DUTCH OPEN 2011 – Kunchala clinches two for Thailand!

Thailand and Taiwan each started out with an internal battle, in mixed doubles and men’s singles, as new frontrunners emerged to take the titles at the 2011 Yonex Dutch Open […]

Left to right: Women's doubles runners-up Yao Lei, Shinta Mulia Sari (SIN), winners Duanganong Aroonkesorn, Kunchala Voravichitchaikul (THA) © Sven Heise

Thailand and Taiwan each started out with an internal battle, in mixed doubles and men’s singles, as new frontrunners emerged to take the titles at the 2011 Yonex .

By Lee Anne Yabut and Rahmat Hidayat (live in Almere). Photos: Sven Heise (live)

Mixed doubles was the scene of a minor upset as top seeds Sudket Prapakamol and Saralee Thoungthongkam were defeated by younger team-mates, and second seeds, Songphon Anugritayawon and Kunchala Voravichitchaikul in two thrilling games, 21-17, 24-22.

Voravitchitchaikul proved she is a prowess on court as she also garnered a second title, in women’s doubles, where she and Duanganong Aroonkesorn beat out last year’s Singapore Open champions Shinta Mulia Sari / Yao Lei in a powerful 20-10, 21-16 outing.

Men's singles winner Hsueh Hsuan Yi (left) and runner-up Chou Tien Chen, both of Chinese Taipei © Sven Heise

It was just as momentous for Chinese Taipei, as Hsueh Hsuan Yi and Chou Tien Chen faced in a final made possible by Chou’s defeat of Dutch favourite, Eric Pang in the semi-finals. The two team-mates took their fight to three games and it was Hsueh who won the longest match of the day to take the men’s singles title.

All was not lost for Netherlands – nor for the ‘Yao’ family name – as Yao Jie exceeded expectations and won the women’s singles title back for the home nation, beating India’s P.V. Sindhu in an impressive 2-game contest that ended 21-16, 21-17. Yao is, in fact, the only Dutch shuttler to win the Grand Prix title at home in the last six years, a feat she has repeated three times in that period, in addition to winning in 2003.

The veteran used her experience and court advantage to win against the young Indian through patience, elegant net shots and experienced game play.

Still, the match was not without its challenges for the home favourite. On at least five occasions when Yao tried to change the shuttle during the match, Sindhu refused and the umpire refused as well, saying that the shuttles were not wobbly.

Women's singles runner-up P.V. Sindhu (IND), left, and winner Yao Jie (NED) © Sven Heise

Yao offered her side of the story in a post-match interview: “The shuttles were not good. They were slow and she [Sindhu] is a very strong player. She could easily send the shuttles to the back of the court. I am not as strong as her so many times I had to hit the shuttle to the half of the court, then she could easily attack me.

She is tall and strong. That is why I wanted to change the shuttles so many times. And it is the right of the player to do that. In each tournament you see players change the shuttle after a rally…”

Asked about the age difference between the 16-year-old Sindhu and herself, Yao, 34, said: “Yes, I know that fact. Actually some people joked about it and told me, ‘Hey Jie, she could be your daughter actually!’”

“This win is mostly for myself, for my career, and my sponsor, who has paid everything for me to stay on the courts. I don’t know about the [Dutch Badminton] Association.”

Meanwhile, Germany’s Johannes Schoettler was denied a return of the title he won in 2009, when he won the final against his now partner Ingo Kindervater, in what was the last Grand Prix title for either of them.

The Germans were beaten by Poland’s Adam Cwalina and Michal Logosz (pictured right) in an upset, keeping a tight performance in the first two games 19-21, 21-19, and finally giving in at 14-21.

This has been the biggest victory to date for the Polish pair, and in a way, they were representing not only their country but also Europe on an Asian-dominated finals day.

Michael Logosz, busy packing while partner Adam Cwalina was already waiting outside, had a novel take on the way the final turned out: “I really have to go now. We really have no time. We have to catch the plane. That’s why we planned only to play two games for the final!”

In fact, the Poles will be hoping they are ‘on their way’ in more ways than one, as Sunday’s victory will also likely pave the way for them to break into the top 20 world ranking in preparation for the 2012 London Olympics.

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