Defending champions in three categories moved into the title round of the TOTAL BWF World Championships today.
Singles champions Chen Long (China) and Carolina Marin (Spain; left) and Mixed Doubles titlists Zhang Nan/Zhao Yunlei triumphed in contrasting fashions; the most unusual being the Mixed Doubles semi-final that saw Zhang/Zhao teetering on the edge before making a strong comeback. Two pairs made their first World Championships final: Mixed Doubles duo Liu Cheng/Bao Yixin (China) and Women’s Doubles duo Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl (Denmark; featured image).
Their opponents, Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir, missed a golden opportunity to make the final in front of their home crowd when they let the occasion get to them and failed to convert two match points. Ahmad and Natsir had kept ahead all through the second game after winning the first, with both displaying flawless execution – Natsir outplaying Zhao at the net and Ahmad firing in accurately from the back. Ahmad’s darting runs following his smashes had unsettled Zhang Nan, and the Chinese made a few nervous errors to find themselves on the verge of losing their title.
With two match points at 20-18, it all appeared to be going Indonesia’s way.
But Ahmad, with Zhao and Zhang at his mercy, fired into the net at 20-19 and then a spectacular meltdown followed. The third game was a washout as neither Ahmad not Natsir – despite her vast experience – could offer any fight.
“We lost our spirit after we lost those two match points,” said Natsir after the 20-22 23-21 21-12 defeat.
“We tried to put it out of our minds in the beginning of the third, but whenever we lost a couple of points, those thoughts kept returning. It’s a human thing – you just cannot forget such a moment. We just went blank in the third game.”
Zhang/Zhao’s win also assured China of the Mixed Doubles title, as Liu Cheng/Bao Yixin had earlier made the final beating senior compatriots Xu Chen/Ma Jin 21-13 15-21 21-19.
Women’s Singles defending champion Carolina Marin displayed the champion qualities that has taken her to three World Superseries titles this year, overturning a big third game deficit to emerge a comfortable winner over Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun. In a fast and physical battle, Sung appeared to be heading for a surprising win at 13-8 in the third but the defending champion dug deep in her combative style and poured on the pressure, forcing Sung to go into a tailspin. The end for the Korean came swiftly after the Spaniard had taken ten points in a row, 21-17 15-21 21-16.
“Today I was nervous and angry with myself, as I was constantly thinking of the score,” said Marin. “When I was down 8-13 in the third game, I just thought I had to fight hard and do my best. It was a tight match; I’m happy I could fight until the end.”
Chen Long’s was a one-sided affair in Men’s Singles over young challenger Kento Momota. The Japanese sparkled in phases with his classical style, but Chen fired his big weapons whenever he needed to, blowing holes in Momota’s defence frequently enough to run away a victor at 21-9 21-15.
Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl had little trouble disposing off the challenge of Japan’s Naoko Fukuman/Kurumi Yonao. The Danes brought their superior attacking game to bear on the Japanese; their heavy smashes frequently breaking through the defence of their opponents and helping them to a 21-12 21-15 result.
“I was nervous all through. It was difficult because we were the favourites to win today,” said Rytter Juhl. “I was in the Mixed Doubles final six years ago, but we were the underdogs then.”