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Malaysia Open Grand Prix Gold – review: ‘Grand’ Wins for Santoso; Yao Xue

Indonesia’s Simon Santoso and China’s Yao Xue shared the singles honours at the Yonex-Sunrise Malaysia Grand Prix Gold yesterday in Johor Bahru.

China’s young brigade captured three titles: Women’s Singles, Women’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles, with Yaqiong Huang starring in a ‘double’ – the Women’s Doubles (with Xiaohan Yu) and Mixed Doubles (with Lu Kai). Singapore’s Danny Bawa Chrisnanta/Chayut Triyachart capped a memorable run, claiming the Men’s Doubles trophy after starting out in the qualifying draw.

The two singles finals followed contrasting trajectories. After Yao (below) used her youthful energy to overpower Indonesia’s Adrianti Firdasari in the Women’s Singles final, 21-18 21-8, wily veteran Santoso (BWF home page) banked on his experience to hold off young Indian Sourabh Varma in the Men’s Singles final, 15-21 21-16 21-19.

Santoso hasn’t enjoyed a fruitful season so far, having fallen in the first round of the two Superseries he entered. He had a smooth ride until the semi-finals, where he staved off a spirited challenge from Thailand’s Thammasin Sitthikom, 21-12 19-21 21-18. Varma, meanwhile, survived two tough battles; versus Japan’s Kazumasa Sakai in the third round (21-15 17-21 21-19) and Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen in the quarter-finals (22-20 18-21 21-15).

Santoso started well against Verma, leading 11-5, but after the mid-game interval the Indian powered ahead to win 16 of the next 20 points and surge a game ahead. The Indonesian stormed back to force a decider. A pitched battle followed, with the lead changing hands regularly. Santoso was perched precariously at 18-19, but the veteran was astute in the moments that followed. This was his first title since winning the Yonex Sunrise Indonesia Open (Grand Prix Gold) in September last year.

Second seed Yao Xue’s toughest battle came in the semi-finals against Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Ya Ching. Yao prevailed 21-15 20-22 21-15 to earn a showdown against Firdasari. The Indonesian started strongly and, with a 13-6 lead, appeared to have too many weapons for her young Chinese opponent. Yao however stopped Firdasari in her tracks, allowing her only a few more points as she racked up winners. The second game was over in a flash as Yao took home her first major title in just 34 minutes.

HIGHLIGHTS:

* Men’s Doubles second seeds Goh V Shem/Lim Khim Wah would have hoped for a second major title on home turf after emerging surprise winners at their home Superseries Premier event in January. However, their opponents Danny Bawa Chrisnanta/Chayut Triyachart (above) extended their brilliant run, which started in the qualifying stages, and concluded with a 21-17 22-20 triumph against Goh/Lim. The Singaporeans showed their mettle in winning three close encounters in the draw, saving match points in the second round and quarter-finals.

* Lu Kai and Yaqiong Huang (left) had great trouble reaching the Mixed Doubles final. After tough quarter-final and semi-final encounters, the final was surprisingly one-sided as they routed Indonesia’s Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto, 21-14 21-13.

* Finals day had begun with an action-packed thriller in the all-China Women’s Doubles match between Xiaohan Yu/Yaqiong Huang and Ou Dongni/Xiong Mengjing. Xiaohan/Yaqiong had what appeared to be an insurmountable lead at 19-10 in the third game, but Ou/Xiong came tantalisingly close as they won eight points in a row, before Xiaohan/Yaqiong clinched the last two points, to claim the title: 22-20 12-21 21-18. The second game was the only one the champions lost in the entire tournament.

 

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