Zhao Yunlei became the first woman player to win five World titles after she claimed two crowns at the TOTAL BWF World Championships today.
Zhao defended both her titles won last year – Mixed Doubles with Zhang Nan and Women’s Doubles with Tian Qing – thereby equalling legends like Korea’s Park Joo Bong and her own compatriot Lin Dan. Zhao also has two Olympic gold medals from London 2012.
China clinched three titles overall; their hopes for a fourth went up in smoke when local heroes Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan sliced apart the challenge of Liu Xiaolong/Qiu Zihan in just 37 minutes.
Zhang/Zhao were up against Liu Cheng/Bao Yixin in the all-China Mixed Doubles final. The challengers stayed close in the first game, but once the champions surged ahead from 18-17, the second game was over in a jiffy: 21-17 21-11.
Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl came out guns blazing against Zhao and Tian Qing in the Women’s Doubles final. The Danes were all over the Chinese, creating openings and firing big smashes, to earn five match points at 20-15.
Zhao and Tian (above), in typical fashion, refused to yield. They picked off six straight points, and even though the Danes took the game on their eighth game point, the momentum had turned. The second game was a rout for the Danes, but the decider was even early on. At opportune moments, however, the Danes couldn’t drive home the advantage, with both Pedersen and Juhl erring when openings had been created. That was all the Chinese needed to close out the match 23-25 21-8 21-15.
“This year the title was special since there was only one Chinese pair in the Women’s Doubles semi-finals,” said Zhao.
Asked about her five World titles that put her on par with Park Joo Bong and Lin Dan, Zhao said: “I don’t count my World titles. Lin Dan is the flag bearer and role model for all of us. I feel honoured to be compared to him.”
Despite the loss, the Danes chose to look at the positives.
“We’re getting older – at least I am – and sometimes we ask: do we still have it? When you make the final, you know you are good enough. This has given us belief that we can be good at major events.”
China were in line for four titles when Liu/Qiu took the court against Ahsan/Setiawan. The Chinese had displayed irresistible energy all through the week, taking down higher seeds like Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen (Denmark) and Hiroyuki Endo/Kenichi Hayakawa (Japan), but against the home pair, they were caught by the mesmeric quality of the Indonesians’ stroke play.
Ahsan and Setiawan, despite the roar of the crowd, played with serene unflappability. Setiawan’s genius at the net helped Ahsan pick out spaces on the opposite court, and although the Chinese were combative in the first, the Indonesians slipped past them.
The Chinese unravelled in the second, caught in a trance as their opponents played tape-hugging net shots and tricky flicks that caught them flat-footed. On a couple of occasions there was indecision too, with Liu and Qiu expecting the other to go for the shot. A flurry of errors followed, helping the Indonesians race to the finish, 21-17 21-14.
“This is for all Indonesians,” Ahsan said. “We were very calm, we put them under pressure. We were positive all through. The support from our fans obviously helped. We had to stay calm because showing emotion on court would have been a waste of energy.”
Their triumph today gave Setiawan his third World title after 2007 (with Markis Kido) and 2013 (with Ahsan).
Click here for results.