Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon displayed one of her best performances in the title match of the Badminton Asia Championships against two-time champion China’s Li Xuerui at the Chinese city of Wuhan on Sunday. In a match lasting 118 minutes, the Thai woman outlasted Xuerui in three games after being match-point down in the second game. Intanon has been suffering from a title drought since last winning the BWF World Championship in 2013. Incidentally, it was Xuerui, who the Thai had beaten in that tournament. But since then, Intanon has not even taken a game of the powerful Xuerui. In the all-China men’s singles final, Chinese veteran Lin Dan successfully defended his last year’s title, when he outplayed his young compatriot Tian Houwei in two games. Women’s doubles final was also an all-China affair, in which Ma Jin/Tang Yuanting surprised the two-time champions Yu Yang/Wang Xiaoli in two games. Korea’s Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong took revenge on Indonesia’s Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan for their recent losses in the Men’s Doubles final, while the mixed doubles title was won by Indonesia’s Tontowi Ahmad/Liliyana Natsir, who defeated Hong Kong’s Lee Chung Hei/Chau Hoi Wah.
The women’s single final at Wuhan turned out to be a classic in Dong Feng Citroen Badminton Asia Championships that concluded on Sunday. Thailand’s Ratchnok Intanon played the favorite and double title holder Li Xuerui in front of her home crowd. It was a neck-to-neck play in the first game with both players sticking to their strategies and trying to outwit the other. After they drew level at 20-20, the Olympic champion edged past Intanon 22-20 on her second game point. But Intanon bounced back in the second game with more aggression. From 3-2, the Thai reeled off 5 points but Xuerui steadied herself and leveled the scores 10-10. Then the two played like they did in the first game and the Chinese held a match point at 21-20. But Intanon raised her game and took three points in a row to win the game and send the match to a decider. In the third game, the 20-year old Thai woman did not allow the celebrated Chinese much leeway and finished the match with a 20-22, 23-21, 21-12 victory. With this win Intanon improved her career record against Xuerui to 3-7.
Earlier, both women had tough semifinal encounters that stretched to the limits. The semifinal between Li Xuerui and Wang Yihan was a sensational match lasting 74 minutes, before the no.1 seed Xuerui prevailed with 20-22, 24-22, 22-20, after saving two match points in the second game. Intanon played against talented Chinese Taipei star Tai Tzu Ying in her semifinal match. After losing the first-game to Tzu Ying, Intanon came back to take the next two games to finish at 20-22, 21-9, 21-12. Challenge of India’s Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu had ended earlier with their three-game defeats in quarterfinals. World no.1 Saina lost to fifth seed Tzu Ying Tai of Chinese Taipei, 21-16, 13-21, 18-21 in 55-minutes while the eighth seed Sindhu, who returned to badminton courts after a long injury lay-off, also lost in quarterfinals to top seed Li Xuerui of China, 21-11, 19-21, 8-21.
In the men’s singles final, Chinese super star Lin Dan brushed aside a challenge from his younger compatriot Tian Houwei 21-19 21-8 to take his fourth title in the tournament. Dan’s rich badminton experience was on display, when the scores reached 18-18 in the opening game. He pressurized Houwei with intelligently placed forehands and won three points with ease to take the first game. After that the second game became a one sided affair as Dan led Houwei into committing a series of unforced errors and easily won the title. Lin Dan must have a great morale boost with this title after his loss to compatriot Chen Long in the Malaysian Open.
In other finals on Sunday, Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong of Korea took the Men’s Doubles title by beating Indonesia’s Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan 18-21, 24-22, 21-19; women’s doubles was won by the Chinese pair of Ma Jin/Tang Yuanting, who scored a surprise 21-12, 21-12 victory over two-time champions and compatriots Yu Yang/Wang Xiaoli and the mixed doubles title was taken by Indonesia’s Tontowi Ahmad/Liliyana Natsir, who beat Hong Kong’s Lee Chung Hei/Chau Hoi Wah 21-16, 21-15.
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