A first HSBC BWF World Tour title beckons Kodai Naraoka as the world No.5 made the final of the LI-NING China Masters 2023. Facing him will be compatriot Kenta Nishimoto, for whom the title assumes special significance as it will guarantee him a place in the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals 2023.
Quite interestingly, the two have never met previously in international competition.
In semifinals action on Saturday, Naraoka held off another compatriot, Kanta Tsuneyama, in a tricky 69-minute affair, while Nishimoto had it far easier against local hope Zhao Jun Peng, easing through 21-17 21-8 in just 39 minutes.
Matsuyama/Shida booked their qualifying place for the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals 2023, coming from behind in the second game against Jeong Na Eun/Kim Hye Jeong. The Koreans led 17-12 in the second and looked set to force a decider, but the Japanese caught up with them at 20 and shot ahead 21-13 22-20.
Fukushima/Hirota, whose only chance to make the season finale was for their compatriots to lose the semifinal while they themselves had to win the title, bounced back against Chen Qing Chen/Jia Yi Fan after three straight losses.
In the longest match of the day, which went 90 minutes, Fukushima/Hirota fought back after losing the first game to take the next two: 14-21 21-16 21-15.
Satwik/Chirag in Sixth Final
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty have a 100 per cent record from five previous finals; on Sunday they take on Liang Wei Keng/Wang Chang and will look to make it six out of six.
The Indians had a quick opening game against He Ji Ting/Ren Xiang Yu, but the Chinese were more combative in the second, pulling level at 19-all. Rankireddy/Shetty closed it out before they could be dragged into a third game and exuded confidence for the final.
“We’re feeling really good, the way we played throughout this tournament. We’ve got back the rhythm, the way we played in the Asian Games. We’re hungry for one more. We love playing in China because they support both pairs no matter what. They love badminton,” said Rankireddy.
“We’ve played well with the slow shuttles here,” added Shetty. “Our defence is working and that’s a positive sign. We’ve been controlling the shuttles quite well, so happy with the way we’re playing.”
The mixed doubles will be a repeat of the World Championships 2023 final, with Seo Seung Jae/Chae Yu Jung taking on Zheng Si Wei/Huang Ya Qiong. The Chinese have won their last three contests, and will be looking for their sixth title of the season.
The only all-China final will be women’s singles, with Chen Yu Fei taking on Han Yue. Chen will be looking for her season’s fourth title, while Han, who has never beaten her compatriot in five outings, is looking for her second.