Despite a heavily depleted field in the men’s singles, caused by last-minute withdrawals of three of the top four seeds, a scintillating exhibition of superbly-controlled shuttle art from world’s no. 1 player kept the spectators enthralled until the final. The mere appearance of Lee Chong Wei on the court was enough for a true badminton fan to feel the thrill of the game by the master’s deft movements and imaginative placements. But even the master was on the receiving end on the last day against Indonesia’s Simon Santoso, who came from the qualifying rounds and played fantastic badminton until the very end.
One would recall that Simon Santoso had been creating waves in the badminton world until some years back, when he suffered a sudden loss of form that saw him go down in the BWF rankings beyond the top 100. He had been in the limbo for a while and in this tournament, Santoso had to undergo the ignominy of entering after the qualifying stages. But once he arrived among the players in the main draw, he has played superbly and beaten everyone on his way to the final. In the semifinal, Santoso’s opponent was no. 5 seed Chinese Du Pengyu. In their first game in the semifinal, it looked as if Santoso’s great run would now come to an end as Pengyu led all through the game and finally won 21-16. But out of nowhere, Santoso found his old touch at 13-13 in the second game. First, the Indonesian forced the decider after taking the second 21-17 and then he controlled the third game. Despite Pengyu’s valiant attempts, he lost to the rejuvenated Indonesian 16-21, 21-17, 21-17 to enter the final and set up the ultimate showdown with Lee Chong Wei. The final today was like a leaf from a dream-book, in which Simon Santoso simply overpowered Chong Wei with a display of marvelous badminton. The final score of 21-15, 21-10 tells the story of what transpired. In one of his worst time on the badminton court in recent memory, Lee Chong Wei was clearly overwhelmed by the compact 28-year old from Indonesia, who just wouldn’t give anything away. Santoso looked confident and totally at ease in mounting a relentless attack through his very solid forehand and all-court play. It was one of the rare defeats for the Malaysian, who rode on the crest of successive victories in Malaysia, England and India.
India’s Kidambi Srikanth had a great tournament and his inspired run needed no one less than Lee Chong Wei to stop him in the semifinals. The charged-up Indian, who had entered the last four after upsetting two seeded players, played brilliantly against the master. Chong Wei has, otherwise, had an easy passage in the semis but in Srikanth, he found a determined man. The top seed was stretched beyond his limits by Srikanth, before finally winning 21-19, 21-18. In the first game, it was literally a neck-to-neck battle. Down 15-16 at one stage, Srikanth threatened the champion by reeling 4 points in a row to go ahead 19-16. It was a mind game from here onwards. The master forced Srikanth into committing one unforced error after another, as the Indian felt more pressure than Chong Wei, who finally wrapped up the game 21-19. In the second game, a subdued Srikanth allowed Chong Wei to build a huge 15-8 lead, which soon widened to 19-12. Suddenly, Srikanth found some unknown reserve and scored 6 straight points out of the next 7 and the score reached 19-18. But the seasoned Malaysian knows more tricks than an occasional challenger. Not used to giving up on crunch points, the composed Chong Wei won the next two points and sealed a place in the final.
On the last day of the tournament, there was another wonderful triumph for the Chinese women’s doubles team of Bao Yixin and Tang Jinhua, who beat the Danish duo of Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl after losing the first game. The Chinese women fought valiantly to finally come through 14-21, 21-19, 21-15. It was the duo’s 9th victory in 11 appearances together.
Women’s defending champion and second seed Wang Yihan of China retained her title for the second year, when she produced an error-free performance to beat her top seeded compatriot Li Xuerui, 21-11, 21-19. It was Yihan’s 20th World Super-series title. Expectedly, Indonesia’s top mixed doubles stars Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir overcame compatriots Riky Widianto and Puspita Richi Dili; 21-15 22-20. In the men’s doubles, Chinese veteran Cai Yun, who played with a new partner, Lu Kai, defeated Chinese Taipei’s Lee Sheng Mu and Tsai Chia Hsin 21-19, 21-14 to win the men’s doubles crown.
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