The ageless pair was at it again, this time in the semifinals of the YONEX All England 2023.
Hendra Setiawan is 38 and Mohammad Ahsan 35, but there was no trace of age in either their sprightliness or the reserves of composure they could summon. The upshot was that, after 78 minutes of one of the most thrilling men’s doubles matches this year, the ‘Daddies’ marched into their fourth All England final, continuing the dreamlike story they have been crafting over the years.
At the receiving end of their craftiness were Liang Wei Keng/Wang Chang, India Open and Japan Open champions, whose combined age was 30 years less than the Daddies.
The semifinal was a match of extremes, with brilliant play, errors, and missed opportunities on either side. It all came to a boil after the interval in the third game, and when Ahsan blew a kill on first match point with Wang facing him with a broken racket, it appeared like the Indonesians had let the Chinese off the hook.
Yet, the Indonesians proved how masterly they are at avoiding the frustration of missed chances, as they gained two more match points, both denied. The Chinese earned three opportunities of their own; Liang squandered two with faulty serves, and then Setiawan played an exquisite return to set up sixth match point. Liang finally made the fatal error, for the Daddies to prevail 21-15 19-21 29-27.
The distraught Chinese couldn’t process what had happened. “My mind is blank,” said Liang.
As for Setiawan and Ahsan, there wasn’t much to express in words.
“Just try, try, try,” said Setiawan, explaining the secret.
“We are happy we can win today, it was so tough. Every time we made a mistake, we tried to forget it and keep the focus on the next point.”
“The All England is such an important tournament, we’re so happy to reach the final again,” added Ahsan. “We don’t think of winning or losing, we just keep the focus on the next point.”
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