HONG KONG OPEN 2012 SF – Koo/Tan to forbid China’s sweep

Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong are the only non Chinese duo to enter the finals on Sunday. Like Lee Chong Wei in the singles events, they will try […]

Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong are the only non Chinese duo to enter the finals on Sunday. Like Lee Chong Wei in the singles events, they will try to defend the honours of the rest of the world against China.

By Xavier Lee and Thibault Bluy, Badzine Correspondents live in Hong Kong. Photos by Badmintonphoto (live)

Challengers to China’s reign dwindled on semi-finals day to two Malaysian entries, setting up an epic showdown for a Sunday that promises thrilling matches galore. Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong appear destined to fulfill their number one seeding as they claimed a victory in their semi-final over Lee Sheng Mu and Tsai Chia Hsin (photo). A shaky start from the Malaysian favourites, in part caused by several lucky net cords going the way of their opponents from Chinese Taipei, did not deter them from winning the first game 22-20.

2012 Malaysian Open Champion Koo imposed his authority in the battle for control of the net in a game of fine margins. The game opened up much more as the pairs changed ends, with the Malaysian duo unleashing the full force of their attack. This left Lee and Tsai stunned and on the back foot, and they were only able to muster 13 points in the second game. The Taipei pair had played well to beat the fourth and fifth seeds en route to the semis but Koo and Tan proved a step too far, stopping them firmly in their tracks.

Ever the crowd favourites, Malaysia’s number one pair had their moments. Tan swapped rackets mid-rally and Koo stomped his feet in frustration at an error.

I feel a lot of pressure has gone since the Olympics are over and we have in fact not had much proper training since then,” Koo said. It’s apparent Koo is taking his time to enjoy the sights of Hong Kong ahead of the impending Finals. Before that though, they will face the threat of Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng who have found themselves in slightly questionable form early on in the tournament. Koo added, “We are just happy to be in the final for the first time here.  Plus it’s more relaxed this time around.

In the other semi-final, Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng faced an energised and exciting pair in Liu Xiaolong and Qiu Zihan (photo). The young pretenders, also Chinese, showed no hint of intimidation in the face of Cai and Fu, taking the initiative to force smash after smash towards their more experienced compatriots, claiming the first game 21-18. The Olympic champions responded in a controlled manner to diffuse their opponents’ attacks and counter back, to take the second game 21-17. Little separated the Chinese pairs in the decider, who were locked in a stalemate until the closing stages, when experience showed through and Cai and Fu ran away with it, the final game settled at 21-16.

Olympic final rematch – Take two

The final of the mixed doubles – just like in the women’s singles – will be a rematch of the Olympic gold medal confrontation between the best two pairs in the world at the moment, as Denmark’s Fischer Nielsen and Pedersen were not able to conclude after an amazing comeback.

As is often the case in matches between Joachim Fischer Nielsen / Christinna Pedersen (photo) of Denmark and Zhang/Zhao of China, this mixed doubles semi-final did not disappoint, proving to be an entertaining match for the crowd. The Danes started the match very well, taking the first game 21-13 as Zhang Nan made uncharacteristic simple errors. However, the Chinese pair reacted well in the second game, to win 21-15. They continued much of the third game in the same vein, taking a comfortable lead of 17-11, at which point the last Europeans in the competition found a second wind, recovering and even passing the Chinese to lead 17-19.

However the Olympic champions were not to be held down, taking the match to extra points and after many tricky defensive plays and some disputed rallies, the suspense was ended and the rankings respected as Zhang/Zhao took the last game 23-21.

That was not good enough in a sense,” Christinna Pedersen said after the match. “We did not manage to fight.  We wanted to do better. We played very well in the first, they played very well in the second; we were so close in the third. Fortunately, we came back and made it very exciting at the end. We wanted to enter the final tomorrow, so right now I am disappointed, but all in all we are satisfied with this tournament.”

The last match of the day was the mixed doubles match between Xu Chen / Ma Jin and Chan Peng Soon (photo) and Goh Liu Ying. The match consisted of long series of heavy jump smashes and crazy defence, most of the time won by the Chinese pair. The number one seeds progressed with mastery, winning 21-16, 21-18 in 44 minutes to set up a repeat of the London 2012 Olympic final, although Ma Jin brushed this pressure aside commenting that “We will just try to offer the public a great spectacle.”

In the women’s doubles, as expected, the best two teams of the past year will face each other, with the hint found in fans’ forums here and there that Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei may not give it their very best shot to win in order to make it up to their compatriots Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli, who would have probably been crowned Olympic Champions in their spot if it weren’t for the Olympic controversy. On the other hand, the latter do not need any help to win as they have beaten their compatriots 8 out of the 10 times they’ve met.

All results HERE

About Thibault Bluy