Grabbing a valuable 18-15 lead in the deciding game of their quarter-final this evening, Tan Boon Heong and Tan Wee Kiong (below) were already dreaming about a spot in the final four of the BWF Superseries Premier event. However, the never-say-die Koreans gave a rousing finale – with trademark big hitting from the back court – to pull level at 18-all before edging home, 15-21 21-6 21-19.
In an encounter the losers were clearly aggrieved to have squandered, Malaysia played confidently to snatch the first game. The response from across the net was swift – and deadly. The cliff-hanger that ensued in the third was one of which this battle was worthy and the approval of fans inside the heaving Istora Senayan was overwhelming. Ear plugs would have been a handy commodity as wild screams and the noisy beating of thunder sticks greeted every point, regardless of who scored.
“I never give up. I just had to focus and find a way to get level with them. Then we could attack. I kept thinking positively. I always believe we can win,” said the irrepressible Lee, savouring his return to the MetLife BWF World Superseries and hunting his second straight success after triumphing in last week’s Yonex Open Japan.
His partner admitted he wasn’t confident and that it was Lee’s spirit and refusal to surrender the match that got them through.
“I was nervous, especially after how the Malaysians started. He (Lee) kept pushing me. Telling me we can do it,” stated a drenched Yoo.
By contrast, Tan Boon Heong was inconsolable, though hailing the clash a “great match”.
“We should win that match. We were leading 18-15 and we should have pressured them but they were pressuring us. We had a few mistakes. It’s disappointing as we were not originally partners but we had a chance to be in the semi-finals,” said the veteran.
There were similar tales of “oh-so-close-but-yet-so-far” for Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Singaporean duo, Shinta Mulia Sari/Yao Lei. Both Women’s Doubles pairs saw match points come and go and, with them, the chance of advancing to the weekend action.
For the No. 2 seeds, it was a nightmarish ending to a match they seemed to have under control at key stages and really could have won in two games. Despite holding match point at 20-19 versus Jang Ye Na/Kim So Young (BWF home page) and putting away smash opportunities quickly, the Danes faltered when it counted most. Rytter Juhl rushed a shot and found the net to lock the scores 20-20 in the third game and the luck of the net then earned Korea their own match point.
Again, the usually-assured Rytter erred, smashing wide. The score: 14-21 22-20 22-20 to the jubilant Koreans.
“This is a big win for us because Denmark is very difficult to beat. We talked about their strengths and weaknesses and we just kept fighting. If we play our best, I think we can win this,” said Jang, her partner nodding in agreement.
Meanwhile, Indonesia-born Shinta Mulia Sari – spurred on by boisterous cheers from her compatriots – was a point away from earning a place for Singapore in the Women’s Doubles semi-finals. The 26-year-old and Yao Lei held two match points against the wily Ma Jin and the young Tang Yuanting. Nerves, however, got the better of the Singaporeans as the Chinese – with nothing to lose – attacked decisively and were rewarded with a 21-18 17-21 22-20 result.
“I didn’t think too far ahead. I just tried to play my best and we won. I am more experienced than Tang and I tried to take charge,” explained Ma Jin, who also won her Mixed Doubles match later.
Sari, who has represented Singapore for 12 years, acknowledged their eagerness to win cost them victory. However, she was pleased with their progress and feels confident ahead of next week’s Star Australian Open – the newest World Superseries tournament.
* Thailand’s Women’s Singles players continued their fine showing, with a gutsy Nichaon Jindapon (above, right) celebrating her first World Superseries semi-final while Ratchanok Intanon maintained her welcome return to form. Jindapon overcame Bae Yeon Ju (Korea), 17-21 21-14 22-20, in just over an hour while Intanon beat China’s Sun Yu, 21-11 21-10. Their team-mate Busanan Ongbumrungpan gave Wang Shixian a lot to think about before the Chinese prevailed 21-19 21-19. World No. 1 Li Xuerui of China stayed on course to defend her title, winning 22-20 21-15 against India's Saina Nehwal.
* Indonesia’s top players – Hendra Setiawan/Mohammad Ahsan (Men’s Doubles) and Tontowi Ahmad/Liliyana Natsir (Mixed Doubles; above, centre) – came through their quarter-finals to keep home interest high. The latter now face Xu Chen/Ma Jin for a place in Sunday’s showdown. Meanwhile, Setiawan said he and Ahsan must do well in front their fans despite the pressure of playing at home.
* The usual suspects worked their way to the business end of the Men’s Singles championship with Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei (below, right); China’s Chen Long (below, left); Jan Jorgensen of Denmark (below, centre) and Japanese Kenichi Tago all disposing of their rivals.