MALAYSIA MASTERS 2016 Finals – Sukamuljo joins the club

Indonesia’s Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo joined the Grand Prix Gold-winners’ club when he and Markus Fernaldi Gideon beat 3-time champions at the Malaysia Masters, leaving Lee Chong Wei to win the […]

Indonesia’s Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo joined the Gold-winners’ club when he and Markus Fernaldi Gideon beat 3-time champions at the Malaysia Masters, leaving Lee Chong Wei to win the only home title.

Story and photos by Chee Ying Fan (live in Penang)

Many badminton fans turned up Sunday at SPICE Arena in Penang to catch the action of the Malaysian Masters finals. The stadium erupted with loud cheers when Malaysian players are on court.

Unfortunately for the Malaysians, China’s 18-year-olds Zheng Siwei / Li Yinhui (pictured right), playing together as a pair for the first time, ended the fine run by Malaysians Tan Kian Meng / Lai Pei (pictured below) in straight games. The Malaysians had come all the way from the qualifying round to the finals.

“Our opponents played a very aggressive attacking game today and some of our shots didn’t turn out well,” said Lai after the match.

Tan said he will now focus more on mixed doubles.  He also played in the men’s doubles from qualifying round but lost in the second round.  In 2015, he competed in all three disciplines but was unable to make an impact in singles or with any of his four partners, making this performance a huge breakthrough for the 21-year-old.

In the only final to go the distance, three-time champions and former world #1s Koo Kien Keat / Tan Boon Heong failed to bring cheer to the local crowd when they lost out to Indonesia’s Markus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (pictured top).  The crowd was very excited when Koo/Tan won the first game but the Indonesians played with fast speed and strong smashes to beat the Malaysians in the end.

While Gideon had won both Grand Prix Gold and Superseries titles in his former partnership with former Olympic gold medallist Markis Kido, this was the first title at this level for the 20-year-old Sukamuljo.

“In the third game, after the mid-game interval, we gave them easy points,” said Koo Kien Keat (pictured right with Tan Boon Heong) after the match.  “Even though we lost, I think we played well. We have improved more in the past few months because we have a great team supporting us.

“Now, we just focus on badminton and to do well in tournaments. We do not have to worry about other minor things,” added Koo, whose reunion with Tan came after both players had quit BAM and turned professional.

In women singles, P. V. Sindhu of India beat Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour (pictured below) in two games, dominating the second game with her attacking play.  While Sindhu added this to her collection of Grand Prix Gold titles, Gilmour is still waiting for a chance to claim her first, disappointed as she was in her second such final.

“I am very happy. Today’s final was pretty okay compared to yesterday but I didn’t take it easy,” Sindhu said.  “I think Kirsty played her best.  It is a good start for me. I hope that I can win the India Open next.”

Former world #1 Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi also delighted the crowd when they beat China’s Tang Yuanting / Yu Yang (pictured below).  The Japanese top seeds seemed game to win easily when they held a 19-11 lead in the first game but the China Open winners managed to almost completely close the gap before losing 18-21.

The Chinese players led early in the second game but after the interval, the Japanese pair played better and won 22-20 with the crowd supporting them.  Matsutomo and Takahashi thus became only the second pair to beat the new Chinese contenders, who had previously lost just a single match, to Olympic and World Champions Tian/Zhao.

“Our opponents didn’t play well in the first game because Tang Yuanting was not feeling well,” Matsutomo said after the match.  The Japanese enjoyed the support from the crowd and even shook hands with some fans as they celebrated their victory.

Chong Wei reigns supreme

The much awaited match between Lee Chong Wei and Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin (pictured below) was very close in the first game with Lee winning by only a slight margin. One side of the crowd was shouting for Penang native Lee Chong Wei while the other crowd from the other side of the stadium was shouting for Iskandar. However, Lee used his experience to win the second game easily at 21-11.

“I am happy to win my first tournament of the year in my hometown although this is not a Superseries,” Lee said.  “I hope to continue to do well.

“Iskandar played well and I think he can play better in the Malaysia Open and other tournaments. Now, he doesn’t give up easily and is more patient. I hope he will not think that he is too good and be big headed.

“In the first game, he was attacking well and caught me off guard at times. In the second game, I figured out his strategy and my experience helped me to win.”

Lee was seen giving advice to Iskandar while waiting for the prize presentation ceremony. This is Lee’s 5th Malaysia Masters title.

In the press conference, Head Coach Morten Frost said, “I am happy with our team’s performance in this tournament. We did well. We have seen many new faces doing well here and it is a good sign.”

About half of the finalists will now focus on Syed Modi India Grand Prix Gold.  Lee and Matsutomo/Takahashi, whose spots in Rio are the most secure, will be taking longer breaks, while Tang/Yu, will renew their bid to enter the top 8 at the Thailand Masters in early February.

Final results
XD: Zheng Siwei / Li Yinhui (CHN) beat Tan Kian Meng / Lai Pei Jing (MAS)  21-14, 21-19
WS: P. V. Sindhu (IND) [3] beat Kirsty Gilmour (SCO)  21-15, 21-9
MD: Markus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (INA)beat Koo Kien Keat /  Tan Boon Heong (MAS)  18-21, 21-13, 21-18
WD: Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi [1] beat Tang Yuanting / Yu Yang (CHN) [6]  21-18, 22-20
MS: Lee Chong Wei (MAS) [1] beat Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin (MAS)  21-18, 21-11

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