These are a collection of my reports of the India Open. It’s a long post, and might test your patience 🙂
JWALA-DIJU FALTER AT THE POST
Taufik Hidayat, Pi Hongyan emerge singles champions at India Open
Dev S Sukumar. Hyderabad
V Diju and Jwala Gutta narrowly missed an opportunity to create history for India, falling in the mixed doubles final of the India Open GP Gold tournament here on Sunday. Diju and Jwala were outfoxed by Indonesian pair Flandy Limpele and Vita Marissa 21-14 21-17, but the Indians had nothing to be ashamed of, for they gave their opponents plenty of trouble.
Some half-an-hour earlier, Taufik Hidayat kept his personal demons away as he vanquished Malaysian Hafiz Hashim in a beauty of a match, 21-18 21-19, but Malaysia had the consolation of taking the men’s doubles gold. Top seeds Lee Wan Wah/ Choong Tan Fook were too quick and powerful for Hendri Saputra and Hendra Wijaya (Indonesia), while world No.4 Pi Hongyan won her first title since 2006 with a gutsy win over Malaysia’s Julia Wong. China took one gold, when women’s doubles pair Ma Jin and Wang Xiaoli got past Vita Marissa and Nadya Melati in straight games.
Jwala and Diju’s entry into the arena at Gachibowli Stadium was welcomed by a rapturous Sunday crowd. The stadium was three-quarters full, a rare sight in Indian badminton. But Flandy is an old fox, having played top-level badminton for over a decade, and he controlled the play well, while Vita pinned the Indian duo with her hard drives from up front. The first game was over in quick time, but the Indians picked up in the second, and had the measure of the Indonesians. Diju as usual was solid at the back, while Jwala nipped away at the net, and the Indonesians began to look shaky as the Indians ran up a 17-13 lead. It was here that they lost patience as they tried to win quick points. The left-handed Flandy served excellently under pressure and with Vita patrolling the net, notched up eight points in a row to take the title. It was a mixture of the Indians’ lack of experience and the Indonesians’ sharpness that did the trick. Jwala was to admit that “the Indonesians played better… we should have been more patient.” But the result confirms that the two are among the world’s best mixed doubles pairs, and will soon be in the top ten.
The two singles finals were a contrast. Pi Hongyan’s match against Julia Wong resembled a theatrical piece full of long dialogues and frequent fumbles — it wasn’t beautiful, but it was tense all the same. Hongyan couldn’t bring her rally game because Julia kept cutting her off, and until mid-way through the second game the Malaysian was on top. Then Hongyan asked for a shuttle change and Julia refused — that sparked something deep within the Frenchwoman and she whipped her opponent. “I had to do something,” Hongyan said. “The drift was affecting my control and Julia was playing well. I slowed the game and got more patient, and she started committing errors.”
But the match of the day was obviously Taufik Hidayat against Hafiz Hashim — the all-round genius of the Indonesian against the lazy elegance of the Malaysian. There were moments when the match felt like a physical rendering of a symphony — for there was not a step placed in rashness or in belligerence. Both Taufik and Hafiz glided on court; and on some counts, the Malaysian even outmatched the Indonesian. His footwork was astonishing — indeed, he was the one making Taufik do the running. At the net Taufik is a famed master, but Hafiz on the day beat Taufik at the dribble so many times that it was a pity there had to be a loser.
The match ebbed and flowed — at times Taufik leading, at other times Hafiz. At 18-19 in the second Hafiz made the critical error with a high serve; Taufik jumped high and smashed, and then closed out without fuss. One suspects that he was playing at his second gear only, but even that was sufficient to keep everyone spellbound.
Results (all finals):
Men’s Singles: Taufik Hidayat (Ina) bt Hafiz Hashim (Mas) 21-18 21-19
Women’s Singles: Pi Hongyan (Fra) bt Julia Wong (Mas) 17-21 21-15 21-14
Men’s Doubles: Choong Tan Fook/ Lee Wan Wah (Mas) bt Hendri Saputra/ Hendra Wijaya (Ina) 21-9 21-11
Women’s Doubles: Ma Jin/ Wang Xiaoli bt Vita Marissa/ Nadya Melati (Ina) 21-14 21-13
Mixed Doubles: Vita Marissa/ Flandy Limpele bt Jwala G/ Diju V (Ind) 21-14 21-17
JWALA/ DIJU IN INDIA OPEN FINAL
Taufik and Hafiz mesmerise the crowd with their strokeplay
Dev S Sukumar.Hyderabad
It was eventually left to the doubles to salvage India’s pride at the India Open GP Gold tournament on Saturday. With the more fancied singles players having fallen by Friday, Jwala and Diju carried on the momentum of their successful European season, with a 21-11 21-12 whipping of Malayasia’s Ong Jien Guo and Chong Sook Chin in the semifinals. They will play the accomplished pair of Flandy Limpele and Vita Marissa, bronze medallists at the World Championships, in the final on Sunday. Jwala and Shruti Kurien, however, fell in the women’s doubles semifinals. In the women’s singles, top seed Pi Hongyan of France will take on Julia Wong of Malaysia in the final.
