NEW ZEALAND OPEN 2016 Finals – Once finalists, now winners!

Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota moved one step up the podium to claim the women’s doubles title at the New Zealand Open, while Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying […]

Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota moved one step up the podium to claim the women’s doubles title at the , while Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying took revenge on mighty teenager Zheng Siwei to win their biggest title since 2012.

By Kira Rin, Badzine Correspondent live in Auckland.   Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

While all the finals at the New Zealand Open Gold ended in straight games, spectators were still in for a treat over long rallies and on-court drama. For some players, the titles they earned today were firsts, for others they were first in a long time, while for others, this was a bonus for their Olympic ranking.

Korea’s queen marches on

Aya Ohori played a speed game, trying to hit quick shots to corners before Sung Ji Hyun (photo) could get to them. However, a scattershot accuracy saw shots landing out, effectively giving Sung free points, which she made use of to widen the point gap and finish the first game with a comfortable lead.

A slip on the court just before the second game interval saw Sung falling to the ground in pain. Given some ice spray and some recovery time, the gutsy queen soldiered on, using calculated shots to force returns closer to her centre. Being pushed to the corners, an exhausted Aya could only watch as her shots landed even wider while the queen continued to be ever so accurate with many shots landing almost on the lines.

This was Sung Ji Hyun’s fourth final in just over six months and she has gone a perfect four for four.  She also picked up a couple of thousand extra ranking points, which should put her temporarily into the top four in the Olympic ranking tables.

Splendid Peng Soon on a song with firefly Liu Ying

The invincible young Zheng Siwei’s 31-match streak of mixed doubles victories, which began at the Suhandinata Cup competition in November, came to an end today by the hands of Malaysia’s Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying (photo). Zheng started off in attack mode, often leaping to the sides to get high, angled smashes. However, the Malaysians remain unfazed, and with Chan Peng Soon’s quick crosscourt drives putting Li Yinhui off guard, the Malaysians were able to come from behind to take a close first game.

The second game proved to be even tighter, with points being exchanged tit for tat. For a moment, it seemed like Zheng was about to force a final and deciding game until a stray lift went out. 2 more points earned with Goh Liu Ying’s net play earned the Malaysians their first title of the year.

Peng Soon acknowledged his opponents’ strengths, saying, “Their tactical play was very good, playing until they opened gaps. We tried to counter that by moving them as well.”

The victory was the biggest for the Malaysians since they won the Japan Open in 2012, although in the past year they have won two Grand Prix events and reached finals both at the Grand Prix Gold level and at the SEA Games.

A maiden title for Huang

The stage seemed set for another fairy-tale run for Riichi Takeshita, with Huang Yuxiang (photo) set to become yet another name on the two-time champion’s long line of beaten seeded players. Takeshita did just that by starting straight off the bat with a quick 4-point lead. However, a steady Huang Yuxiang matched his opponent’s pace, shot for shot, before extending the lead with shots that went ever so quickly. Methodical play saw Huang pressuring Takeshita into making mistakes, and combined with his mental endurance saw Huang take his first ever senior title, topping an international podium for the first time since his victory at 2010 Asian Junior Championship.

Success on a second try

Once finalists before, now Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota (pictured top) stood tall as champions in the land of sails. Under the tutelage of Karel Mainaky, the Japanese pair fended off aggressive attacks from Lee So Hee and Jang Ye Na, and with consistent judgment of shots landing out. A sudden shift to offensive oriented play saw the Koreans put off pace, and without time to recover, saw the Koreans stepping to the second place on the podium.

Dae Han Min Guk!

In despair over the loss of their women’s doubles, the Korean contingent in the North Shore Events Centre crowd cheered even harder for Ko Sung Hyun and Shin Baek Cheol (photo), playing the last match of the day against Indonesia’s Angga Pratama and Ricky Karanda Suwardi. With cries of Dae-Han-Min-Guk! filling the hall, the Koreans smashed even harder than they had yesterday and also dove to ensure the shuttle stayed off the floor on their side of the court.

The 2014 World Champions took the title in a very quick 37 minutes as compared to the other finals of the day.  The points from their second Grand Prix Gold title of the year should put them a few notches higher in the Rio standings.  Of possibly crucial importance, they will be ahead of compatriots Kim Sa Rang / Kim Ki Jung when the new standings are released on Thursday

Final results
WS: Sung Ji Hyun (KOR) [1] beat Aya Ohori (JPN) 21-15, 21-17
XD: Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying (MAS) [3] beat Zheng Siwei / Li Yinhui (CHN) 21-19, 22-20
MS: Huang Yuxiang (CHN) [13] beat Riichi Takeshita (JPN) 21-12, 21-17
WD: Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota (JPN) beat Jang Ye Na / Lee So Hee (KOR) [2] 21-13, 21-16
MD: Ko Sung Hyun / Shin Baek Cheol (KOR) [2] beat Angga Pratama / Ricky Karanda Suwardi (INA) [3] 21-18, 21-14

Click here for complete results

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