French Open: ‘If An Se Young Can, So Can We’

At the end of a rollercoaster final of the YONEX French Open 2024 – one of the great women’s doubles battles of recent times – Chen Qing Chen and Jia Yi Fan emerged battle-scarred but victorious, as they have many times before. From coasting along to a seemingly quick victory, and then faced with the prospect of a defeat, and then on to victory in the face of overwhelming odds, the world No.1 pair showed what resilience was all about.

And so it was that Chen and Jia celebrated their second French Open title after rebounding from five match points down against Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida, who were perhaps left wondering what else they had to do to beat the four-time world champions. They were on the brink of a come-from-behind win that would have been their first over Chen and Jia in two years and after six consecutive defeats. It would also have been their first win over their formidable opponents in a final.

It was not to be. The Chinese, all smiles at 10-3 in the second, found themselves faltering in the face of an inspired spell of play by their Japanese opponents. At 20-15 in the third, the wind in the Japanese’s sails had nearly taken them to safe harbour before a last-ditch stand by Chen and Jia blew them off course.

It was yet another reminder of the iron will that Chen and Jia have come to be known for; yet, in her moment of victory, Jia was to mention An Se Young, who had achieved a similar come-from-behind win over Tai Tzu Ying in the women’s singles semifinals.

“The match is never over until the last point, said Jia. “We didn’t think we were one point away from a loss. We kept our focus on how many points we had to get to win and we believed we could catch it. If An can do it, so can we.

“It is special to win here in the Olympic venue. We are looking forward to the Olympics. Of course we don’t know what will happen, because there’s still time to go, but we feel we can overcome the obstacles on the way.”

Shi Holds Firm Against Vitidsarn

In the men’s singles match that followed, their compatriot Shi Yu Qi overcame testy spells against world champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn to win his second French Open title.

In a final that featured Shi’s explosive bursts and Vitidsarn’s surreal defensive capabilities, the Chinese was up 19-16 in the first before four straight points took the Thai to game point. A weak lift from the net however invited a smash from the big-hitting Chinese, and Vitidsarn quickly fell behind in the second.

From a hopeless position of 12-20 Vitidsarn clawed his way back with seven straight points. Just before the Thai could level, however, the Chinese found his mark with another smash.

“I just did what I had to do,” said Shi. “It was like the Chen and Jia match – you play relaxed when you are about to lose. Of course he’s the world champion and a strong opponent, but he hasn’t been consistent after winning the world title. I was prepared to have a tough fight with him. We both were motivated to win, so it was a tough fight.”

No Stopping Rankireddy/Shetty

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty were in their fourth straight World Tour final. They had faltered in the previous three, but in Paris there was no stopping them.

Lee Jhe-Huei and Yang Po-Hsuan, whose big-hitting had decimated higher-ranked opponents, were neutralised by the Indians’ front-court game and all-round skills. It was their second French Open title in three years.

“Obviously it feels sweet,” said Shetty. “Paris has been special for us, we’ve always played well here. It’s an Olympic test venue and happy that we did well.

“They’ve had a good week, winning the German Open. They’ve been playing quite well, beating some good opposition. We knew it would be a good contest. They are a formidable pair, although their ranking isn’t high. Happy that we could take the first game and slowly up it in the second.”


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