But what a story unfolded in the men’s singles! Taufik Hidayat and Hafiz Hashim, the most stylish strokeplayers of this generation, reached the men’s singles final with an exhibition of the highest class. While Taufik was masterly in his manipulation of Indonesian teammate Tommy Sugiarto — killing the youngster sweetly with his placement and courtcraft, Hafiz was all languid brilliance against the speed and power of the young Chinese, Chen Long.
Long had appeared fearsome in his run to the semifinals, having upset world No.1 Lee Chong Wei in the first round. The mighty smashes and rapier backhands appeared to have no match, but Hafiz left him befuddled with his mix of deception and accuracy. The Malaysian kept a leash on the shuttle, making it tumble over the net time and again, leaving Chen no margin to work with. When he lifted the shuttle he kept it so deep that the Chinese could not bring his fearsome weapon, the smash, to bear. The first set was over in a flash, but Chen worked his way in by the second, and the match appeared to go to a tight finish.
Hafiz, however, had the legs and the breath to last the distance. The final match will showcase the best of contemporary badminton, for it features a master craftsman against a man who looks poetic on court.
Earlier, Taufik, who has slowly worked his way into the event after a mediocre first two rounds, played the puppetter to his young compatriot. Tommy Sugiarto has impressive running ability, and a good all-round game, but he was no match for the former Olympic champion. Taufik stood in the centre of his court and waved the racquet like a magic wand, directing the shuttle to all the extreme corners; caressing it when needed, and unleashing his famous weapon, the backhand smash, from time to time. Tommy Sugiarto displayed a mighty heart — but his best was not good enough. It rarely is against Taufik Hidayat — for Tommy belongs to the world of men, and Taufik to a higher realm. “I’m feeling good,” said Taufik. “Tommy runs well, so it was difficult. If I win the final it will mean I’m in top form, not otherwise. The crowd has been supportive, I’m suprised at the reception I’ve got here.”
Results (all semifinals):
Men’s singles: Taufik Hidayat (Ina) bt Tommy Sugiarto (Ina) 21-13 21-11
Hafiz Hashim (Mas) bt Chen Long (Chn) 21-18 19-21 21-15
Women’s singles: Pi Hongyan (Fra) bt Yu Hirayama (Jpn) 21-7 21-14
Julia Wong (Mas) bt Zhang Beiwen (Sing) 19-21 21-13 21-15
Women’s doubles: Vita Marissa/ Nadya Melati (Ina) bt Jwala G/ Shruti Kurien 21-17 21-9
Ma Jin/ Wang Xiaoli (Chn) bt Jo Novita/ Endang N 21-9 21-6
Mixed Doubles: Jwala/ Diju (Ind) bt Ong Jien/ Chong Sook (Mas) 21-11 21-12; Flandy Limpele/ Vita Marissa (Ina) bt Ahmad Tantowi/ Puspita Dili (Ina) 21-10 21-19
Men’s doubles: 1-Choong Tan Fook/ Lee Wan Wah (Mas) bt Candra Wijaya/ Joko Riyadi 21-6 22-20
Hendra Wijaya/ Hendri Saputra (Ina) bt Alvent Yulianto/ Hendra Gunawan (Ina) 21-13 21-15
MS: Taufik Hidayat vs Hafiz Hashim
WS: Pi Hongyan vs Julia Wong
MD: Tan Fook/ Wan Wah vs Hendra Wijaya/ Hendri Saputra
WD: Vita Marissa/ Nadya Melati vs Ma Jin/ Wang Xiaoli (Chn)
MXD: Jwala/ Diju vs Vita Marissa/ Flandy Limpele
IT ALL GOES WONG FOR SAINA
Dev S Sukumar.Hyderabad
Home favourite Saina Nehwal fell in a shock quarterfinal defeat to a player with a game that was a mirror image of her own at the India Open GP Gold here on Friday, ending India’s challenge in the singles. Saina lost 12-21 21-13 21-18. Mixed doubles pair Jwala and Diju however progressed into the semifinals with a smart win over a Chinese pair.
