Lee Yang and Wang Chi Lin sparked a string of repeat titles from last Sunday as the Toyota Thailand Open concluded after just 8 games and one new and one Thai champion.
By Don Hearn. Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)
Finals day at the Toyota Thailand Open looked an awful lot like last weekend’s, other Thailand Open. Four of the winners were the same, one of the matches even had the same runner-up, and another was a repeat of last Saturday, rather than Sunday. Unlike last weekend, not a single match went to a deciding game, either, so it was over even faster.
Chinese Taipei’s Lee Yang and Wang Chi Lin were the first repeat winners. They had a different Malaysian opponent this time but Aaron Chia / Soh Wooi Yik just couldn’t neutralize the fast-moving, hard-hitting #6 seeds, as Lee Yang in particular was an absolute wall at the net.
The Taiwan pair were one of three winners last weekend who arrived with a Super 500 being their personal best title. They and the Thais both racked up not one but two Super 1000s to add to their collections.
“It feels really incredible and and amazing for me,” said Wang Chi Lin afterward. “Two titles at two Super 1000s in two weeks. I’ve no idea how to express how happy I am. We think we tried to do our best today and focused on every point and shot. We feel the Malaysian and Indonesian men’s pairs are at a higher level than us. We used our power. I have muscles. We’ll celebrate somehow.”
Wang’s partner Lee Yang added, “We came here today with focus and we really wanted to enjoy the tournament. We told each other: ‘Enjoy the game.’ We needed to push things today and follow through with powerful smashes and we shouted motivational words to keep up the spirit.”
A little bit louder…
Speaking of shouting, this weekend’s cast included some of the most exuberant shuttlers, and two of the closest to equalling the volume of two-time winner Carolina Marin. True, the celebrations by Hans-Kristian Vittinghus were really echoing through the empty hall after his victories in the earlier rounds but in Sunday’s opening match, but Korea’s Kong Hee Yong made her own contribution to filling the void left by the spectator-less arena. And both Marin and Kong certainly had their reasons to celebrate on Sunday!
Kong and partner Kim So Yeong had only beaten team-mates Lee So Hee and Shin Seung Chan once in international competition. That was in Korea in 2019. This time was even more decisive and Kong was both more confident and more creative than she had looked in her earlier matches in the past two weeks.
The women’s singles final was a repeat of last week but without the one-sided opener. Tai Tzu Ying did a good job of closing the gap in the second, after trailing 8-17, but after saving 4 match points, the world #1 could go no further and Carolina Marin closed it out for the repeat title.
Next up was Viktor Axelsen taking an expected victory in his all-Danish final against Hans-Kristian Vittinghus. The All England champion did not allow the 35-year-old Vittinghus to grab the lead even once as he won quite convincingly.
“Winning back-to-back titles here in Thailand is a big, big achievement for me,” said Axelsen after the match. “I haven’t played for a long time and to come back here and win two tournaments in a row is an extraordinary achievement for me. I’m really proud.
“I thought Vittinghus may be a little tired after his quite long and tough matches this week, but I too was tired and I tried to make it quite a physical game. I had some good length in my lifts and I’m really happy about my game plan today.”
Koreans just short again
The last match of the day sent one more title to the home team, again unfortunately without the benefit of an audible home crowd. It was also the closest any of the finals came to a deciding game but Dechapol Puavaranukroh / Sapsiree Taerattanachai saved a game point and then took the last two to seal their second victory in as many weeks against Korea’s Seo Seung Jae and Chae Yoo Jung.
Seo and Chae had had two match points against the Thais in last Saturday’s semi-final so the situation was a little similar. The Koreans managed to keep the score close despite Chae Yoo Jung’s seeming inability to make the shuttle go in a downward direction. Seo Seung Jae, the busiest shuttler of the past two weeks with 14 matches, only had to worry about one on finals day but his attacking play, while very effective, was not enough to overwhelm the Thais’ stellar defense and excellent movement about the court.
Sapsiree Taerattanachai said after her victory, “We are so happy to win two titles in a row. Before the tournaments began, we planned to win. We wanted to win. We achieved our goals by winning these two titles as we had planned. Today we wanted to close the match in two games. We’re so happy to win.”
“We’re very happy – two titles!” added Puavaranukroh. “We now need to physically recover and talk with our coach as we know next week’s opponents will be very tough. We will need to draw up some new plans to prepare.”
Dare to dream of 3?
A string of 3 titles in 3 consecutive weeks was only done twice in the Superseries era and has yet to happen since the BWF World Tour began in 2018. Ratchanok Intanon won three weekends in a row in 2016 and Lee Yong Dae / Yoo Yeon Seong did it back in 2014. Of course, two players and two pairs have a shot at extending their streaks to 3 next week with the World Tour Finals.
Even reaching the final for a third straight week will be tricky, but even more so for the players who have been playing in two events these past two weeks. With the Koreans’ advance to the semi-finals in mixed doubles, Seo Seung Jae joined England’s Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith as the third double qualifier for the World Tour Finals, but Germany’s Isabel Herttrich could join that group if the reserve list has to be activated in women’s doubles.
WD: Kim So Yeong / Kong Hee Yong (KOR)  beat Lee So Hee / Shin Seung Chan (KOR)  21-18, 21-19
MD: Lee Yang / Wang Chi Lin (TPE)  beat Aaron Chia / Soh Wooi Yik (MAS)  21-13, 21-18
WS: Carolina Marin (ESP)  beat Tai Tzu Ying (TPE)  21-19, 21-17
MS: Viktor Axelsen (DEN)  beat Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (DEN) 21-11, 21-7
XD: Dechapol Puavaranukroh / Sapsiree Taerattanachai (THA)  beat Seo Seung Jae / Chae Yoo Jung (KOR)  21-16, 22-20