‘Minions’ Motor On – Day 5: Yonex-Sunrise India Open 2018

It is a measure of the dominance of Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo that, on a semi-finals day with several fiercely contested matches, the Indonesians finished victors in just 27 minutes.

That they did it against seasoned competitors and compatriots Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan was doubly significant. The young duo blitzed the two-time World champions with a typical display of blinding speed and quicksilver reflexes to make the final of the Yonex-Sunrise Dr. Akhilesh Das Gupta India Open 2018, 21-11 21-16.

Ahsan could only marvel at his young compatriots despite the whipping he’d been handed: “They’re the best pair we’ve ever faced. They’re simply too quick. They were getting the attack at the beginning, not allowing us any rhythm… there’s a lot for us to do to catch up.”

Gideon and Sukamuljo’s (featured image) victory saw them continue their astonishing run that started in March last year – in this period, they’ve won eight major titles, and are one victory away from a ninth.

The victors were modest: “It wasn’t easy,” said Sukamuljo. “Their control is very good, and it’s hard to guess where the shuttle is going.”

The Indonesians take on Denmark’s Kim Astrup/Anders Skaarup Rasmussen, who beat China’s Han Chengkai/Zhou Haodong 21-19 21-14.

Polii/Rahayu Win Marathon

Indonesia had earlier ensured their presence in the Women’s Doubles final, with Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu’s dogged persistence seeing them through after 81 minutes against Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl, 21-14 19-21 21-18.

The Indonesians were stuck in a contentious battle; both Polii and Rahayu expended themselves with relentless smashing against the well-organised defence of the Danes. It was even until 15 in the third, after which a few errors crept in on the Danish side, and that was all Polii and Rahayu needed as they kept their noses ahead at the death.

The Danes were satisfied despite the loss: “It was a great match to be in,” said Pedersen. “The Indonesians played really good today, we maybe felt we were 5 percent lower than in Malaysia. It’s been a long trip for us, but we’re proud that we gave all we could today. That’s why we came close. It was just the small things that made the difference.”

The Indonesians face Thailand’s Rawinda Prajongjai/Jongkolphan Kititharakul – 21-19 21-17 winners over China’s Du Yue/Li Yinhui.

Zulkarnain Falls Short

Meanwhile, the inspired run of Malaysia’s Iskandar Zulkarnain – who made the semi-finals having started from the qualifying rounds – ended after a long battle with China’s Shi Yuqi.

The third game was a slugfest, with neither player holding himself back. Zulkarnain’s defence had seen him eclipse Kidambi Srikanth and Sameer Verma in earlier rounds, and it was just as spectacular today. His stonewalling helped him to a 16-12 lead in the third, but a tumble on the floor seemed to affect him briefly as he lost points in a hurry. Still, towards the end it teetered on the edge, with one rally going 42 shots, before the Malaysian judged wrongly on Shi’s second match point.

Shi’s final opponent will be Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen, who made his first final since July last year with an impeccable show against China’s Qiao Bin 23-21 21-16.

Qiao had the lead in both games, but Chou was stubborn under pressure, with his defence being a standout feature. Chou anticipated Qiao’s attacking lines well, and the Chinese, having thrown everything into breaching Chou’s defences, found himself short of answers when the shuttle returned.

“I was on the court for a long time but I still had fun. I know how to play him, it was about working hard all through the match. I was confident and I felt I could last longer than before, I felt I could play any shot because he pushed every shot (within range) so I pushed back. In the second he lost his focus. Last year I was in the final here; I’ve been training hard, tried many new things during practice. I have the opportunity this time.”

Zhang in Pusarla’s Way

USA’s Beiwen Zhang shrugged off an injury niggle in her right foot to outlast Hong Kong’s Cheung Ngan Yi. Zhang recovered from the quick loss of the first game with her stubborn retrieving skills coming to the fore; she had a big lead through the decider but Cheung made her fight all the way, saving three match points before eventually faltering, giving Zhang the victory at 14-21 21-12 21-19.

In the last match of the day, defending champion Pusarla V Sindhu kept India’s hopes alive into the final day with a demolition job of Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon, 21-13 21-15.

The other Indians in action on semi-finals day, Pranaav Jerry Chopra/Sikki Reddy, were outplayed by Denmark’s Mathias Christiansen/Christinna Pedersen, who take on Indonesia’s Praveen Jordan/Melati Daeva Oktavianti in the Mixed Doubles final.

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