BITBURGER OPEN 2017 – Thais turn silver into gold

Both of last year’s runners-up from Thailand, Nitchaon Jindapol and Kititharakul/Prajongjai, returned to take the titles in 2017 at the Bitburger Open Grand Prix Gold. By Don Hearn.  Photos: Sven […]

Both of last year’s runners-up from Thailand, Nitchaon Jindapol and Kititharakul/Prajongjai, returned to take the titles in 2017 at the Gold.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Sven Heise / Badmintonphoto (live)

In the four years since Nitchaon Jindapol (pictured) won her first Grand Prix title back in 2013 at the Canada Open, the only event she has managed to final in has been the Bitburger Open.  At first, she had no complaints because she quickly followed up the first Grand Prix win of her career with a first ever Grand Prix Gold when she beat Linda Zetchiri in Saarbrucken.  That was her third major final in 2013 and after such a major breakthrough, she looked ready to take her place among the top echelon, both globally and even within Thailand, as no fewer than four younger compatriots had already earned women’s singles titles at the Grand Prix Gold, Superseries, and even World Championship level.

But while Jindapol looked to be headed straight into the world’s top ten, she peaked at #12 a few months later and still hasn’t made it higher.  What’s more, while she continued to post impressive wins against higher-ranked opponents, she was unable to stay consistent and indeed would not make it back into a major final until last year, when she faced China’s He Bingjiao at the very tournament where she was a former champion.  Luck was not with her against the in-form 19-year-old on that occasion but this year she got a third chance at the top of the Saarbrucken podium and this time she made the most of it.

She took on Zhang Beiwen (pictured top, with Jindapol) of the United States.  Zhang was playing in her second final in under a month as she had already picked up her 3rd Dutch Open title in October.  She bounced back to take the second game but in the deciding game, Jindapol built up some big leads, then succumbed to some big comebacks as Zhang tied it up four times before the Thai pulled away to take the last 3 points in succession.

Nor was Jindapol the only Thai runner-up from last year to climb up one spot in the 2017 Bitburger Open.  Last year, her compatriots Jongkolphan Kititharakul / Rawinda Prajongjai (pictured) had been victims of China’s current double world #1 shuttler Chen Qingchen, who went on to win a doubles double.

This year, the Thai duo had already stopped another pair of Chinese teenagers, Du Yue and Xu Ya, from reaching the final and on Sunday, they won a short match against Russian Open winners Akane Araki / Aoi Matsuda of Japan.  For the Thais, it was their second Grand Prix Gold title of the year but in between, they had also treated themselves to the SEA Games gold medal.

2nd and 3rd time lucky for Skaarup Rasmussen

Anders Skaarup Rasmussen was the only shuttler at the beginning of the afternoon who still had a shot at a doubles double.  Those hopes were dashed early when he and new mixed partner Line Kjaersfeldt were beaten in straight games by teenagers He Jiting and Du Yue (pictured).  The Chinese youngsters surged after the interval in the first game and then again toward the end and managed to get the upper hand in the match.  Then they maintained the edge in the second, never allowing the Danes to take a lead.

It was the second title of the year for the 2016 World Junior Champions.  They had already won the Thailand Open in the spring.  Both players will take the next week off before they return for the China Open, when they will again enter as a mixed pair, but where they will both be starting new partnerships in level doubles

When Anders Skaarup Rasmussen returned to the court later in the day to contest the men’s doubles final with Kim Astrup (pictured below), it was a second chance for this year but it was also a third opportunity in another way.  Like Nitchaon Jindapol, the two Danes had played in their first Bitburger Open final in 2013 and on one subsequent occasion.

Unlike the Thai women’s singles champion, however, Rasmussen and Astrup were still in search of their first ever Bitburger title.  This time, though, they got it.  After three close games, they held on to keep the honours out of the hands of Indonesia’s Fajar Alfian / Muhammad Rian Ardianto.  It was the Danes’ second Grand Prix Gold title on German soil this year, as they had picked up the German Open title back in March as well.

The only first time Grand Prix Gold winner on the day was 20-year-old Rasmus Gemke (pictured bottom).  In a week that saw him reach the semi-final of a major event for the first time in his career, the Danish youngster went all the way, taking close to an hour to complete what on paper looked like a more straightforward victory.  He thus denied Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Jen Hao, who was himself looking for his first Grand Prix Gold title, nearly three years after his only success at the Grand Prix level in 2014.

Many of the finalists will be back in action when the Superseries resumes just over a week from now, at the China Open in Fuzhou, but the next leg of the Grand Prix Gold will feature an all-new cast as none of Sunday’s finalists are crossing the multiple time zones to compete at the Macau Open.

Final results
WS:  Nitchaon Jindapol (THA) [2] beat Zhang Beiwen (USA) [1]  21-17, 15-21, 21-19
XD:  He Jiting / Du Yue (CHN) beat Anders Skaarup Rasmussen / Line Kjaersfeldt (DEN)  21-18, 21-17
WD:  Jongkolphan Kititharakul / Rawinda Prajongjai (THA) [2] beat Akane Araki / Aoi Matsuda (JPN)  21-19, 21-6
MS:  Rasmus Gemke (DEN) beat Hsu Jen Hao (TPE) [4] 21-18, 21-10
MD:  Kim Astrup / Anders Skaarup Rasmussen (DEN) [2] beat Fajar Alfian / Muhammad Rian Ardianto (INA) [4]  21-19, 19-21, 21-18

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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 @