The first set gave no indication of things to come. Saina was her usual powerful self, raining smashes on the Malaysian — a player she’s beaten thrice before. Julia seemed overwhelmed by the power of the Indian, and a semifinal slot seemed a formality.
Things changed dramatically after they changed sides. Julia, who had been on the receiving end, now doled out as good as she had got — jumping high, smashing hard and winning most of the exchanges. She raced to leads of 9-1 and 12-3; Saina seemed out of ideas, and was unable to alter the pace or rhythm. The errors came as frequently as the hard hits, helping Julia stay ahead. By the middle of the second set the Malaysian was on a high, playing exactly the sort of game Saina is adept at — the high pace, the sharp smashes, the quick drives.
With the drift behind her in the third set, Saina’s one hope would have been to establish an early lead and put some distance behind her, but Julia kept abreast. The Malaysian had an answer to everything that was thrown up, until the Indian ran out of questions to ask. It was the predicament of a hard puncher unused to taking the big shots, and Saina will perhaps need to execute plans B and C in such situations.
“In the first set I made many errors,” Julia said, “but in the second I played freely and decided to attack. She made a few errors at the net as well.”
Saina admitted she hadn’t played well enough to beat Julia. “Many of my half-smashes found the net,” she said. “I wasn’t judging my points. I should’ve played safe. I won the first set easily and took it easy in the second, but in the third I couldn’t smash as much.”
Earlier, Jwala and Diju were untroubled by a green Chinese combination, flicking and dribbling and softening the pace — which upset their attacking instincts and they crumbled as expected.
Meanwhile, top seed Pi Hongyan wriggled out of a tight spot the second match in a row. The top seed showed great resolve to get through the draining match against Chinese Jia Jingyun, who did a good imitation of a returning machine.
Important results: Quarterfinals:
Women’s Singles: 5-Julia Wong bt 2-Saina Nehwal 12-21 21-13 21-18; 1-Pi Hongyan bt Xia Jingyun 22-20 18-21 21-14
Mixed Doubles: 2-Jwala Gutta/ V Diju bt Tao Jiaming/ Wang Xiaoli (Chn) 21-13 21-13; 3-Flandy Limpele/ Vita Marissa (Ina) bt Hendri Saputra/ Vanessa Neo (Ina) 24-22 23-25 21-13.
Men’s Singles: Chen Long (Chn) bt Lee Tseun Seng (Mas) 21-15 21-8; Hafiz Hashim (Mas) bt Andre Tedjono (Ina) 21-18 14-21 21-16.
SAINA IN QUARTERS; INDIAN MEN FALTER
Dev S Sukumar.Hyderabad
The Indian challenge at the USD 120,000 India Open GP Gold stuttered on Thursday, with only Saina Nehwal in the singles managing to enter the quarterfinals. All the men’s singles contenders — national champion Arvind Bhat, Anand Pawar and Anup Sridhar — fell in the third round, but only the last-named would feel bitter about his performance.
Anup was on course for a straight-sets win against the left-handed Malaysian Tan Chun Seang, but let the lead slip with an injudicious choice of defensive strokes that helped his opponent suddenly assume menacing proportions. Once the Malaysian found his rhythm Anup found it hard to stop him.
Arvind Bhat has been in fine touch this season, and was expected to trouble, if not upset, the world No.7 Taufik Hidayat. But the Indonesian left the crowd breathless with his mastery, dismantling the Indian bit by bit until Bhat seemed out of his league. Taufik demonstrated the perfect way to play a tall player like Bhat, disallowing the Indian the depth to get his smashes, and taking away his rhythm with a range of short jabs. Arvind looked for the most part like a musician with an instrument that was out of tune, and nobody could grudge the Indonesian his place in the quarters, for it was a rich display of badminton.
Anand Pawar too had no answers to China’s Chen Long, who had upset world No.1 Lee Chong Wei in the first round. Anand was fast and powerful, but the Chinese was faster still, nailing his smashes from improbable positions and displaying a wicked backhand that caught Pawar out of step.
Meanwhile, Saina Nehwal entered the quarterfinals with a commanding 21-8 21-8 victory over Hong Kong’s Chan Hung Yung, and will next play Malaysia’s Julia Wong. Top seed Pi Hongyan survived a Chinese challenge to make the quarters; while sixth seed Yu Hirayama of Japan was made to sweat by young Indian PC Thulasi.
