SINGAPORE OPEN 2015 SF – No Lucky No. 7 for Liliyana

Three-time Singapore Open mixed doubles champions Tontowi Ahmad / Liliyana Natsir were hoping to close their hands on their fourth title in the Lion City. However, their hopes were dashed […]

Three-time mixed doubles champions Tontowi Ahmad / Liliyana Natsir were hoping to close their hands on their fourth title in the Lion City. However, their hopes were dashed when they were beaten in the semi-finals by their arch nemesis, the reigning Olympic and World Champions, Zhang Nan / Zhao Yunlei, 21-16, 22-20.

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

Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei, who are also a couple in real life, showed incredible chemistry and controlled their match against three-time defending champions Ahmad/Natsir right from the start. It wasn’t until the Chinese reached their first game point that the Indonesians started catching up. From trailing at 10-20, Tontowi Ahmad / Liliyana Natsir (photo) managed to narrow the gap to 16-20 before the Chinese finally converted and took the one-game lead.

However, in the second game, it was Zhang / Zhao’s turn to make a comeback after trailing 15-19 at one point.  It took them a few match points but it was they who eventually nicked the spot in the finals.

“I feel that we performed really well. We always won against them after a very close match, and we played our best during the match,” said Zhang Nan.

For Liliyana, it was certainly a very bitter loss. She has been a regular gold medallist at the Singapore Indoor Stadium – three times with Tontowi and three times with her previous partner Nova Widianto, and was eyeing her seventh title this year at one of her favourite tournaments.

“We are definitely disappointed, but it is going to be a learning point for us. Hopefully when we meet them again in the next tournament, we can beat them,” said Tontowi, on behalf of the duo.

This semi-final victory makes this Zhang / Zhao’s fourth consecutive win over the Indonesians, having beaten them the last three times at the semi-finals of Malaysia Open last week, All England finals in March and last year’s Asian Games.

Zhang Nan / Zhao Yunlei (photo) will face their compatriots Lu Kai / Huang Yaqiong, who beat fellow Chinese pair Xu Chen / Ma Jin, 21-17, 22-20 to give Huang, already ranked 6th in the world, her first appearance in a final.

Zhang looking for double title

With his mixed doubles victory, Zhang Nan has booked himself two finals spots in the tournament. Earlier in the day, he and his men’s doubles partner Fu Haifeng (photo), also came out victorious in their semi-final battle against yet another former World Champion opponent from Indonesia, Mohammad Ahsan / Hendra Setiawan. Fu and Zhang took down the Indonesian duo in a gripping 49-minute match that ended 18-21, 21-8, 21-17.

“We have faced them many times before, and throughout the match, we just looked for ways to win every point from them,” commented Fu Haifeng.

In the first game, the Indonesians made an impressive comeback. After trailing 8-14 at one point, they crawled back slowly and eventually overtook the Chinese to snatch the game from under their noses. However, in the second game, things took a sharp turn and Ahsan / Setiawan practically gave up on the game to save their energy for the decider.

Still, things did not pan out as expected and several unforced errors by the Indonesian duo eventually cost them the match and their spot in the finals.

“We made a lot of unforced errors throughout the match, especially during critical moments,” reflected the disappointed Hendra on their second consecutive loss to Fu / Zhang after the All England earlier this year.

Zhang Nan and Fu Haifeng will face unseeded Indonesian underdogs Angga Pratama / Ricky Karanda Suwardi (photo), who are certainly looking to avenge the loss of their compatriots in the semi-finals.

Angga / Ricky had to beat the odds to reach the finals. After ousting tournament favourites Lee Yong Dae / Yoo Yeon Song in the quarter-finals, they once again upset their higher-ranked opponents in the semi-finals. This time, Japanese third seeds  Hiroyuki Endo / Kenichi Hayakawa fell victim to their solid performance in the tournament and surrendered the berth of appearing in the finals, 21-17, 20-22, 21-17.

“In the first game, we were having a close fight throughout. In the second game, we were leading and almost won but we became too rushed to win the match. In the end, we made a lot of unforced errors. So in the third game, we focused on winning every point and on being patient,” recounted Angga on the match that brought them to their first Superseries final, a career first for Suwardi.

Yu faces world #1 in first ever Superseries final

First seeds Miyaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi continued their unbeatable path in the tournament. For the first time, they were able to defeat Chinese pair Wang Xiaoli / Yu Yang after an intense semi-final fight, 11-21, 21-19, 21-11.

“Normally, when we play against them, we have certain level of respect that prevented us from winning. However yesterday, I felt that I wanted to win. I think that mindset has really helped us winning the match today,” explained Ayaka.

Matsutomo / Takahashi will face Ou Dongni / Yu Xiaohan (photo), who beat another Japanese pair Reika Kakiiwa / Miyuki Maeda, 21-18, 22-20.

For Ou and Yu, it was the desire to avenge Wang / Yu’s loss earlier in the day which made them win their match.

“Before going to court, we felt the pressure of winning the game because our compatriots just lost. It made us really want to win the game, and when we played we knew that we did not want to lose to them,” said Yu, who will be the token women’s doubles ‘rookie’ on a finals day that boasts exactly one first-time Superseries finalist in each of the five matches.

Finals line-up
XD: Zhang Nan / Zhao Yunlei (CHN) [1] vs. Lu Kai / Huang Yaqiong (CHN) [6]
WD: Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi (JPN) [1] vs. Ou Dongni / Yu Xiaohan (CHN) [6]
MS: Hu Yun (HKG) vs. Kento Momota (JPN)
WS: Tai Tzu Ying (TPE) [5] vs. Sun Yu (CHN)
MD: Fu Haifeng / Zhang Nan (CHN) [5] vs. Angga Pratama / Ricky Karanda Suwardi (INA)

Click here for complete semi-final results

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