SINGAPORE OPEN 2014 SF – Simon the comeback kid

Simon Santoso beat the odds and emerged as one of the men’s singles finalists of Singapore Open Superseries 2014. He conquered the 5th-seeded Chinese shuttler Du Pengyu 16-21, 21-17, 21-17. […]

Simon Santoso beat the odds and emerged as one of the men’s singles finalists of 2014. He conquered the 5th-seeded Chinese shuttler Du Pengyu 16-21, 21-17, 21-17.

By Serla Rusli and Seria Rusli, Badzine Correspondents live from Singapore Indoor Stadium. Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

The journey to the finals for Simon Santoso (pictured left) was certainly a long one. The 2008 Singapore Open finalist and former world #3 had to fight his way to even get to the main draw from the qualifying rounds. He survived 6 matches in total en route to Sunday, and his semi-final clash with Du Pengyu was probably his biggest hurdle.

“Du Pengyu is a very good player, and it was not easy to beat him today,” recounted Santoso, whose last encounter with Du in the finals of Indonesia Open 2012 also saw him rule over the Chinese.

“In the second game, I was playing against the wind, which was better. I concentrated on how to gain each point and not make unforced errors as well as figure how to attack more aggressively.”

Simon eventually created the upset he had hoped for as he toppled Du, who is currently ranked 45 notches above him.  Standing in Simon’s way to his first Superseries title since the 2012 Indonesia Open is none other than the world #1 Lee Chong Wei himself, who was also his opponent in the Singapore Open finals in 2008.

“Lee Chong Wei is still one of the best players in the world now. I will fight hard against him tomorrow and also take this opportunity to measure my capability against him,” commented Santoso, who is fighting to make a comeback after the back injury he sustained last year caused his world ranking to dip drastically, to #52.

Lee Chong Wei has had a comparatively easier week than the Indonesian, cruising through each round to get to the finals. He did, however, face some trouble in his semi-final match against Srikanth K. from India. The Indian fighter came dangerously close to stealing a game from Chong Wei at one point during the match, but the Malaysian eventually wrapped both games up in his favour and won 21-19, 21-18.

“I was pretty relaxed during the match today, which was a good thing because I wasn’t playing my best game,” commented the Malaysian badminton superstar. “I feel no pressure on winning the title tomorrow, so I will just enjoy the finals.”

Chong Wei’s semi-final win coincided with his son’s first birthday, which he celebrated right after his match.

Women’s singles will be an all-Chinese affair between Li Xuerui and Wang Yihan. Li beat Korean Sung Ji Hyun easily 21-13, 21-13 whereas Wang Yihan ousted fellow Chinese shuttler Han Li 21-18, 21-12.

Hard-earned doubles spots

First seed and defending champions Tontowi Ahmad / Lilyana Natsir nearly had the title snatched away from them as their semi-final opponents Liu Cheng / Bao Yixin (pictured right) fought hard to stop their dominance. The Chinese took the first game, but Ahmad/Natsir’s solid play proved too hard to break and the Indonesians eventually took the second and third games after a thrilling 17-21, 21-11, 21-19 battle.

“In the first game, we were simply not into the match yet. We found it difficult to get into our game play and find our rhythm, so we were under a lot of pressure by the Chinese. However, in the second game, we tried to get into our game as soon as possible and in turn put more pressure on our opponents,” explained Lilyana Natsir, who is a regular at appearing in Singapore Open finals, both with Tontowi Ahmad and her previous partner Nova Widianto.

Ahmad/Natsir will face compatriots Riky Widianto / Puspita Richi Dili (pictured left) in the finals. The eighth-seeded Indonesians upset third-seeded Korean duo Ko Sung Hyun / Kim Ha Na 20-22, 21-17, 21-16 to reach their first ever Superseries final.

“It was a very tiring game for us, especially considering we had a long match the day before while our opponents did not have to play their quarter-final match due to walkover. Since it was our first time playing against this pair, we were still trying to read their style and tactics in the first game. However, once we figured it out, it was a lot easier for us to attack them,” explained Widianto.

Korea failed to secure any spot in the men’s doubles finals despite having two pairs fighting in the semi-finals. Ko Sung Hyun / Shin Baek Cheol faltered under Lee Sheng Mu / Tsai Chia Hsin (pictured below) from Chinese Taipei, who took that one 22-20, 18-21, 21-14.

“After we lost to them in All England earlier this year, we tried to analyse what we did wrong then and planned our strategy accordingly today. However, we did not think so much during the match and just gave our best. I think the Koreans were getting a bit under pressure towards the end, which is why they were making more mistakes,” commented Lee Sheng Mu on successfully avenging their defeat in All England in March.

Kim Sa Rang and Yoo Yeon Seong, on the other hand, failed to follow up on their impressive performance in the quarter-finals and lost to fellow scratch pair Cai Yun / Lu Kai from China 21-19, 21-16.

In women’s doubles, Danish duo Christinna Pedersen / Kamilla Rytter Juhl had to labour past the determined Japanese ladies Misaki Matsumoto / Ayaka Takahashi before earning their tickets to the finals in Singapore. The 62-minute match finally ended in favour of the top-seeded Danes 11-21, 21-15, 21-14.

“It was a really great game. I was struggling to my find my form in the first game while Kamilla did her job well. Luckily in the second and third game, I was able to get on track and find my best game so I think that made the difference,” admitted Pedersen.

They are set to face Chinese Bao Yixin / Tang Jinhua , who reached the finals through a walkover against another Chinese pair Luo Ying / Luo Yu.

“I think it is really unfair for us that we are here fighting a match to get into the finals while they had the whole day to rest,” voiced Kamilla Rytter Juhl, who visibly showed her skepticism regarding the walkover. “Whatever it is, Bao/Tang is a very good pair, but we do believe we have a chance against them to win the title.”

Finals line-up
XD:  Tontowi Ahmad / Lilyana Natsir (INA) [1] vs. Riky Widianto / Puspita Richi Dili (INA) [8]
WS:  Li Xuerui (CHN) [1]  vs. Wang Yihan (CHN) [2]
MD:  Lee Sheng Mu / Tsai Chia Hsin (TPE) [6] vs. Cai Yun / Lu Kai (CHN)
WD: Christinna Pedersen / Kamilla Rytter Juhl (DEN) [1] vs. Bao Yixin / Tang Jinhua (CHN) [2]
MS:  Lee Chong Wei (MAS) [1]  vs. Simon Santoso (INA)
Click here for complete semi-final results

About Serla Rusli