Resurgent Men’s Doubles combo Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong and comeback man Liew Daren provided the silver lining on a cloudy day for the hosts at the Perodua Malaysia Masters 2018 today.
Olympic silver medallists Goh and Tan, who only got back together recently after extended stints with other partners, held their nerve in a tight finish against World champions Zhang Nan/Liu Cheng (China), 12-21 21-18 21-18, to provide solace for the home crowd after the exit of Mixed Doubles spearheads Chang Peng Soon/Goh Liu Ying and Women’s Singles ace Goh Jin Wei.
Earlier, Liew Daren – having come through qualifying – continued his remarkable surge through the draw, beating Thailand’s Suppanyu Avihingsanon. Malaysia were also comforted by the presence of a local pair in the Mixed Doubles semi-finals – Goh Soon Huat/Shevon Jemie Lai having beaten compatriots Tan Kian Meng/Lai Pei Jing 21-14 21-15.
Liew’s 21-18 21-17 victory over Thailand’s Suppanyu Avihingsanon gave him a semi-final against the formidable Viktor Axelsen.
World champion Axelsen stayed focussed through the vicissitudes of his quarter-final against Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie, pulling through comfortably at the end after a sticky phase mid-match.
Christie enjoyed his best spell in the second game with his soft strokes from the back forcing Axelsen to constantly lunge forward; the Indonesian mixed his game well and kept his opponent guessing. But he played right into his opponent’s hands in the beginning of the third; in his urgency to get off to a good start, Christie was too rushed while his opponent was alert for the half-chances that came his way.
Soon he had created enough openings to get the big smashes in, and jog away to a 21-15 19-21 21-12 victory.
“It was easier to control the shuttle today, compared to yesterday,” said Axelsen. “Jonatan Christie is an upcoming player, on his day he can beat any player in the world.”
The other half will feature Axelsen’s compatriot Hans-Kristian Vittinghus against Japan’s Kenta Nishimoto.
In Women’s Doubles, Korea’s Lee So Hee and Shin Seung Chan won a dogged battle against Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi to make the semi-finals.
The quarter-final – worthy of a title clash – had both pairs engaged in an edgy thriller that swung Japan’s way in the first before the Koreans edged ahead in the second. The two games went the distance and the Japanese were the first to feel the toll, for their challenge wilted after 90 minutes, giving the Koreans a 22-24 22-20 21-14 victory.
Lee and Shin (featured image) will face Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl, who decimated Yu Xiaohan/Tang Jinhua 21-16 21-11 in their quarter-final.
Having spent just 40 minutes in overcoming potentially difficult opponents, Pedersen exuded confidence: “The score was comfortable,” acknowledged Pedersen. “I’m happy with how we played this match. We were well prepared – we always have big respect for Chinese pairs. We came in after playing the Premier Badminton League and we were able to train in India after the PBL and they took good care of us. We will be playing in Indonesia and India as well over the next two weeks; it’s good for our rhythm that we play top-level opponents.”
In Women’s Singles, fourth seed Carolina Marin struggled with illness and a stubborn opponent but still managed to get the better of Malaysia’s Lee Ying Ying in straight games, 21-17 21-16.
The Spaniard looked in trouble in the first game as Lee surprised her with her tenacity and inventive half-smashes that frequently had her out of position. But at 13-17 down Marin switched gears; there was greater urgency in her movement and bite in her strokes. Eight straight points gave her the game, and she carried on with that momentum to hold a comfortable lead in the second as well.
Lee, to her credit, salvaged what she could as she stayed in the points and made Marin work in each rally.
“She is my idol and I’m happy I could get to play with her,” said the young Malaysian. “I had a lead in the first game but got impatient and once she caught up with me, I found it hard to kill the shuttle. There are a lot of lessons for me, especially the speed she played at.”
Up next for Marin is top seed Tai Tzu Ying (Chinese Taipei), who had an unexpectedly smooth passage against China’s Chen Yufei, 21-18 21-15.
Mixed Doubles will see contenders from four countries. Hong Kong’s Tang Chun Man/Tse Ying Suet – who outplayed local stars Chan/Goh – take on another Malaysian pair, Goh/Lai, while fifth seeds Zheng Siwei/Huang Yaqiong (China) face Indonesia’s Hafiz Faisal/Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja.