After showing her potential in the semifinal against Wang Yihan, India’s Saina Nehwal was surprisingly subdued against China’s Li Xuerui in the summit clash of 2015 Thaihot China Open. The determined Li produced a powerful array of smashes, delicate placements and superior net-play and left no chance for the Indian to catch up. Saina tried her best but her court movements looked sluggish in the all-important match. In the 12th meetings between the two big players, Li improved her record to 10-2. Incidentally, Saina had last beaten Li over 3 years ago. In Sunday’s final, an enhanced unforced error-count proved the undoing of Saina against the reigning Olympic champion and a long-time world no.1. In men’s singles final, Malaysian superstar Lee Chong Wei played an outstanding game against the current world no.1 China’s Chen Long and by winning the 2015 China Open, bagged his second super-series title of the year. Contrary to media expectations, the former world no.1 was simply brilliant against an accomplished opponent, who tried to sneak back into the match on a few occasions but a barrage of Lee’s shots, net-play and deception left the Chinese flummoxed. However as the curtain came down on the Thaihot China Open, the hosts still won three titles in five categories by taking women’s singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles.
It was surprising to see India’s Saina Nehwal playing second fiddle to Li Xuerui of China in women’s singles final on Sunday. In general, Saina couldn’t deal with Li’s cleverly placed smashes and drop shots. On several occasions, Saina failed to react quickly to Li’s deception and committed more unforced errors than usual. Li was quite obviously a better player as she dashed Saina’s dream of defending her 2014 women’s singles title. However, Saina gave some false hopes to her Indian supporters by taking a 4-1 lead in first game. But that was only as far as she would go. Li bounced back with a vengeance reeling off 6 straight points for a 7-4 lead. With intelligent net-drops, Li went to the break with an 11-6 lead. The determined Chinese continued in the same vein as Saina kept struggling. The Indian looked a bit slow on some reachable shots from Li, who won the first game 21-12.
In the second, Saina began with a 4-0 lead but Li was unperturbed. With an 11-6 lead at interval, Saina looked like forcing a decider. But the Chinese shifted gears after the short break and rode on Saina’s avoidable errors. From 6-11, Li jumped to a 13-12 lead, even as the Indian lost her hold on the game. On several occasions, Li’s deceptively played shots caught Saina groping. With Saina’s unforced errors mounting Li raced to a 19-15 lead. At this point Li played a brilliant drop shot and Saina’s labored stretch only took the shuttle to the net. On the championship point, Saina’s shot went wide and Li exulted in her third China Open victory after 2012 and 2013.
In the following men’s singles final between China’s Chen Long and Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei, China looked like making clean sweep of the 2015 China Open with three earlier victories in the mixed doubles, women’s doubles and women’s singles. Chen Long was a clear favorite with resounding performances all season and Lee was not expected to beat him. But what followed was the exact opposite of the pre-conceived expectations. Lee showed why he ruled the world of badminton for over a decade. After coming to active badminton from an 8-month doping ban, Lee’s recent form was against him as took on the Chinese in the final. The Malaysian had last beaten Chen Long in April 2014 but since then Chen Long has become unstoppable. Earlier on Saturday, Lee had played superbly against long-time rival and five-time world champion Lin Dan of China in the semi-finals to record first win over the Super Dan in nearly four years. On Sunday, Lee continued with his tournament form and never allowed Chen Long to lead him anytime in the match. After the initial exchanges between the Chinese and the Malaysian, the game looked evenly poised at 8-8. At this point, the 33-year-old Lee garnered eight consecutive points and led 16-8. Chen Long was pressurized by Lee’s dazzling run and though the Chinese didn’t fare so badly, he found Lee as too strong in the final. After taking the first game at 21-15, Lee continued with his rampaging display in the second game and completely overshadowed Chen Long with a 50-minute 21-15, 21-11 title victory. This was the first time Lee ever won a final in China and became the first Malaysian since Wong Choong Hann took men’s singles crown in 2002 China Open . Incidentally, Lee’s wife Wong Mew Choo had won the 2007 China Open women’s title, long before she got married to the Malaysian superstar.
In doubles events, China bagged the women’s and mixed doubles crowns while Korea took the title for men’s doubles. In women’s doubles, the Chinese pair of Tang Yuanting/Yu Yang lost the first game against Japan’s top-seeds Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi but rallied brilliantly in the next two games to win at 18-21, 21-13, 21-12. In mixed doubles, China’s Zhang Nan/Zhao Yunlei had an epic fight with Denmark’s Joachim Fischer Nielsen/Christinna Pedersen. After winning the first game, Zhang/Zhao lost the second and in a neck-to-neck third game, they defeated the Danes 21-19, 17-21, 21-19. In men’s doubles, Korea’s Kim Ki Jung/Kim Sa Rang defeated China’s Chai Biao/Hong Wei 21-13, 21-19 to record their nation’s third consecutive China Open win, though the partners in earlier tournaments were not the same.