THAILAND OPEN 2017 SF – Christie among 4 teens up for Thai titles

Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie is into his first major final as he beat Soong Joo Ven to reach the final of the Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold, where other teens are […]

Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie is into his first major final as he beat Soong Joo Ven to reach the final of the Gold, where other teens are vying for 2 more titles.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie (pictured top) has earned himself a lot of attention for a player without many titles to his name.  Of course, he is still young and it is partly his status as a prodigy that makes him stand out but there is of course more than that.

First seen internationally on the silver screen in the 2009 movie King, then in 2013, ceremonially receiving a racquet from the retiring Taufik Hidayat, Christie wasted little time in making a name for himself through on-court exploits, but it has been upsets rather than titles that have set him apart.  In 2015, at age 17, he beat Boonsak Ponsana, Chou Tien Chen, and Lee Hyun Il en route to the Indonesia Open quarter-finals.  Last year, he added Lin Dan to the list of players he’d bested, and that was only after he had become only the third 18-year-old ever to reach a Superseries men’s singles semi-final.

As Christie heads into the last few months of his teen years with only a few International Challenge titles to his name, he has earned perhaps his best chance to top a major podium at the Grand Prix Gold event in Thailand.  Christie dominated his first game against Scottish Open runner-up Soong Joo Ven (pictured) before just managed to hold on in the second and finish the match in straight games to enter his first Grand Prix final.

In the final, the Indonesian will face India’s Sai Praneeth (pictured).  The 24-year-old made good on his own first Grand Prix final, last year in Canada and this year he made up for falling short in his first Grand Prix Gold final by titling in his first appearance on a Superseries Sunday.

On Saturday in Bangkok, Sai Praneeth got the better of Pannawit Thongnuam.  Thongnuam had removed Denmark Open champion and top seed Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk to become himself the last Thai in the draw but the Indian saw him off in straight games.

As with in the Thailand Masters earlier this year, Bangkok fans will enter Nimibutr Stadium, with the possibility of seeing the first teen ever to win a Grand Prix Gold men’s singles title.  In February, 18-year-old Kantaphon Wangcharoen was unable to finish with an upset against Christie’s compatriot Tommy Sugiarto.  No teenager has won a men’s singles title at the Superseries or Grand Prix Gold level since Lin Dan won the 2003 Denmark Open and the only Grand Prix winners since then – Chen Yuekun, Wang Tzu Wei, and Anders Antonsen – have since passed into their twenties.

No doubles doubles for Du

Reigning World Junior Champions He Jiting and Du Yue (pictured right) relegated Singapore’s Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han to third place for the third time in eight months.  The Chinese youngsters led 18-14 in the first game but allowed the Singapore pair to catch up and send the game into extra points.  He and Du finished on top 23-21 and in the second game, then extra point cushion in their 18-13 lead meant they were able to weather the late run from their opponents and close it out without their opponents tying it up.

He thus proceeds to the final from his first semi-final appearance in a Grand Prix final four.  It is also the first major final for Du Yue but she and Xu Ya had appeared in two previous semi-finals in women’s doubles.  In Thailand, the reigning Asian Junior Champions were once again unable to proceed to the final, this time losing to Thailand’s Chayanit Chaladchalam / Phataimas Muenwong.

The Thais will face Asian Games gold medallist Greysia Polii in the final.  The Indonesian veteran is playing with the youngest finalist of the day, Apriyani Rahayu (pictured below), with whom she only previously played one match, at the Sudirman Cup.  They prevented an all-Thai final by beating veteran Savitree Amitrapai and the younger Pacharapun Chochuwong in three long games.

Mixed results for top Thais

Perhaps the most surprising result on semi-finals day was the loss by mixed doubles top seeds Dechapol Puavaranukroh / Sapsiree Taerattanachai.  After going 3 for 3 at the Sudirman Cup last week, the Thais were unable to book a spot in a fifth final in eight months.  Malaysia’s Goh Soon Huat and Shevon Jemie Lai lost a tight second game, where they lost the lead when the umpire failed to spot the shuttle hitting the floor before it was struck by the diving Taerattanachai.

However, they bounced back to win the deciding game convincingly.  The Scottish Open winners thus have a second chance at Grand Prix Gold glory, after finishing as runners-up at the Malaysia Masters earlier this year.

One title is guaranteed for Thailand as Busanan Ongbamrungphan (pictured right) scored her first ever victory over India’s Saina Nehwal to book her spot in the final.  There she will meet top-seeded Ratchanok Intanon, who dismissed French Open runner-up Zhang Beiwen in two games as well.

Intanon is obviously the favourite to take the title but she hasn’t topped a podium since completing her string of 3 Superseries titles in 3 weeks in the spring of 2016.  Since then, she has reached one final – at this year’s All England Superseries Premier – while in the same period, Ongbamrungphan has won two Grand Prix Gold titles but has struggled in Superseries events.

One chance for Europe

Raphael Beck / Peter Kaesbauer (pictured) of Germany are the last Europeans standing in Bangkok.  Earlier in the tournament, they won a nail-biter against Thailand’s former World Junior Champions Kittinupong Kedren / Dechapol Puavaranukroh and their margin in the semis over compatriots Lamsfuss/Seidel was only slightly wider.

An all-European final looked to be a distinct possibility at the beginning of the day, with Olympic bronze medallists Marcus Ellis / Chris Langridge of England having advanced.  The English veterans faced three former world #1s and one former #2 in their first two matches in Thailand but it took them longer to see off Germany’s third quarter-finalists Jansen/Zurwonne.

But then they had to take on Malaysia Masters winners Berry Angriawan and Hardianto (pictured bottom).  The Indonesians have been hot this year and they had just come off beating the reigning World Junior Champions.  They played two tight games with the Brits before dominating the decider and booking their spot in the final.

Finals line-up
WD:  Greysia Polii / Apriyani Rahayu (INA) [5] vs. Chayanit Chaladchala / Phataimas Muenwong (THA)
WS:  Ratchanok Intanon (THA) [1] vs. Busanan Ongbamrungphan (THA) [4]
MD:  Berry Angriawan / Hardianto (INA) [5] vs. Raphael Beck / Peter Kaesbauer (GER)
MS:  Sai Praneeth (IND) [3] vs. Jonatan Christie (INA) [4]
XD:  Goh Soon Huat / Shevon Jemie Lai (MAS) [5] vs. He Jiting / Du Yue (CHN)

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 @