SUPER SERIES MASTERS FINALS
LIUZHOU, CHINA (DEC 14-18)
LIUZHOU: Cold winter winds were blowing outside, but inside the Li Ning Gymnasium yesterday, World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei turned on the heat on the opening day of the Super Series Masters Finals to win his Group A match in style.
Top seed Chong Wei overcame Japan’s Sho Sasaki, who was blowing hot and cold, 21-11, 18-21, 21-12 to signal a clear warning of his intention to capture the Masters Finals for the fourth time in a row.
He will take on Indonesia’s Simon Santoso in his second group match and a win will guarantee him a place in the semi-finals.
Yesterday, the Malaysian got off to a rousing start when he wrapped up the first game in quick fashion with his slicing chops and tantalising net play to break Sho’s rhythm.
The clever play immediately won the admiration of the local fans here.
The tempo changed in the second game with Sho tailgating the Malaysian all the way until 8-9 before he took over for an 11-9 lead. Playing with more confidence, Sho managed to steal the second game. But it was all Chong Wei in the rubber as he wrapped up the win.
“I started well but committed quite a number of errors in the second game and paid for it. I got into the groove again and Sho was too tired to strike back,” said Chong Wei.
He was also all smiles for another reason yesterday – the overwhelming support of the Chinese crowd.
“I seem to have a large following here and that feels good,” said Chong Wei.
On his match against Simon today, the Malaysian said: “It has been a year since I last played him. I am sure it will be a tricky one.”
Yesterday, Simon, who only arrived at midnight on the eve of the tournament, could not give his best and went down tamely 13-21, 9-21 to Peter-Gade Christensen of Denmark.
“It is not an excuse but I did not play my best. It was too short a time to get ready for a big match against Peter. I will be in better condition tomorrow,” said Simon.
There was one upset in Group B action when Japan’s Kenichi Tago managed to pull the rug from under Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia with a 19-21, 21-19, 21-7 win after a one-hour battle.
There were also surprises in the women’s singles when Sung Ji-hyun defeated China’s Wang Yihan in Group A while India’s Saina Nehwal also played one of her best matches to beat South Korea’s Bae Youn-joo to keep her semi-final hopes alive.
Meanwhile, Malaysia’s top pair Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong played one of their best matches in recent times but still went down to South Koreans Lee Yong-dae-Jung Jae-sung 21-18, 15-21, 18-21 in 61 minutes in their Group B opener.
Said Kien Keat: “It is sad to lose this way but we played a good game. I trust Boon Heong better now and there is much improvement.
“For now, what is more important is to get that feeling and confidence back in our game.
“Our campaign is still not over yet and we will go all out. Winning is a bonus but the ultimate goal is to end the year feeling satisfied about ourselves and our game.”
Boon Heong, who almost caused panic when he sought medical treatment for his back problem in the decider, said: “I picked it up during the China Open but it is nothing to be worried about.
“We will be ready for the Danish pair next (Carsten Mogensen-Mathias Boe).”
Group A: Peter-Gade Christensen (Den) bt Simon Santoso (Ina) 21-13, 21-9; Lee Chong Wei (Mas) bt Sho Sasaki (Jpn) 21-11, 18-21, 21-12.
Group B: Lin Dan (Chn) bt Chen Long (Chn) 21-15, 19-21, 21-17; Kenichi Tago (Jpn) bt Taufik Hidayat (Ina) 19-21, 21-19, 21-7.
Group A: Chai Biao-Guo Zhengdong (Chn) bt Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng (Chn) 21-15, 14-21, 21-19; Hirokatsu Hashimoto-Noriyasu Hirata (Jpn) bt Ko Sung-hyun-Yoo Yeon-seong (Kor) 21-19, 18-21, 21-9.
Group B: Jung Jae-sung-Lee Yong-dae (Kor) bt Koo Kien Keat- Tan Boon Heong (Mas) 18-21, 21-15, 21-18; Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen (Den) bt Mohd Ahsan-Bona Septano (Ina) 21-16, 18-21, 21-19.
Group A: Tine Baun (Den) bt Juliane Schenk (Ger) 21-12, 21-11; Sung Ji-hyun (Kor) bt Wang Yihan (Chn) 13-21, 21-16, 21-19.
Group B: Wang Xin (Chn) bt Sayaka Sato (Jpn) 21-7, 21-9; Saina Nehwal (Ind) bt Bae Youn-joo (Kor) 21-14, 17-21, 21-14.
Group A: Ha Jung-eun-Kim Min-jung (Kor) bt Cheng Wen-hsing- Chien Yu-chin (Tpe) 21-18, 21-18; Wang Xiaoli-Yu Yang (Chn) bt Lok Yan Poon-Ying Suet Tse (Hkg) 21-9, 21-11.
Group B: Tian Qing-Zhao Yunlei (Chn) bt Christinna Pedersen- Kamilla Rytter Juhl (Den) 21-10, 20-22, 21-14; Mizuki Fujii-Reika Kakiiwa (Jpn) bt Shizuka Matsuo-Mami Naito (Jpn) 11-21, 21-17, 21-10.
Group A: Zhang Nan-Zhao Yunlei (Chn) bt Xu Chen-Ma Jin (Chn) 21-18, 19-21, 21-18; Tontowi Ahmad-Liliyana Natsir (Ina) bt Robert Blair-Gabrielle White (Sco-Eng) 21-10, 21-12.
Group B: Joachim Fischer Nielsen-Christinna Pedersen (Den) bt Sudket Prapakamol-T. Saralee (Tha) 21-15, 21-17; Chen Hung-ling- Cheng Wen-hsing (Tpe) bt Ikeda Shintaro-Shiota Reiko (Jpn) 19-21, 21-16, 21-17.