WORLD JUNIORS Team Final – China shuts down Malaysia’s junior champions

Defending champion China relied on two upsets of Malaysia’s past and present junior singles champions to take a 12th Suhandinata Cup title. By Don Hearn.  Photos: Raphael Sachetat / Badmintonphoto […]

Defending champion China relied on two upsets of Malaysia’s past and present singles champions to take a 12th Suhandinata Cup title.

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

As the 11-time defending champion, China should have been the favourites to win back the Suhandinata Cup title.  The BWF’s seeding process didn’t see it that way.  China was relegated to 9th seed and ended up drawn into a ‘group of death’, which it handily topped.  To be fair, China had lost quite early at the Asian Juniors this past summer and went from sweeping all six titles at that event in 2016 to just two individual titles this year.

The Malaysians, for their part, boasted the reigning Asian Junior Champion in boys’ singles and the 2015 World Junior Champion.  They also came into the final without having won every last one of the 5 ties, 19 matches, and 38 games they had played.

But naturally China was no slouch.  They too boasted a reigning Asian Junior Champion – two, in fact, although their boys’ doubles pair of Di Zijian / Wang Chang was not together for the final.  Team China had dropped a few matches along the way but it was they who saw off the top contender, Asian Junior runners-up and hosts Indonesia, who were at full strength.

The tie began with yet another game going to Malaysia.  Man Wei Chong and Pearly Tan (pictured above) took the first from China’s Fan Qiuyue – who was himself undefeated in 6 previous matches – and Li Wenmei.  Then the cracks began to show, as the Chinese pair inflicted the first game loss on Malaysia all week, and did it with a resounding 21-9 scoreline.

Still, the Malaysian pair regrouped to take the opening point and set their singles aces up for a very promising final.  Leong Jun Hao had beaten China’s top singles player Bai Yupeng to win the Asian Junior title in the summer, then Bai had looked shaky against Cupu in the quarters and downright ineffective against Kodai Naraoka of Japan in the semis.  Instead, the Chinese elected to field the unheralded Gao Zhengze (pictured left), who had fallen at the first hurdle at the Asian Juniors and who may not have appeared to be a threat to Leong.

But on court, it was Gao who had the upper hand.  He beat Leong in straight games to get China right back into it at one match apiece and this set up China to start looking to its superior strength in doubles.

Interestingly, China did not go with the Asian Junior Champion boys’ doubles pair either.  Instead, Fan Qiuyue continued to be the go-to guy and he was paired with Asian Junior Champion Wang Chang (pictured below), who will be back to competing with Di Zijian for the individual event this week.  Fan and Wang got the better of Chang Yee Jun and Ng Eng Cheong in two close games to put it all on the shoulders of the experienced Goh Jin Wei to get her team out of trouble.

Current Asian Junior Champion Han Yue and former World Junior Champion Goh Jin Wei (pictured top) thus stepped on court to decide whether Malaysia would still have a chance.  After Han took the first game, Goh Jin Wei came roaring back to take a commanding lead in the second.  Still, it was a long way back for Goh, who needed to win the match and then depend on her team-mates to win a very difficult deciding point in the girls’ doubles.

As it was, the first long way back was clawed out by Han Yue.  She fought back from 14-20 down to make a very grave threat of finishing the match in straight games before Goh got it together to win on her 7th attempt.  Han definitely had the momentum going into the deciding game, however, and finished that off 21-8 to seal the victory for Team China.

The junior players had Sunday off and the individual events will commence first thing Monday morning in Yogyakarta.  None of the players involved in the mixed team semi-finals are among the top seeds in the individual draws.  Thai players are first seeds in both singles events and Korean players, all of whom skipped the team event last week, are top seeds in all three doubles disciplines.

Mixed team final result: China 3, Malaysia 1
XD:  Fan Qiuyue / Li Wenmei (CHN) lost to Man Wei Chong / Pearly Tan (MAS)  12-21, 21-9, 17-21
BS:  Gao Zhengze (CHN) beat Leong Jun Hao (MAS)  21-14, 21-18
BD:  Fan Qiuyue / Wang Chang (CHN) beat Chang Yee Jun / Ng Eng Cheong (MAS)  21-19, 21-17
GS:  Han Yue (CHN) beat Goh Jin Wei (MAS)  21-16, 20-22, 21-8
GD:  Li Wenmei / Liu Xuanxuan (CHN) vs. Tan Sueh Jeou / Toh Ee Wei (MAS) [not played]

Click here for detailed 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 @