SS FINALS 2016 SF – Princess Chen eyes the throne

For the 5th time this year, Chen Qingchen is booked for two finals but these Superseries Finals in Dubai are the biggest yet for the 19-year-old wonder. By Don Hearn.  […]

For the 5th time this year, Chen Qingchen is booked for two finals but these in Dubai are the biggest yet for the 19-year-old wonder.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Raphael Sachetat / Badmintonphoto (live)

Chen Qingchen has had one amazing year.  When she reached both the women’s and mixed doubles finals of the China Masters last spring, it was really familiar territory.  After all, she’d done it at a Grand Prix Gold way back in early 2014.  But soon afterward, she’d done it at the Australian Open and picked up her first title.  Then a few months later, she did it at another event and this time won both titles, then repeated the feat a week later at a Grand Prix Gold tournament.

This time, she has really outdone herself.  Two wins on Saturday have put the 19-year-old in striking distance of a doubles double at the Superseries Finals.  In fact, one of those victories came at the expense of the only player who has won a doubles double at the season finale.

Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan (pictured top) were put to the test in their women’s doubles semi-final.  They had enjoyed five straight victories over Korea’s Chang Ye Na and Lee So Hee but that didn’t make Saturday’s match any easier, as the Koreans erased three game points in the opening game before the Chinese teens won 23-21 on a successful line call challenge.

Chang and Lee held the upper hand throughout the second game but instead of capitalizing on reaching game point at 20-17, they allowed the Chinese pair to win the match on a run of five unanswered points.  Chen and Jia now have to face world #1 and Olympic gold medallists Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi of Japan, as the 2014 champions saw off the 2013 winners in straight games.

While the women’s doubles final pits the BWF Players of the Year against the BWF Most Promising Player and her extremely capable partner, the mixed doubles final will see Chen up against the only defending champions left in the tournament.

Chris and Gabrielle Adcock (pictured) dominated their deciding game against Praveen Jordan and Debby Susanto to reach the finals for a second straight year.  Not only were the Indonesians undefeated prior to the semi-finals but they had won each of their matches in straight games, the longest taking 36 minutes.

Gabrielle Adcock spent the entire match serving only long and while Jordan did finally seem to be expecting the flicks in the last half of the deciding game, he still only rarely managed to attack them decisively.  Overall, the Indonesians were unable to get their offensive game going and after two exciting games, the third ended with them in disarray.

Chen Qingchen and mixed partner Zheng Siwei (pictured above right) dealt Christinna Pedersen her second defeat on the day.  The Danes played well but the Chinese youngsters rotated so fast and gave up so little advantage even when Chen was pushed to the back.

Pedersen, of course, is the only player to have won a doubles double at the Superseries Finals.  Chen will attempt to duplicate that feat but history shows it’s not that easy.  The great Zhao Yunlei tried twice and was unsuccessful and Liliyana Natsir, Zhao’s successor as Olympic mixed doubles gold medallist, could not manage it either.  Pedersen herself only did it on the second try as she came away with victory in just one of two finals in 2012.

New champion for the Finals, and for the Superseries

That men’s singles would produce a new champion for the season finale was known as soon as Viktor Axelsen (pictured) bested four-time winner Lee Chong at the group stage.  But by the time Axelsen had reversed his fortunes against Korea’s Son Wan Ho in the semi-finals, it was determined that there would be a player celebrating his first career Superseries title on Sunday in Dubai.

When the players arrived in Dubai last weekend, only 10 of the 58 were still without a Superseries title, although 13 had picked up their first in the last six months.  Four of those ten were in men’s singles and the two of them who reached the semis proceed on to the finals.

Axelsen had lost a tough match to Son Wan Ho on Thursday.  Both games remained close on Saturday until the Dane managed a late surge.  The Korean was playing well in the second game, controlling many of the rallies, but he had some errors in judgment and let a few shuttles drop in and hit a few late shoestring drives from the end line and he also had control problems on his backhand.

Still, Son managed to catch Axelsen at 16-all before the Dane made a 4-point run to match point.  Son played some amazing points to claw back to 19-20, playing aggressively at the net despite having been faulted twice earlier in the match.  Axelsen lost a challenge that could have given him the match one point earlier but instead he had to wait until he was able to punished a short lift to win 21-19.

Axelsen’s opponent will be Tian Houwei (pictured) of China.  Tian, Axelsen’s predecessor as World Junior Champion many years ago, played two close games with China Open winner Jan Jorgensen before dominating their decider and preventing an all-Danish final.

Tian was runner-up at the All England earlier this year and is now playing in his third Superseries final.  Axelsen, on the other hand, has already had to settle for runner-up in six previous Superseries events, including last December in Dubai.

Some new, some familiar

Men’s doubles was one of only two disciplines in Dubai were all sixteen players had at least one Superseries win under their belts when they arrived but the only past winner of the tournament withdrew before play began.  As it turns out, the two pairs in the final are the most recent Superseries winners and each pair includes at least one player making his Finals debut.

Takeshi Kamura / Keigo Sonoda (pictured) started off the later semi-final session on Saturday with a straight-game win over Denmark’s Mads Conrad-Petersen / Mads Pieler Kolding.  They shot up to their current top-seeded position after they topped the Superseries tables by winning their first ever Superseries title a few weeks ago in Hong Kong.

Malaysia’s Goh V Shem / Tan Wee Kiong played an even shorter match against two-time Dubai runners-up Chai Biao / Hong Wei than they had on Friday, when both pairs had already booked their spots in the semis.  Their first Superseries win together, at October’s Denmark Open, was Tan’s career first and it helped propel them to #1 in the overall world rankings.

In contrast to all these firsts in the men’s finals, the women’s singles final is the only Dubai repeat scheduled for Sunday.  Tai Tzu Ying beat Sung Ji Hyun (pictured right) to win the title in 2014 and they are back at it again this year, with Sung having beaten Tai in their round robin match on Friday.

Tai Tzu Ying (pictured bottom) still did manage one first as she ended her five-match losing streak against China’s Sun Yu.  In a pair of 21-19 games, she ended her jinx against the player who first beat her at the World Juniors back in 2012, when Tai was already coming off her first career Superseries victory.

In the other semi-final, Sung Ji Hyun had a much shorter losing streak to put an end to but more importantly, her most recent loss to Pusarla Venkata Sindhu had seen the Korean blow three match point opportunities and eventually be denied a spot in the China Open final, which Sindhu eventually won.

This time, Sung again won the first game and allowed Sindhu the second but she had a great start to the decider and maintained a cushion throughout to earn herself a rematch against Tai Tzu Ying.

Finals line-up
WD:  Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi (JPN) [1] vs. Chen Qingchen / Jia Yifan (CHN) [5/8]
MS:  Tian Houwei (CHN) [3/4] vs. Viktor Axelsen (DEN) [5/8]
WS:  Tai Tzu Ying (TPE) [1] vs. Sung Ji Hyun (KOR) [3/4]
XD:  Zheng Siwei / Chen Qingchen (CHN) [4]vs. Chris Adcock / Gabrielle Adcock (ENG) [5/8]
MD:  Takeshi Kamura / Keigo Sonoda (JPN) [1] vs. Goh V Shem / Tan Wee Kiong (MAS) [2]

Click here for complete semi-final results

Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @