In an epic tug-of-war, played out over an hour and 40 minutes at the Yonex All England 2014, the blend of experienced Maeda and her younger spirited partner finally broke the resolve that saw Bao and Tang (left) wrest seven titles in a row, starting with the Dutch Open last October.
Hardly could spectators who stayed late at the National Indoor Arena (NIA) have imagined the treat awaiting them as the last match on court one began. Though the early scores were close, nothing hinted at what was to come as fans have grown accustomed to the dynamic Chinese finding a way to win regardless of the situation facing them. So, even when the Japanese surged ahead, taking the first game 21-16, many would have expected a comeback by Bao/Tang.
The rearguard action did come in the second game, though almost too late as they withstood match point at 21-20 to Japan. The Chinese reeled off three straight points to force a decider. Boasting leads of 8-4 and 12-9 in the third game, Bao and Tang again appeared unbeatable but there was another final twist to this enthralling saga. Kakiiwa and Maeda (BWF home page) found an extra gear; pulling level and then motoring on to an unforgettable victory – sealing it on their third match point!
The score: 21-16 21-23 21-17.
Meanwhile, Denmark’s ambitions were severely dented as five of its doubles pairs – including three title contenders – were ousted. Usually formidable partnerships, Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen; Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Joachim Fischer Nielsen/Christinna Pedersen, were sent packing from Men’s Doubles, Women’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles respectively.
There was also despair for the towering duo of Mads Conrad-Petersen and Mads Pieler Kolding whose imposing height clearly didn’t intimidate their Chinese Taipei rivals, Lee Sheng Mu and Tsai Chia Hsin. The Men’s Doubles No. 7 seeds regained their composure to win 21-13 16-21 21-18. Sadly for another Danish pair, Anders Skaarup Rasmussen/Kim Astrup Sorensen, it was a case of what a difference a day made. Unable to reprise their first-round heroics which downed the reigning All England Men’s Doubles champions, they fell cheaply, 21-8 21-8, to Korea’s Ko Sung Hyun/Shin Baek Choel.
However, the seismic surprises were the demises of Boe/Mogensen and Pedersen and her partners in the Women’s and Mixed Doubles categories. The former were little match for Indonesian livewires, Gideon Markus Fernaldi and Markis Kido (above), who banished the Danes – 21-18 21-12 – to spectator seats for the duration of the tournament. Pedersen was uncharacteristically off-colour, misfiring repeatedly as she and Rytter Juhl wasted a good start in Women’s Doubles versus China’s Ma Jin and Tang Yuanting. Though claiming the first game, the Europeans faltered inexplicably thereafter to surrender 17-21 21-9 21-8. Ironically, Pedersen’s second loss of the evening came at the hands of Rytter Juhl and Kolding (left) in Mixed Doubles. The latter brushed aside Fischer Nielsen and Pedersen, 21-17 24-22, to be the lone Danish pair vying for the semi-finals.
* Hans-Kristian Vittinghus squeezed past Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana (18-21 21-12 21-19) into the last eight of Men’s Singles to put a little shine on Denmark’s dismal day. Others still in the hunt in that category are China’s defending champion Chen Long and team-mate Wang Zhengming; world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei; Japan’s No. 5 seed Kenichi Tago and his young compatriot, Kento Momota (right); and Lee Dong Keun and Son Wan Ho of Korea. Momota ended the aspirations of England’s Rajiv Ouseph, 21-15 21-10, while Son earned a 21-16 14-21 21-10 victory over Indonesia’s Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka.
* China’s Wang Yihan and Wang Shixian continued to look the pick of the Women’s Singles challengers, progressing smoothly in straight games while rivals struggled for form. Li Xuerui (China) and Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand) both dropped their opening games before getting past Minatsu Mitani of Japan and China’s Han Li respectively. India’s Saina Nehwal also needed three games to advance as did Bae Yeon Ju of Korea who overcame Thailand’s Porntip Buranaprasertsuk, 21-11 19-21 21-13.
* Chris and Gabrielle Adcock (below) found themselves in familiar territory as the lone English representation towards the business end of a Superseries event. Their 21-13 21-15 defeat of Germany’s Peter Kaesbauer and Isabel Herttrich in Mixed Doubles was the only success which the hosts enjoyed today.