Mixed doubles again produced the biggest upsets of the day but this time it was Malaysia’s Hoo/Cheah and India’s Rankireddy/Ponnappa punching above their weight.
By Don Hearn. Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)
On Thursday in Bangkok, the biggest upsets came in mixed doubles from Korea’s Ko/Eom and Thailand’s Jomkoh/Paewsampran. While both of those pairs fought hard and gave the two highest remaining seeds in the tournament all kinds of trouble, it was two other pairs who shone early on quarter-finals day and found their way into the biggest semi-final round of their career.
In the first two matches on Court 2, the semi-final spots were expected to go to the two top ten pairs, world #8 Hafiz Faizal / Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja (pictured) of Indonesia and world #7 Malaysians Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying. To find their opponents on the world ranking lists, one has to go way down to #35 and #36. The latter ranking is held by India’s Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa – well-known especially for their level doubles successes – while the former belongs to Malaysia’s Hoo Pang Ron and Cheah Yee See, not exactly household names…yet.
While both pairs have reached the semi-final stages in World Tour events in mixed doubles, they have seen nothing like a Super 1000 weekend. In fact, Cheah has the best mixed result to date of the four, as she partnered Chan Peng Soon to a Superseries final four back in 2017.
First up was Hoo/Cheah’s challenge of Faizal/Widjaja. The Indonesians – who won this tournament back in 2018 and were in the Thailand Masters final on their previous visit to Bangkok – had already lost to the Indians in the first round last week and were eager to erase that memory. They came out firing and snatched the opening game 21-12, as expected.
“We struggled in the first game. Maybe we were not used to the drift,” said Hoo Pang Ron after the match. “We had not played on Court 2 yet, and the drift is a little bit different, so it made everything harder. In the second and third games, slowly our shots came back and we did quite well.”
Indeed, the Malaysians took the next two games, at 21-19 each, to secure their spot in the semis.
“They have their strong points. Physically we are probably not as strong as them. But our tactics and Yee See’s speed at the front was faster than theirs and it made our game smoother,” added Hoo.
On Saturday, the Malaysians will have to face 4th-seeded Seo Seung Jae and Chae Yoo Jung (pictured). The Koreans narrowly edged out Thailand’s Jomkoh/ Paewsampran to reach the semis for the second straight week and likely secure a spot in the World Tour Finals as well. On the upcoming contest with the Koreans, Hoo said, “As I have said before every match, there is no pressure because we are underdogs, so hopefully we can bring something back for Malaysia.”
Next up on Court 2, it was a repeat of the last visit to Bangkok for India’s Ashwini Ponnappa and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy (pictured below). Rankireddy had already duplicated one of the upsets he enjoyed here in 2019 when he beat Choi/Seo in men’s doubles on Thursday. But for him and Ponnappa, their good fortunes began at the 2019 Thailand Open when they stunned the Olympic silver medallists in the opening round.
This time, their match against Chang Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying (pictured below) was even closer, as the Indians had to claw their way back from 13-18 down and save three match points in the second game before winning 24-22 and forcing a decider. Then the third game also went to extra points as the Indians hung on to take it 22-20.
“In the third game, I feel like Satwik held his nerves,” said Ashwini Ponnappa after the victory. “Mine were all over the place but he took charge and dealt with the situation way better.
“I was a little too excited, a little bit eager, so I ended up making a lot of easy mistakes but the good thing was he held his ground and that was the biggest factor for the match in terms of our partnership. He played really well and when he was needed he was a star.”
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy added, “We played really well in the end. We have played them three times. We have won twice and lost once. We were confident. We knew our main strength would be our attack. They were under pressure. We kept fighting. We had our chances and never messed up.”
Now the Indians will have to take on the top seeds and winners of last week’s Yonex Thailand Open. Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai were pushed to the limit in the first game by Korean veterans Ko Sung Hyun and Eom Hye Won (pictured bottom). The Koreans edged the Thais out 29-27 in the opener but couldn’t close the gap in the second and the home favourites ran away with the deciding game.
Sapsiree Taerattanachai said after the match, “I was trying not to defend too much and control every point and attack our opponents. For the first game, they kept things to their pace and had us moving a lot. In the second and third game, we had to make them move and then attack. I think our opponents played very well, but perhaps their power just wasn’t enough for the win today.”
Late in the day, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy took over from Seo Seung Jae as the only double semi-finalist. Seo lost two semi-finals last Saturday in the Yonex Thailand Open, one of them to the eventual mixed doubles champions, who also await the Indians tomorrow. Here in the Toyota event, Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty won a nail-biter overt Malaysia’s Teo/Ong and now await the winner of the last match of the day.