). After a quick 21-14 finish in the first game in favour of the Indonesians, the fiery Taiwanese fought back hard in hope of a shot at the third game. They stretched Lilyana/Tantowi who then made mistakes at critical points of the game to miss four of their championship points before finally clinching the title at 27-25.

I think we wasted a very good opportunity in the second game with our own mistakes,” commented the still cheerful Cheng Wen Hsing, who had admitted earlier that she did not expect to advance this far into the tournament.

In the first game we played a lot better. However, in the second game, we were trapped in their game instead, so they continued to attack us and got really close to beating us. After we realised our mistakes, we tried to find our game again with a change of tactic,” Lilyana told reporters.

Lilyana is no new figure in the Singapore Open Finals. She has won the title three times with her previous partner Nova.

We are really happy to win here in Singapore, especially since our draw here was not easy at all. We had to beat the Chinese and Korean pairs to make it here. We are also on our way to collecting points to qualify for the Olympics and winning this Singapore Open definitely helps. I am really happy with our results in the past few tournaments.”

This victory with Tantowi in Singapore means that the relatively new duo has pocketed three major titles this year, in their last three tournaments.

I hope that winning such a big event would also add to his confidence,” pointed Lilyana to her less experienced and slightly more reserved partner. “We still have a long way ahead of us and so many pairs are better than us. However, we are confident that if we keep our focus and are stable in our performance, we will become a lot better and probably surpass the level of play with my previous partner Nova.

And then it’s China, China, China

Chinese players stood atop the winner’s podium for all the other finals after overcoming their opponents comfortably.

In women’s singles, Tine Baun’s power was unable to stop Wang Xin’s (photo right) ruthless attacks. Many a time, the Dane could not answer to Wang’s accurate shuttle placing. Unlike in the semi-finals when she defeated world number 1 Wang Shixian, this time she had to surrender the possibility of winning her second title in Singapore in 19-21, 17-21.

I think the main reason why I lost today is because I was surprised by many of her attacks. Both Wang Xin and Wang Shixian are fast and attacking players. However, Wang Xin is a better attacker than Wang Shixian and also Wang Xin is left-handed and fast on her feet. Hence, her shots came differently from unusual angles,” said Tine in a post-match interview.

Of course I would like to win since I’m already this far, but overall, I’m still really happy with my performance in Singapore. Indonesia will not be easy as well but I will do my best and maintain my form.”

Then, was the women’s singles champion wary coming into the final, since comrade Wang Shixian faltered against the Dane? “Well, I know Tine has beaten many of my team-mates and she has been performing well in this tournament, so I knew I had to prepare myself even more for this match. I think the difference [in the outcome of our matches] lies in our confidence. I’ve beaten Tine a few times before, so I probably had much more confidence than Shixian coming into the match. Also, I prepared well and played with more patience than Tine.

The Chinese world number 2 added, “Beating her, and taking home my first Singapore Open women’s singles title has definitely boosted my confidence.”

The women’s doubles final pitted China’s highest-seeded pair in the draw, Tian Qing/Zhao Yunlei (photo left), against Korea’s Ha Jung Eun / Kim Min Jung. The two pairs last met recently in the semi-finals of the Badminton Asia Championships, where the former emerged victorious only after a hard-fought three-game battle. Nevertheless, it was a much easier task this time for Tian/Zhao as they silenced the sixth-seeded Koreans 21-13, 21-16. No luck for Kim Min Jung again this year, as she finished runner-up in Singapore for the second time with different partners. She partnered Lee Hyo Jung in the 2010 edition, but lost in the final to Singapore’s Yao Lei / Shinta Mulia Sari.

The world number 10 Chinese twosome will now aim to take home their third crown in-a-row in Indonesia next week, after winning back-to-back titles in Thailand and Singapore.

Fu Haifeng / Cai Yun (photo) provided the last sweet victory for China for the day as they defeated unseeded pair Alvent Yulianto Chandra/Hendra Aprida Gunawan in a convincing 21-17, 21-13 match.

The Indonesians seemed to fare well in the first game as they managed to put forth a fight against Fu/Cai. However, the Chinese were totally in control of the second game as they seemed to be able to read Alvent/Hendra’s tactics well and break their pattern.

Alvent admitted that lethargy was the decisive factor in their loss. “Our energy level is really a lot lower today. We had a really tough match in the semi-finals and we have been playing in two consecutive tournaments. But we did learn a lot for today’s match that would prepare us better for the Indonesia Open.”

The Indonesian duo will renew their rivalry with Fu/Cai in a mere three days, as they are drawn to meet the newly-crowned Singapore champions in the opening round of the Indonesia Open Premier Super Series.

Men’s singles drama

Team China was already assured of the men’s singles title as Lin Dan was slated to play compatriot Chen Jin (photo) in the finals. But in a dramatic turn of events, Lin Dan announced his withdrawal from the finals, citing gastroenteritis. Lin explained, “I drank a lot of iced water after the match with Gade yesterday, and I already felt uncomfortable last night. I woke up today and went to see a doctor who confirmed that I was ill. I don’t think it is good to stretch yourself when you are unwell.”

(Read our chief-editor’s take on the matter: No-show, is that promotion?)

Hence, Chen Jin, unseeded in the tournament, took the title without even lifting his racket. Spectators were stunned, dazed, and furious. Not even a public apology from Super Dan himself could appease the crowd as the stadium roared with their booing. “I can understand the reaction of the crowd as I know they came to see me play,” Lin said in the press conference.

Indeed, having skipped the event for the past four years, many fans were elated to hear of his participation this year, and came specifically to see the Olympic champion strut his stuff on court. One dejected Vietnamese fan told Badzine that she flew over from Vietnam today just to see Lin Dan play. “I have been watching him on TV for a long time and I was so happy to have the chance to come to Singapore to see him play. Now, I’m just too shocked and angry to hear that I won’t get the chance to after all.”

Lin Dan and Chen Jin attempted to further pacify the 7,400-strong crowd by randomly throwing autographed Li-Ning pouches into the stands. Nevertheless, the growing sense of betrayal, resentment and anger could be felt within the stadium and it was just too much to placate. So much so that the booing continued even after the two protagonists were nowhere to be seen…

What a dramatic final to end an exciting week of badminton!

For full results, click here.

For LIVE PHOTOS of the event, click on the Facebook Page of Badmintonphoto, Official Photo Agency of BWF.

About Serla Rusli