Author: K.M. Boopathy
SCRATCH pair Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong were the last Malaysians standing in the Japan Open badminton championships as World No 2 Lee Chong Wei was blown away by Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia in the semi-finals at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium in Tokyo yesterday.
Kien Keat-Boon Heong, who upset World No 2 Jens Eriksen-Martin Lundgaard Hansen of Denmark on Friday, had to battle for three games before beating Japanís Shuichi Sakamato-Shintaro Ikeda 21-13, 14-21, 21-11 in 46 minutes to book their berth in the final.
However, second seeded Chong Wei suffered a demoralising 21-17, 21-13 defeat to Taufik in just 33 minutes.
Chong Wei simply had no answer to Taufikís trademark leaping smashes, and the Malaysian was also at fault for committing unforced errors at the net.
Kien Keat-Boon Heong, seen as future champions by many, did not want to let the opportunity to make the final in their very first grand tournament as a pair slip away as they crawled back to beat Shuichi-Shintaro after losing the second game.
Their reward is a showdown with former 2000 Sydney Olympic cham-pions Candra Wijaya of Indonesia and Tony Gunawan, now playing for the United States, today.
Candra-Tony showed they are still the pair to beat despite not training together as they soundly beat newly-crowned world champions Fu Haifeng-Cai Yun of China 21-11, 21-11 in just 25 minutes.
Candra-Tony, who resumed their partnership in June, won their first tournament, the Indonesia Open, and the Korea Open in August.
Win or lose, Kien Keat-Boon Heong will gain plenty of exposure as they will be playing against one of the best Indonesian doubles pairs today.
Chong Weiís latest defeat raises doubts about his ability to win the Asian Games gold in Doha. Incidentally, Taufik will be defending the Asian Games title he won in Busan four years ago.
Taufik takes on world champion and World No 1 Lin Dan, his major threat in Doha, in the final today.
Lin Dan, who turned 23 yesterday, stormed into the final, beating veteran Peter Gade Christensen of Denmark 21-12, 21-14 in 33 minutes.
Iím one year older now. It means my career is now one year shorter. Hopefully, I can make it worthwhile and keep myself mentally calm in what remains of my career, said a philosophical Lin Dan.
He (Taufik) is the Olympic champion and he won the world champion-ships last year. It will be a tough match. I just want to play an exciting game and end it as the winner.
Taufik was surprised with his easy win over Chong Wei but expects a tough match against Lin Dan who has beaten the Indonesian twice this year.
I had expected a tough match, because Lee is one of the top players in the world. I didnít think I would have a big lead in the end, said Taufik.
In the womenís singles, World number one Zhang Ning of China whipped young compatriot Zhu Lin 21-18, 21-16, while another Chinese, Xie Xingfang, breezed past Wang Chen of Hong Kong 21-16, 21-16 to make it an all-Chinese affair.
The mixed doubles will offer an all-Indonesia final between former world champions Nova Widianto-Lilyana Natsir and Flandy Limple-Vita Marissa.
Nova-Lilyana defeated Xie Zhongbo-Zhang Yawenof China 21-17, 24-22 while Flandy-Vita beat Thailand Sudket Prapakamol-Saralee Thungthong-kam 21-18, 16-21, 21-1 in the semi-finals.
(All s-finals) Menís singles:
Lin Dan (Chn) bt Peter Gade Christensen (Den) 21-12, 21-14;
Taufik Hidayat (Ina) bt Lee Chong Wei (Mas) 21-17, 21-13.
Candra Wijaya (Ina)-Tony Gunawan (US) bt Fu Haifeng-Cai Yun (Chn) 21-11, 21-11;
Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong (Mas) bt Shuichi Sakamoto-Shintaro Ikeda (Jpn) 21-13, 14-21, 21-11
Zhang Ning (Chn) bt Zhu Lin (Chn) 21-18, 21-16;
Xie Xingfang (Chn) bt Wang Chen (HK) 21-16, 21-16.
Gao Ling-Huang Sui (Chn) w.o. Du Jing-Yu Yang (Chn);
Wei Yili-Zhang Yawen (Chn) bt Yang Wei-Zhang Jiewen (Chn) 21-18, 21-13.
Nova Widianto-Lilyana Natsir (Ina) bt Xie Zhongbo-Zhang Yawen (Chn) 21-17, 24-22;
Flandy Limpele-Vita Marissa (Ina) bt Sudket Prapakamol-Saralee Thungthongkam (Tha) 21-18, 16-21, 21-17.