Results: All Pre-Quarterfinals:
Men’s Singles: Taufik Hidayat (Ina) bt Arvind Bhat (Ind) 21-14 21-11; Chen Long (Chn) bt Anand Pawar (Ind) 21-12 21-12; Tan Chun Seang (Mas) bt Anup Sridhar 9-21 21-19 21-18;
Women’s Singles: Saina Nehwal bt Chan Hung Yung (Hkg) 21-8 21-8; Pi Hongyan (Fra) bt Wang Shixian (Chn) 21-19 21-19.
ARVIND, ANAND IN GREAT TOUCH
Dev S Sukumar. Hyderabad
Arvind Bhat, Anup Sridhar and Anand Pawar progressed into the third round of the India Open GP on a day when a young Chinese team’s march continued relentlessly. Second seed Saina Nehwal had no problems in her first round match against Daphne Ng, but national champion Sayali Gokhale lost a hard-fought 21-15 21-23 21-14 result to fifth seed Julia Wong of Malaysia. Apart from men’s singles No.1 Lee Chong Wei and no.3 seed Chetan Anand, most of the other seeds progressed.
The Chinese machinery was of course in full tilt, sweeping match after match. Two of their reverses came against Indians Arvind Bhat and Anand Pawar. Arvind established an early lead against Du Pengyu in his first round match, nearly lost the game, but eventually went on to win the match in three games. For much of the early session Arvind looked in sublime touch, running up a 10-2 and 15-5 lead before committing numerous errors and allowing Pengyu to equal at 18-all before somehow pulling off the game.
Mumbaikar Anand too looked in excellent form, darting around speedily and matching China’s Wen Kai shot for shot. The loss of a close second game didn’t seem to affect his energy levels and he cruised in the third.
Important results: MS: 2nd rd: Arvind Bhat bt Ashton Chen (Sing) 21-10, 21-12; Anup Sridhar bt Anshuman Hazarika (Ind) 21-8 21-8; Zhou Wenlong (Chn) bt Chetan Anand 21-9 22-24 21-8; Anand Pawar bt Wen Kai (Chn) 21-15 19-21 21-16; Chen Long bt Guru Sai Dutt (Ind) 21-17 21-16;
WS: 1st rd: 1-Pi Hongyan (Fra) bt Trupti Murgunde (Ind) 21-18 21-18; Wang Shixian (Chn) bt Neha Pandit (Ind) 21-13 21-11; Wen Cheng (Chn) bt Aditi Mutatkar 14-21 21-7 21-7; 3-Wong Mew Choo (Mas) bt Arundhati Pantwane 16-21, 21-13 21-19; Ashwini Ponappa bt Fu Mingtian (Sing) 23-21 21-14; Saina Nehwal bt Daphne Ng (Mas) 21-6 21-10.
MS: 1st rd: Arvind Bhat bt Du Pengyu (Chn) 21-19 7-21 21-13;
You cannot play percentage game against Chinese: Arvind
This was Arvind Bhat’s first ever win against a Chinese. The national champion nearly lost the first game after a huge lead, but Arvind said the errors couldn’t be helped. “You cannot play a percentage game against these young Chinese,” he said.. “They’ll get comfortable with it, so the thing to do is surprise them by attacking suddenly, or trying different shots. That’s when you tend to give away points, but that’s can’t be helped. The Chinese are quite tough, they surprise you with sudden shots and their bursts of pace. You have to play your game, but you cannot be conservative.” Arvind’s took world champion Lin Dan to three games at the Swiss Open — the experience has doubtless helped him to acclimatise to the style of the Chinese.
CHONG WEI HAS THE RUNS
Dev S Sukumar. Hyderabad
After all the promise of providing Indian fans a glimpse of his talent, world No.1 Lee Chong Wei emerged as a guy who just didn’t have the stomach for a fight. The stomach had apparently given way to food poisoning the night before, or so he claimed. “Diarrhoea,” he said, was the reason behind his shock first-round loss to Chinese youngster Chen Long. Then, of course, he blamed the chair umpire for good measure, claiming poor decisions had resulted in the loss.
The loss of the world No.1 and Olympic silver medallist was the feature of the opening day of the India Open Grand Prix Gold here on Wednesday — which otherwise had some inspiring performances, especially from the Indians.
Lee came to Hyderabad riding a rich vein of form, emerging second best only to world champion Lin Dan of China. His loss to a Chinese underlined what a formidable line-up China has, for Chen Long is not even in the senior squad.
When Chong Wei took the first game of his opening match 21-7 against Chen, most assumed the match would be over in a flash. Perhaps Lee did relax a bit, and Chen got stuck in. After 11-all in the second it was Chen all the way, forcing the game into a decider.
