CHINA MASTERS 2017 SF – World #1s need not apply

All 4 men once ranked #1 in the world were eliminated from the semi-finals of the China Masters on Saturday, as two pairs from Chinese Taipei are among those looking […]

All 4 men once ranked #1 in the world were eliminated from the semi-finals of the on Saturday, as two pairs from Chinese Taipei are among those looking for first major titles.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

Reigning Asian Games champions Lin Dan, Zhang Nan, and Hendra Setiawan as well as former champion Tan Boon Heong were all eliminated from the China Masters Gold on semi-finals day.  Former women’s doubles world #1s Bao Yixin and Tang Jinhua will go head to head with their current partners in the final but the other two doubles events will feature first-time winners.

The afternoon in Changzhou started off with two mixed doubles contests on centre court.  Wang Yilu and Huang Dongping, who have won Grand Prix Gold titles separately but not yet together, are into the final after their first semi-final appearance as a pair.

Wang and Huang took the lead with a 7-point run in their first game against Hafiz Faizal and Shela Devi Aulia, then dominated the second to book their Sunday spot.  The Indonesians were successful at getting on the attack but struggled to penetrate the Chinese defense, while finding Wang’s steep smashes very difficult to return.

In the other semi-final, top seeds Zhang Nan and Li Yinhui were denied a chance at their third Grand Prix Gold title of the year by Chinese Taipei’s Liao Min Chun / Chen Hsiao Huan (pictured above).  The Chinese pair opened up promising leads in both games but were erratic in some fast, driving exchanges while Liao and Chen stayed consistent and surged when it counted, finally pulling off the reversals in each game to take it in two.

It is the first Grand Prix Gold final for either of the Chinese Taipei players in any discipline and they have yet to win a title together at any level since first pairing up for the Macau Open eight years ago.

Nor were Liao and Chen the only Chinese Taipei players to oust world #1s en route to the final.  Men’s doubles top seeds Wang Chi Lin and Chen Hung Ling (pictured top) were the obstacles to the celebrated international partnership of Hendra Setiawan and Tan Boon Heong.  The two veterans were appearing in their first Grand Prix Gold semi-final and they bounced back from a disappointing first game to even it up, then build up a 6-point lead in the decider.

Wang and Chen benefitted from their superior attacking power and they won the majority of the drive exchanges with Wang’s crisp crosscourt backhand drives and Chen’s crouching round-the-head forehands.  Meanwhile, Tan began to have control problems and Setiawan was not always able to create opportunities when pushed to the back.  The top seeds eventually pulled off five unanswered points to reach match point at 20-17 and two rallies later, had booked their place in the final.

Their opponents will be Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko (pictured above), another pair that has been in a Grand Prix Gold final before but never won one.  In fact, their opponent in the semi-final was Berry Angriawan, who had been half of the pair that denied the Japanese pair in the Thailand Open final last autumn.  This time they handled Angriawan and new partner Hardianto in straight games.

When Inoue/Kaneko lost to the Taiwan pair at the Swiss Open this year, it was the first time they had faced Wang Chi Lin since their junior days, when they traded quarter-final wins with him at the Asian and World Juniors.

All-China, all-Japan

Both women’s doubles and men’s singles featured all-Chinese semi-final casts.  The top seeds lost in both.  Lin Dan lost out to Korea Open champion Qiao Bin (pictured right).   Qiao, who has won one Superseries title, will try now for his first Grand Prix Gold title against Tian Houwei, who has two Grand Prix Gold titles but was unsuccessful in all three of his appearances in Superseries finals.

Huang Yaqiong is in a final for the fourth straight week.  She and Tang Jinhua – with whom she was runner-up at the Malaysia Open, which was also on the same day as one of her three straight mixed doubles Superseries finals – beat Asian Junior Champions Du Yue / Xu Ya in three games.

Top seeds Huang Dongping and Li Yinhui went down to Bao Yixin and Yu Xiaohan (pictured).  The four finalists have a lot of history.  Bao Yixin was last at world #1 with Tang back in 2014 while the same year, Yu won the first Grand Prix Gold title of her career with Huang.

In the women’s singles, Saena Kawakami had already taken care of world #11 and Macau Open champion Chen Yufei on Friday.  The 19-year-old has not won a title of her own since she was 17 but she won her second and third games handily against Cai Yanyan to reach the final.

Her opponent will be Aya Ohori (pictured bottom).  The Thailand Open winner needed only two games to see off Gao Fangjie.

Finals line-up
WS:  Aya Ohori (JPN) [2] vs. Saena Kawakami (JPN) [5]
WD:  Huang Yaqiong / Tang Jinhua (CHN) [4] vs. Bao Yixin / Yu Xiaohan (CHN)
MD:  Chen Hung Ling / Wang Chi-Lin (TPE) [1] vs. Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko (JPN) [5]
XD:  Liao Min Chun / Chen Hsiao Huan (TPE) [4] vs. Wang Yilyu / Huang Dongping (CHN) [5]
MS:  Tian Houwei (CHN) [2] vs. Qiao Bin (CHN) [3]

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 @