MACAU OPEN 2013 SF – Li lights it up

The highlight of semi-finals day at the 2013 Kumpoo Macau Open was Michelle Li becoming the first North American singles shuttler to reach a Grand Prix Gold final but it […]

The highlight of semi-finals day at the 2013 Kumpoo Macau Open was Michelle Li becoming the first North American singles shuttler to reach a Gold final but it was China’s youngsters who drove the day’s tightest matches.

By Angga Maulana Akbar, Badzine Contributor.   Photos: Badmintonphoto and Don Hearn (archives)

The has developed a tradition of providing some historical upsets.  In 2006, Judith Meulendijks of the Netherlands stunned the likes of Zhang Ning, Wang Chen, and Yip Pui Yin to win by far the biggest title of her career.  In 2009, Sung Ji Hyun announced her arrival on the world scene by beating then world #1 Zhou Mi in Macau.

On Saturday, it was Michelle Li (pictured) who made history in the first match at the Macau Forum, where she was pitted against Hong Kong’s 2006 Asian Games silver medallist Yip Pui Yin.  The Canadian took it straight games of 21-15 and 21-16 to become the first North American ever in a Grand Prix Gold singles final.

This will be the highest achievement in singles for the Hong Kong-born Li, who already played in the Olympic semi-final in doubles after benefiting from the infamous disqualifications.   In Macau, she eyes her fifth title of the year after bagging the International Challenge titles in Brazil, Canada, and the Maldives in addition to being crowned Pan American champion.

In fact, the most recent surprise in Macau was last autumn, when China’s Sun Yu joined the club of 18-year-olds with Grand Prix titles.  This year, her compatriots attempted to follow in her footsteps in women’s singles and mixed and men’s doubles.

Alas, the shuttler will stand in the Canadian’s way is none other than top seed P.V. Sindhu of India.  This 18-year-old overcame Asian Youth Games gold medallist Qin Jinjing (pictured) and will be the one looking to stop Li from chalking up another milestone for North American badminton.

Juniors level up

The other fight between young guns took place in the mixed.  It was 2013 World Junior Champions Huang Kaixiang / Chen Qingchen and two-time Asian Junior Champions Choi Sol Kyu / Chae Jung Yoo (pictured).  In this fourth encounter this year, the Koreans had more luck as they easily got the best of Huang/Chen in short straight games 21-11, 21-8.

Choi/Chae thus earned the chance to face another Chinese shuttler they beat en route to their 2012 title as Huang Yaqiong and her new partner Lu Kai beat Kang Ji Wook / Choi Hye In of Korea in three games.  Huang and a different partner lost to Kang and Choi earlier this month but she and Lu are now in the final phase of a Grand Prix Gold at their first time partnering.

Just as she did at the U.S. Open in July, Huang Yaqiong also reached the final in the women’s doubles.  Reunited with Yu Xiaohan, the 19-year-old Canada Open winners got the best of second seeds Ko A Ra / Yoo Hae Won of Korea in straight games.

The final will be very hard for the Chinese as they are going to take on their compatriots Bao Yixin / Tang Jinhua, who defeated yet another Chinese pair Luo Ying / Luo Yu.  Bao/Tang are on fire as they have taken titles in all 4 tournaments they have played and Bao has won major tournaments with three other partners this year and Tang one.

No lock, but two more shots for Taiwan

In both men’s events, Chinese Taipei had a chance to wrap up the title with an all-Taiwan final.  In doubles, one of the obstacles was China’s third under-19 semi-finalists but defending champions Lee Sheng Mu / Tsai Chia Hsin won over Asian and World Junior Champions Li Junhui / Liu Yuchen in three games 15-21, 21-17, 21-19.

Liang Jui Wei / Liao Kuan Hao failed to lock up the final for their team when they lost to Malaysia’s China Open runners-up Hoon Thien How / Tan Wee Kiong.

Chinese Taipei wasn’t successful in making an all-Chinese Taipei final in men’s singles, either.  Hsueh Hsuan Yi (pictured) did succesfully tame Tian Houwei of China, who already claimed Grand Prix Gold titles this year in London and Australia.  However, Hsu Jen Hao failed to join his compatriot in the final as he was defeated by the comeback kid Son Wan Ho in two games.  Son is looking for his own second Grand Prix title of the year, after taking the title in Taipei in September.

Finals line-up
XD: Lu Kai / Huang Yaqiong (CHN) vs. Choi Sol Kyu / Chae Yoo Jung (KOR)
WS: P. V. Sindhu (IND) [1] vs. Michelle Li (CAN) [7]
MS: Son Wan Ho (KOR) vs. Hsueh Hsuan Yi (TPE)
WD: Bao Yixin / Tang Jinhua (CHN) [4] vs. Huang Yaqiong / Yu Xiaohan (CHN)
MD: Lee Sheng Mu / Tsai Chia Hsin (TPE) [1] vs. Hoon Thien How / Tan Wee Kiong (MAS) [2]

Click here for complete semi-final results

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