The Chinese, a former world junior champion, refused to ease the pedal and led all the way in the third, establishing a 18-12 lead. Lee came back remarkably, taking the next six points to tie at 18-all. Then came the turning point at 19-18. Chen served; Lee rushed forward but the shuttle went above him and Chen was awarded the point. Lee contested the decision, saying he had been unprepared, but the chair umpire, AP Singh, stuck to the score. Chen closed out the match with a smash.
That apparently was the trigger for Lee to complain about the umpiring. But senior BWF referee Muralidharan dismissed his claims. “AP Singh is one of our most experienced officials. The decision cannot be over-ruled. Lee came from 12-18 to equal the score, so maybe he was disappointed when the point went against him. He says he was suffering from an upset stomach… perhaps he should have said that before the match.”
Lee, despite his impressive performances over the last two years, has a record of being a poor loser. He was the favourite at the 2007 World Championship at home in Kuala Lumpur, but succumbed to nerves in the quarterfinal. He then went on to blame the national coach, Yap Kim Hock, for his performance, claiming Yap had put too much pressure on him during training. The press refused to buy the story and lampooned him, while Malaysian great Eddy Choong said he would have liked to give Lee “a piece of my mind”.
AP Singh was unmoved by the drama. “If Lee had been unprepared for the point, he should not have moved,” he said. “It’s clearly stated in the rule book. You have to either gesture, or not move towards the shuttle, Then the point will be a ‘let’. Once you move, the rally is on. I don’t know why he claimed the judging was poor.”
LEE CHONG WEI FAVOURITE FOR INDIA OPEN
Dev S Sukumar. Hyderbad
The main draw of the US $ 120,000 India Open, a Grand Prix Gold event, will begin on Wednesday with a high-profile draw that’s surprised skeptics. Several top players, including world No.1 Lee Chong Wei and the pin-up boy of badminton, Taufik Hidayat, have turned up despite fears that they would skip the event. The withdrawal of the England team last week did not spark off similar action from any other team, including the Chinese, who have turned up with a strong second-string side.
Indeed, the only player whose withdrawal was a disappointment was Zhu Jingjing, a finalist at the China Open last year, where she beat world no.1 Zhou Mi before falling in the final. Zhu is fast emerging alongside teammates like Jiang Yanjiao, Wang Lin and Wang Yihan as the flagbearers of Chinese women’s singles badminton after the Beijing Olympics.
The men’s singles has a draw of 64, led by Lee Chong Wei. Since late last year the Malaysian has entered five straight Super Series finals, winning three. He comes to Hyderbad with a win over Lin Dan at the Swiss Open behind him.
Apart from Lee, there is the talismanic Taufik Hidayat, whose form and performance are impossible to predict – for he swings to the tunes of his own peculiar moods. But Taufik is also a showman, and an expectant crowd will hope he can remain in the draw at least until the quarterfinals, where he is likely to meet Arvind Bhat.
Bhat himself is no pushover. He acquitted himself well against world champion Lin Dan at the Swiss Open – stretching the eventual winner to three games in the first round. He should be able to beat Taufik if he gets into the quarters. However, in the first round awaits a Chinese of unknown quantity – Du Pengyu. Pengyu himself has a win over Taufik, and Arvind just might have his hands full early on.
Other Indians, such as Anup Sridhar, Chetan Anand and P Kashyap can go as far as the quarterfinals, and maybe even further.
The women’s singles is likely to be a battle between No.4 Pi Hongyan of France and India’s Saina Nehwal. The other challengers, such as Wong Mew Choo (Malaysia) and Maria Yulianti (Indonesia) seemingly haven’t recovered from knee injuries. Japan’s Yu Hirayama might be their closest contender, and perhaps Wang Shixian, a semifinal loser to Saina at the World Juniors.
The doubles events have several world and All England champions in the mix. Three Indian pairs – Jwala/ Diju; Rupesh/ Sanave and Jwala/ Shruti – are in the form of their lives. If any of them can go on to win an event it will be one of the biggest moments in Indian badminton.
MS: Lee Chong Wei
Indian contender: Arvind Bhat
WS: Pi Hongyan
Indian contender: Saina Nehwal
MD: Joko Riyadi/ Candra Wijaya (INA)
Indian contenders: Sanave Thomas/ Rupesh Kumar
WD: Ma Jin/ Wang Xiaoli (CHN)
Indian contenders: Jwala Gutta/ Shruti Kurien
MXD: Flandy Limpele/ Vita Marissa (INA)
Indian contenders: Jwala Gutta/ V Diju