It has become a routine for Chinese badminton stars to consistently demonstrate their all-round dominance in the shuttle sport. Tournament after another tournament, the Chinese do not fail to show their skills in the game and other nations can only watch their superlative show with awe. Most of the closest challengers for the Chinese also come from the Asian countries like Korea, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and India. But except for an odd upset, the Chinese rule the roost. In faraway Europe, Denmark has the best credentials but try as they might, they can’t stop the shuttling Chinese juggernaut. It wasn’t any different in the just concluded Yonex Denmark Open tournament held at Odense City. On Sunday October 19, 2014, China swept the entire field and won all five titles. It was like conveying to others in badminton world that the most populous nation in the world also has an unending supply of supreme badminton stars.
Finals in all five categories were contested on Sunday but the most awaited match was the men’s singles final between Chinese world champion Chen Long and Son Wan Ho of Korea. In a thrilling contest, the defending Denmark Open champion Chen Long was severely tested by the Korean. Though the Chinese won in only two straight games, 21-19, 24-22, the score-line doesn’t tell the real story of an hour-long battle between the Chinese and the Korean. It was literally another chapter in the growing rivalry between the two great stars of world badminton. In last month’s Asian Games at Incheon, the Korean had beaten Chen Long to win the badminton gold. When the two formidable foes came to face to face in the final match of the Denmark Open, it was expected that the battle would be keenly fought. In two engrossing games, both of which could have gone either way, the Korean brought Chen Long on the brink of defeat. In the first game, Son led 17-15 at one stage and in the second he was even closer with a 20-17 lead. But the feisty Chinese showed his mettle on both occasions in clawing back from the position of disadvantage and turning the match on its head. Chen Long later admitted that he had to resort to taking some risk in the second game. His rival Son was generally satisfied with his own performance and said that he was learning some new tactics that could sharpen his game in top tournaments in future. Like other stars, Son was also looking forward to ensuring that he finishes the 2014 season strongly with the year-end BWF World Super-series Finals in Dubai.
At the end of August, Chen Long had left Denmark after winning the 2014 World Championship final against the irrepressible Malaysian and world no.1 Lee Chong Wei. But Coming to the final in Yonex Denmark Open wasn’t exactly a piece of cake for Chen Long despite his lofty credentials. The Chinese World Champion had come close to making a second-round exit, when he faced Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk. The Thai gave the Chinese the run for his money before losing narrowly against him in three extremely close games 21-16, 19-21, 19-21. To his credit, the Chinese stayed calm and advanced to the quarterfinal. But the survival game against the Thai, Chen Long faced little resistance in quarterfinal and the semifinal. In the quarterfinal, Chen Long didn’t have to break sweat in beating unseeded Frenchman Brice Leverdez 21-9, 21-7 in just 37 minutes. However, he had to work slightly harder in the semifinal against India’s Parupalli Kashyap, whom he calmly brushed aside 21-16, 21-15. Kashyap created some scare for Chen Long in the first game but the Chinese found the control livers to outplay the Indian. Incidentally, Kashyap created waves in his quarterfinal against third seed Jan O Jorgensen of Denmark. In an enterprising quarterfinal, the Indian kept the Odense crowd in a hush, when he scored a 21-19 21-15 victory over the local favorite.
The 25-years old Chen Long was not the only Chinese on Sunday to win a final. He was joined by 7 others from his country in a winning riot at Odense on the last day. In an all-Chinese women’s singles final, world no.1 Li Xuerui defeated Chen Longs’s girlfriend Wang Yihan 21-17, 22-20. For Xuerui, it was a bit of getting back her Danish vengeance since she lost the world championship to Spain’s Carolina Marin in August.
In the women’s doubles, the Chinese pair of Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang defeated the Japanese combo of Misak Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi 21-14, 21-14. Also in a close mixed Doubles final, Chinese Xu Chen and Ma Jin managed to defeat the Indonesian pair of Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir. The last final that the Chinese won was in the men’s doubles category. The pair of Korea’s Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong is considered very strong in world badminton these days but in Denmark Open, Koreans had an extraordinary encounter with their Chinese opponents. Though Fu Haifeng and his new partner Zhang Nan, easily defeated the Koreans in the first game, the going was a lot more difficult in the second. The Chinese and Koreans pairs fought bitterly and the second game could only be decided at 25-23 in China’s favor.
India’s campaign at Odense ended with Parupalli Kashyap losing to the eventual champion Chen Long of China in the men’s singles semifinals. Earlier, three other Indians; Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth had reached the quarterfinals but they couldn’t make any further progress in the tournament.
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