Dubai fan favourite Kidambi Srikanth crashed out of the Dubai World Superseries Finals at the Hamdan Sports Complex on Thursday, frustrated by his failure to recapture the sparkling form that swept him to four tour titles this season.
Again plagued by inconsistency and unsure strokes, India’s top gun fell in straight games to Chou Tien Chen who, like Kidambi, was under pressure, also have lost his opening Group B match on Wednesday.
The do-or-die battle looked to be heading towards a decider – with Kidambi ahead 17-14 – when he suddenly slumped into an error-strewn patch of play, gifting four consecutive points to his appreciative rival. Chou seized full advantage and went on to take the honours, 21-18 21-18.
Ruing his demise, the vanquished 24-year-old reflected on his erratic performances following a break after back-to-back victories in Denmark and France in October.
“I lost momentum with that break. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that but it isn’t something you can predict. You have to be at your best in tournaments like these where there are top players in all the matches,” assessed the loser candidly.
On the opposite side of the net, Chou was ecstatic to stay alive in the season finale and now contemplates a seismic clash with Viktor Axelsen on Friday. The Chinese Taipei ace will have to put the defending champion out of the tournament if he is to progress to the semi-finals.
“I tried my best today. I had nothing to lose. We are all top players so we are about the same level. I wanted to restrict his attack and I am happy to win,” said the 27-year-old.
The vocal and enthusiastic Indian fans still had something to smile about though as PV Sindhu cemented her place in the semi-finals with an easy victory over Sayaka Sato 21-13 21-12. With a win over He Bingjiao, Sindhu will now carry the weight of Indian expectations as she and Akane Yamaguchi have qualified from Group A.
Another surprise unfolded in Men’s Doubles Group A with top seeds and newly-crowned joint BWF Male Players of the Year, Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, losing in straight games to last year’s Dubai runners-up, Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda.
The smooth operators from Japan were all over their arch-rivals, attacking and defending equally effectively to book their semi-final place, 21-17 21-17 in 39 minutes.
“We have had some ups and downs this season. We wanted to make sure we won tonight and boost our confidence. We were in the final last year but we didn’t win. This time we want to make up for that,” said Kamura.
The high-flying Indonesians, winners of six titles on the MetLife BWF World Superseries circuit this year, admitted they under-performed and credited their opponents’ sturdy defence for thwarting their attacking options. Gideon and Sukamuljo will now have to beat China’s Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen in straight games to reach the semi-finals.
Olympic and World champions, Tontowi Ahmad/Liliyana Natsir, signalled their intention to cap a good season with another big title – and one notably missing from their trophy cabinet. The Indonesians manoeuvred past Finals debutants, Tan Kian Meng/Lai Pei Jing of Malaysia (21-17 21-19) for their second successive win in Mixed Doubles Group B.
Surprisingly, it means the stellar duo will advance to their first Superseries Finals semi-final. In Group A, Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen of China overcame Indonesia’s other Mixed pair, Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto (21-12 19-21 21-16), to be two wins away from retaining their Dubai crown.
Chen also rescued her Women’s Doubles ambitions. Having lost their first match, she and Jia Yifan rebounded by beating Korea’s Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee, 21-14 21-17. The result leaves Group A tantalisingly poised with all four pairs having a 1-1 record going into the final round-robin stage tomorrow.
In Group B, Kamilla Rytter Juhl/Christinna Pedersen of Denmark pulled themselves together, after squandering game point in the first game, to oust Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Ya Ching/Wu Ti Jung (20-22 21-13 21-17).
In earlier matches Shi Yuqi created waves in Group B of Men’s Singles, working his way to a dogged upset of defending champion Viktor Axelsen. Axelsen led for much of the match but a stubborn Shi claimed the win 13-21 21-18 21-17
In Group A, Hong Kong’s Ng Ka Long kept himself in the hunt for a semi-final place beating top seed Son Wan Ho (Korea). The group qualifiers to the semi-finals will now be decided in the final match between Lee Chong Wei and Son.
Women’s Singles Group B saw Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand) beat defending champion Tai Tzu Ying (Chinese Taipei) and China’s Chen Yufei get the better of Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun.
In Group A, top seed Akane Yamaguchi (Japan) pocketed her second straight win, sending China’s He Bingjiao crashing to her second defeat in a 21-14 13-21 21-8 result.
Women’s Doubles Group A was thrown wide open with top seeds Shiho Tanaka/Koharu Yonemoto (Japan) notching up their first win, as did defending champions Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan. The four pairs are evenly matched now with a win and a loss each.
In Group B, Korea’s Jung Kyung Eun/Shin Seung Chan crashed to their second straight defeat, falling 21-18 21-13 to Japan’s Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota. Mixed Doubles champions in 2015, England’s Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock, were left in dire straits after a 18-21 21-18 21-14 loss to China’s Wang Yilyu/Huang Dongping, who have a foot in the semi-finals following their second straight win.
Hong Kong’s Tang Chun Man/Tse Ying Suet also rode their form to their second straight win, a 21-16 16-21 21-6 result over Japan’s Kenta Kazuno/Ayane Kurihara.
Friday’s sessions are from 9am-12noon, and 1pm-9pm. The semi-finals will be played on Saturday from 10am-3pm and 4pm- 9pm. The finals will be played on Sunday from 1pm -8pm.
Tickets are on sale at https://dubai.platinumlist.net/ and are also available at the door. For all information about the event visit www.dubaisuperseriesfinals.ae.