Men’s Doubles of the highest standard was on display today in the semi-finals of the Yonex-Sunrise Hong Kong today, ending with Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong prevailing by a heartbeat.
The 88-minute semi-final between the Koreans and China’s Chai Biao/Hong Wei encapsulated everything that Men’s Doubles is known for. The battle-hardened Lee and Yoo were pushed to the very end of their limits; having clambered back from the edge of the cliff not once but several times they were overwhelmed at the end of the match, which had gone their way 22-24 21-11 30-28.
Chai and Hong had recovered from a second game spanking to keep a healthy lead in the third; at 18-12 it looked like the Koreans stood little chance of salvaging a win. And yet, point by point they got ever closer, saving two match points to make it 20-all.
That is when an even more intense drama unfolded. It was the Koreans’ turn to keep the lead. Six match points were earned; all six were saved by the Chinese, who, in turn, had two of their own. What kept the Koreans in the hunt was the stellar defence of Lee and Yoo, who withstood thunderbolts from the Chinese and turned around near-certain defeat; some maverick shots when least expected; and the soundness of their serves and returns.
Chai and Hong, to their credit, never let Lee and Yoo off the hook even when the Koreans had erased the deficit and had match point after match point.
The Koreans next face Denmark’s Mathias Bo/Carsten Mogensen, who recovered from a first game loss to beat Indonesia’s Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan.
In Women’s Singles, World champion Carolina Marin made her fifth World Superseries final with a demolition job of China’s Wang Yihan, 21-18 21-16. The top seeded Spaniard showed the full range of her speed, power and precision in breaking apart Wang’s challenge; frequently she dragged Wang back and forth across the court before unleashing her sizzling winners followed by her characteristic yell of triumph.
“I’m happy about how I could manage the game. Her style is very tricky, she has some good strokes, good quality in the shuttles,” said Marin. “I just wanted to keep the shuttle on court and not make mistakes. I’m looking forward for the final. There are a lot of things I changed in my game and in my mind, and of course in how I see the tournament, how I want to get the title. I’m very determined. The important thing is I keep my focus on my training and that’s the key to my game.”
Marin faces Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara, who outplayed Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon in a semi-final of two distinct parts. The first was a classy duel between perhaps the finest strokeplayer in Women’s Singles and the most defensively sound; the second part was a total rout after heart had triumphed over skill.
Intanon was the superior in skill but Okuhara had greater heart. For all the beauteous patterns Intanon painted with the court as her canvas, Okuhara doggedly fought on, keeping the shuttle in play and forcing Intanon into the extra shot. The fascinating battle between the purveyors of opposite styles saw some sparkling moments: Intanon coaxing the shuttle through improbable arcs and angles, and Okuhara frequently materializing out of nowhere to throw herself at one winning shot after another. Okuhara’s greater discipline at the end of the rally saw her clinch the close first game; she kept up the intensity but the effort had been too much for Intanon, who began to flag, giving her opponent a 26-24 21-6 victory.
Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei made his third straight Superseries final staving off an inspired challenge from local hero Ng Ka Long. Lee took his time to settle down, but once he did, he was in control most of the way during his 21-19 21-14 win. Lee will face Tian Houwei in the final, the Chinese having outlasted young Indonesian Anthony Ginting 18-21 21-11 21-6.
Zhao Yunlei’s amazing year continued as she booked her place in two all-China finals. Zhao and Tian Qing blazed their way past Japan’s Naoko Fukuman/Kurumi Yonao 21-16 21-15 to make the Women’s Doubles final against compatriots Yu Yang/Tang Yuanting, who were also dominant against Indonesia’s Greysia Polii/Nitya Krishinda Maheswari, 22-20 21-11.
The Mixed Doubles final will feature Zhao and Zhang Nan against Liu Cheng/Bao Yixin, a repeat of the BWF World Championships. Both pairs beat Korean opponents: while Zhang/Zhao beat Yoo Yeon Seong/Chang Ye Na (22-20 21-17), Liu/Bao were taken to three games by Shin Baek Choel/Chae Yoo Jung (17-21 21-15 21-16).