World #45 Kim Hye Rin and Yoo Hae Won ousted their second straight top ten Chinese pair at the Badminton Asia Championships, where for the 3rd time this year, Huang Yaqiong will be the only Chinese woman active on finals day.
By Don Hearn. Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)
Less then a year after ending a partnership that dated back to her middle school days, Korean veteran Yoo Hae Won is playing in the biggest final of her career. She has one Grand Prix title to her name and has been in one Grand Prix Gold final, but has never reached even the semi-final of a Superseries event.
Yoo Hae Won‘s 21-year-old partner Kim Hye Rin (pictured) has only been in one semi-final above the Grand Prix level. Despite that lack of experience, they ruled the day against two-time Superseries finalists and world #9 Huang Dongping and Li Yinhui.
Kim had numerous problems with service faults throughout the match but more than made up for it with her powerful attacking and all-round consistent play, while Yoo took control from all areas, especially at the net. Huang and Li seemed to lose their focus late in each game, culminating in Li Yinhui missing an easy net kill on the last rally.
The Koreans will face world #1 and defending champions Matsutomo/Takahashi in the final. The Japanese pair beat All England champions Chang/Lee in straight games. Yoo has lost to the Olympic gold medallists once with Kim and 5 times with her previous partner and has never beaten them. After beating Superseries Finals winners Chen/Jia, then Huang/Li on Saturday, the Koreans will be hoping their luck in Wuhan gets even better for Sunday.
He and Huang leave Huang all alone…again
He Bingjiao (pictured), a day after upsetting India Open winner and world #3 P. V. Sindhu, found herself as the lone hope for the home team in women’s singles. Last year, the Asian Championships had an all-Chinese final but since then, He is the only Chinese player to have won a Superseries-level event.
On Saturday, she faced world #5 Akane Yamaguchi for the first time since their junior days, when He scored her first win over the Japanese player, at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing. Unfortunately for He, being on home court was not enough as Yamaguchi won in straight games
Yamaguchi will attempt to be the first to beat world #1 Tai Tzu Ying since the group stage in Dubai. Tai has been unbeatable so far this year and she made quick work of giant-killer Lee Jang Mi, who had already seen off Sun Yu and Nozomi Okuhara.
Whoever wins the women’s singles will make history. There has never been an Asian Champion from Taiwan and Japan has yet to produce a singles champion, with Matsutomo and Takahashi having become the first ever Asian Champions from their nation when they won the doubles title last year.
In the mixed doubles, Huang Dongping and Wang Yilü had to bow to Swiss Open champions Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai (pictured). The Thais thus set up a repeat of the Singapore Open final, where they will attempt to finally unseat Lu Kai and Huang Yaqiong.
As at the All England and the Singapore Open, Huang Yaqiong will be the only Chinese woman active on Sunday. Even in India and Malaysia, the only other Chinese women were her partner or opponent but once again she is all alone. She and Lu Kai beat 2014 champions Lee/Chau of Hong Kong in straight games to reach their sixth final of the year.
Lin finds his form against Lee
In a marked contrast to his shameful disintegration of last weekend, Lin Dan (pictured) showed brilliant form against world #1 Lee Chong Wei, winning by an even bigger margin than in the Malaysia Open final. In this final in Wuhan, Lin will face Chen Long, who beat Shi Yuqi in straight games. The two Chinese aces have not faced each other in international play since the China Masters final last year.
The men’s doubles will also be an all-Chinese contest. Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen are in their third Asian Championship final in four years after ousting Japan’s Takeshi Kamura / Keigo Sonoda in the only hour-long match of the afternoon. Li and Liu first reached the continental final as teenagers but they will hope to finally become Asian Champions in this third attempt, after losing to the absent Yoo Yeon Seong on both previous occasions.
Shortly before Kim and Yoo in the women’s doubles, world #15 Huang Kaixiang and Wang Yilü (pictured bottom) became the first unseeded pair to book a spot for finals day. The Thailand Masters winners beat compatriots Chai Biao and Hong Wei to reach their second final of the year.
XD: Lu Kai / Huang Yaqiong (CHN)  vs. Dechapol Puavaranukroh / Sapsiree Taerattanachai (THA) 
WD: Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi (JPN)  vs. Kim Hye Rin / Yoo Hae Won (KOR)
MS: Chen Long (CHN)  vs. Lin Dan (CHN) 
WS: Tai Tzu Ying (TPE)  vs. Akane Yamaguchi (JPN) 
MD: Li Junhui / Liu Yuchen (CHN)  vs. Huang Kaixiang / Wang Yilü (CHN)