Kenichi Tago’s persistence finally paid off when he triumphed over Lee Chong Wei today in the semi-finals of the Yonex French Open 2013.
The result was significant on many levels. The No. 4-ranked Japanese’s quest for a Superseries title has usually been thwarted by Malaysia’s Lee (1), ever since he burst into reckoning at the 2010 All England tournament. Having failed on 14 occasions, he got past his nemesis today, 17-21 21-16 21-12. This was Lee’s first loss in a completed match to a non-Chinese player since losing to Korea’s Son Wan Ho at the India Open in April 2012.
Tago (BWF home page) will face Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen in the Men’s Singles final. Jorgensen overcame mid-match trouble against Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk of Thailand to prevail 21-18 18-21 21-10.
China are assured two titles and a possible third. The Women’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles are all-China affairs while, in Women’s Singles, Wang Shixian (7) will confront Porntip Buranaprasertsuk of Thailand. Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong (Malaysia) take on Markis Kido/Gideon Markus Fernaldi (Indonesia; centre below) for the Men’s Doubles championship.
Certainly, however, it was the second Men’s Singles semi-final that put all other matches in the shade. Title favourite Lee took the first game and it looked like business as usual for the Malaysian. Tago fought back with intensity, persisting with his aggressive game and forcing Lee to fend off his big, accurate smashes. Tago challenged Lee at the net and won most of their skirmishes there with near-perfect net play.
Tago snatched ten successive points to seize the second game comfortably and didn’t ease off the throttle in the third game. As he maintained focus, Lee faltered badly and was unable to get his line judgements right or to anticipate Tago’s flick serves.
Elsewhere, the Mixed Doubles showdown will be a repeat of the London Olympics gold-medal match. Olympic champions Zhang Nan/Zhao Yunlei (1) fought off a feisty challenge from Chris Adcock/Gabrielle White of England, 18-21 21-14 21-13, for the second time in two weeks. They face their Chinese compatriots Xu Chen and Ma Jin who overcame a brief slump in the second game to beat Thailand’s Sudket Prapakamol/Saralee Thoungthongkam 21-12 21-19. Xu and Ma (right) have a poor record against Zhang/Zhao, only being victorious in two of their 15 encounters.
* Apart from Tago’s win over Lee, the other major upset on semi-finals day was in Men’s Doubles, with fifth-seeded pair Liu Xiaolong/Qiu Zihan (China) crashing 16-21 21-19 21-14 to Markis Kido/Gideon Markus Fernaldi of Indonesia who just paired up last month.
* Porntip Buranaprasertsuk (centre below) reached her second Superseries final this year with a 21-13 21-8 victory over Japan’s Eriko Hirose. The other semi-final was close, with Wang Shixian coming from behind in the second game and saving three game points to beat Bae Yeon Ju of Korea, 21-19 22-20.
* In Women’s Doubles, Indonesians Greysia Poli/Nitya Krishinda Maheswari gave themselves a shot at another upset but wilted at the crucial stage of their match against last week’s Denmark Open champions Bao Yixin/Tang Jinhua: 19-21 21-10 21-19. Poli and Maheswari, who beat world champions Yu Yang/Wang Xiaoli in the quarter-finals, closed a 15-19 gap in the third game to 19-all but the Chinese remained resolute when it counted. Bao/Tang will face Olympic champions Tian Qing/Zhao Yunlei who also advanced in three games – 16-21 21-17 21-10 – over Korea’s Jang Ye Na and Kim So Young.