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India Open 2014 - Day 6: Chong Wei’s Wizardry; Shixian Shines

Lee Chong Wei extended his recent mastery over Chen Long in the final of the Yonex-Sunrise India Open 2014 today.

The Men’s Singles showdown ended in favour of the Malaysian, 21-13 21-17; the other four titles were divided equally between China and Denmark. Wang Shixian emerged Women’s Singles champion and her compatriots Yu Yang/Tang Yuanting, the Women’s Doubles winners. Denmark’s Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen and Joachim Fischer Nielsen/Christinna Pedersen finished on top in Men’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles respectively.

However, the much-awaited spectacle was the Men’s Singles finale, the question of whether Chen Long could avenge the loss of his All England crown to Lee Chong Wei (BWF home page and below). It was the top seed though who outplayed his younger rival, improving his head-to-head record over Chen to 9-8 with a masterclass.

As in the All England final, he chose not to engage Chen Long in quick exchanges, opting instead for the high tosses and interspersing them with sharply angled smashes that homed in on the sidelines like guided missiles. So confident was he that he appeared almost casual in the middle of some rallies, but leaping at his first opportunity to fire winners. Chen was frequently surprised by the range of Lee’s strokes, both close to the net and from the back, and he was left scampering around for the most part. It was a near-perfect display from Lee; the only faulty notes were early in the second game when his netplay deserted him and Chen took a small lead. Lee tightened his game quickly, resumed the ascendancy and gained match point when Chen was faulted for his flick serve. The first opportunity was converted and the Malaysian secured his third India Open title.

Wang Shixian (left) emphatically stepped out of the shadows of her more accomplished compatriots with a typically combative performance against Li Xuerui. Wang has now reached three straight Superseries finals; winning the last two versus Li.

Olympic champion Li would have fancied her chances after building up handy leads in the first game but Wang saved two game points and went ahead. Li’s probing attack was thwarted with incredible athleticism. The All England champion extended the point even when it appeared lost and the relentless pressure told on Li. Wang repeated the come-from-behind performance in the second game. Down 16-18 down in the third, Wang allowed Li only one more point before her celebrations broke out – 22-20 21-19 in 47 minutes.

Wang, who was not on the Chinese team at the last Olympics, said she is motivated to make the team for the next one.

“This year I have started well and I just want to maintain my condition and form,” she said. “I want to play well until the next Olympic Games in Rio. I’m really looking forward to going to the Olympics because last time I didn’t have the chance to go and my performances dipped after that. My aim now is to keep performing well and to do my best in building up to the Olympic Games.”

Wang added that the recently-announced year-ending BWF Destination Dubai World Superseries Finals is also great motivation.

“I have never been to Dubai and I’m looking forward to qualifying and going there,” she declared. “It seems to be a fabulous city. The way many people describe it to me, it’s like a wonderland so I hope the Superseries Finals will be held there even more than four years!”

HIGHLIGHTS:

* Denmark’s Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen (above) snatched their second Superseries title this year, nixing Qiu Zihan/Liu Xiaolong’s hopes of defending their Men’s Doubles title with a 17-21 21-15 21-15 score. It was the Chinese pair who started strongly, maintaining a quick tempo during the rallies and not allowing the Danes to settle. However, the complexion of the match changed in the second game when Boe and Mogensen were able to slow down the rallies, firing smashes only when a clear winner had been crafted. The strategy worked well for them and they were unchallenged in the closing stages of both games. Boe was thankful the Indian crowd had backed them: “The first game was a bit frustrating and stressful but we reminded ourselves that this is a final and we should step up and enjoy it, especially because the Indian crowd was on our side.”

* China began finals day perfectly, with veteran Yu Yang and her 19-year-old partner Tang Yuanting (right) overturning a deficit in the final game to cruise home, 21-10 13-21 21-16, in the Women’s Doubles final. Their opponents, Korea’s Jung Kyung Eun and Kim Ha Na, held their own against the powerful attack of Yu and Tang. After the Koreans clinched the second game, they appeared on track for victory with a 13-8 lead. However, the match turned on its head. Yu and Tang launched a ferocious assault with such precision and power that the Koreans were left clueless. Eight successive points gave Yu/Tang a 16-13 lead. Moments later, it was game and match to China’s newest combination.

Yu Yang, the veteran of many battles, was pleased with her young partner. “It’s the first time we’re a pair and the important thing is to cooperate and communicate well. It was a difficult match but we just took it point by point and tried not to worry. My partner played well.”

Asked if they will feature together again, she said: “We’re still trying different combinations so we’ll have to wait and see.”

* Kim Ha Na was unlucky to finish runner-up in both her finals; a fate that befell her Mixed Doubles partner Ko Sung Hyun at last year’s India Open in which they were also second-best in the mixed discipline. The Koreans had their chances in a see-sawing battle against Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christinna Pedersen (above), but the Danes squeezed through, 21-16 18-21 21-18 in the day’s closest result. Nielsen struggled with his serves but, to his credit, he made up with his all-court play and was effectively supported at the net by Pedersen. There was little to choose between the rival pairs; the match shifted decisively in Denmark’s favour after Ko decided to play at a Pedersen shot that was drifting out late in the match. It was all over for the Koreans a few points later.

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