NEW ZEALAND OPEN 2016 SF – Peng Soon to shoot for a title soon?

Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying ousted the top seeds to position themselves to take their biggest title in nearly 4 years at the New Zealand Open. By Kira […]

Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying ousted the top seeds to position themselves to take their biggest title in nearly 4 years at the .

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

With the Rio Olympics just a few months away, the scramble to gain vital points to rank up is already underway and winding down. With the New Zealand Open offering such vital points, players fought over who could clinch consecutive victories to climb up and grab a qualification spot.  Two of the Koreans did just that but not before they became victims in the day’s opening mixed doubles matches.

2-week wait for vengeance

For the currently 13th-ranked Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying (pictured above), the New Zealand Open offered the perfect chance to avenge their loss in the All England and earn more ranking points in the process. Against Ko Sung Hyun and Kim Ha Na, the Malaysians kept turning rallies to their favour, even if the Koreans were never far behind. The second game saw almost every upwards shuttle punished by a crack from Ko’s wrist and Kim cleaning up any weak returns.

This third game saw lots of driving, with both sides trying to press an advantage. For a brief time, the Koreans were ahead, but the Malaysians refused to let any shot go too high and punished any high shots that came towards them.

After the Malaysians had saved one match point and won on their own third opportunity, Chan Peng Soon acknowledged his opponents’ strength: “We saw their game before, had to use tactics well in the match as they are very skilled. Ko Sung Hyun is getting better.  If we lift too much, he will attack very quickly so we tried to push and focus on net shots.”

The Malaysians will again have to do battle with China’s Zheng Siwei.  While Zheng and Chen Qingchen denied Chan/Goh in the final of the Thailand Masters, it is his Malaysia Masters-winning combination with Li Yinhui (pictured above) that will contest the final here in New Zealand.

A game of patience

Following the fast and furious pace of yesterday’s match, Chan/Goh’s compatriot Soo Teck Zhi found himself playing at a steady pace dictated by Huang Yuxiang. Accurate and consistent shots saw Soo slowly run out of stamina to maintain his pace, as Huang patiently waited for the next shot to approach.  Huang fended off late challenges from his opponent in both games to book his place in a Gold for the 3rd time in the past year.

Riichi Takeshita (pictured above) continued his giant-killing spree with Nguyen Tien Minh being his next target. Precision ruled the match as Nguyen found himself playing a totally different pace compared to his Friday match against Qiao Bin. The Vietnamese veteran attempted to turn the pace faster with quick smashes but calls of shots going out showed that wasn’t the way to go and he went down in two games.

Southpaws duel down south

In the contest between 2 left-handed women’s singles semi-finalists, it came down to a contest of youth vs. experience. The young Aya Ohori (pictured) kept rallies going and waited carefully for Bae Yeon Ju to commit errors. Speed and consistency helped Aya take her match at the 40 minute mark.  Bae, whose last visit to New Zealand saw her reach the final of the 2007 World Junior Championships, still takes away just over a thousand points, which should nudge her a little deeper into the top 16 and keep her Rio bid alive for now.

Meanwhile, Sung Ji Hyun disposed of Chiang Mei Hui in 32 minutes and with only 21 points to spare.  She thus proceeds into her fourth final in just over six months.

The Southern Cross Sets

Oceania found their last remaining players unceremoniously dumped out of the tournament as last year’s runners-up Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota of Japan methodically dismantled their game with their accurate firepower. This, however, marks the furthest any Oceania shuttlers have managed to advance in a Grand Prix Gold.  The Japanese pair will be against Korea’s Jang Ye Na / Lee So Hee, who narrowly edged out their compatriots Goh/Yoo.

Defending champions Huang Kaixiang and Zheng Siwei were shown the exit by Indonesians Angga Pratama and Ricky Karanda Suwardi. Fast and furious cracks filled the stadium as the Indonesians landed smash after smash at Huang and Zheng. While the Chinese were able to take defensive countermeasures to reach the game point that could force a third game, the Indonesians ensured it didn’t come to pass, with offensive play that saved 4 game points before converting the match at the first available opportunity.

In the final match, Ko Sung Hyun, after suffering a little payback in mixed doubles, exacted some of his own as he and Shin Baek Cheol (pictured bottom) got back at Gideon/Sukamuljo, the pair who had stopped them in the first event of the season.  The two Koreans thus gain enough points to nose ahead of Kim/Kim in the Rio race, a development that could even free up an invitation in the men’s singles event this summer, if Ko is indeed selected in two disciplines.

Finals line-up
WS: Sung Ji Hyun (KOR) [1] vs. Aya Ohori (JPN)
XD: Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying (MAS) [3] vs. Zheng Siwei / Li Yinhui (CHN)
MS: Huang Yuxiang (CHN) [13] vs. Riichi Takeshita (JPN)
WD: Jang Ye Na / Lee So Hee (KOR) [2] vs. Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota (JPN)
MD: Ko Sung Hyun / Shin Baek Cheol (KOR) [2] vs. Angga Pratama / Ricky Karanda Suwardi (INA) [3]

Click here for complete semi-final results

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