The lowdown: Badminton’s Dubai World Superseries Finals
Surprises in the semi-final action means there will be five new champions in the history of the tournament.
Poor form from Chen
World champions Chen Long and Carolina Marin were both beaten in the semi-finals on a remarkable day in Dubai. Chen, pictured, who has won seven Superseries tournaments this year, was beaten for the first time by Viktor Axelsen, the improving world No 6 from Denmark. The Chinese player only briefly showed his best form in the second game while advancing to 17-15, eventually subsiding 21-12, 21-17.
Marin out of comfort zone
Marin, who has five major titles from her finest year so far, lost a little less surprisingly to 21-11, 21-12 to Nozomi Okuhara. It was the second time in 24 hours she had been beaten in straight games by the Japanese player. The slow shuttles made it hard for the Spaniard to impose her attack-minded methods against a superbly mobile opponent who consistently returned the shuttle into safe places.
Marin nevertheless fought hard, but Chen by contrast was, by his high standards, sluggish and error-prone during his uncharacteristic defeat. He quite often allowed himself to be tied up at the net by the canny Axelsen, who used this ploy to frustrate his tall opponent’s steep counter-attacks and long reach in mid-court.
Focus shifts to Olympics
“I didn’t play so well today,” Chen said. “I know that my opponent played better than I did. But I am happy about my performance for most of the year.” He already had an eye on his preparation for the 2016 Olympics, he also said.
Chen was probably not as happy, however, as Axelsen seemed to be after the biggest win of his career. “My game was to stay a relaxed as possible, to enjoy it and to play with variation – and so to try to smile,” he said. He will have made new friends by doing that. Axelsen will not, as he hoped, have a final with his compatriot Jan Jorgensen, the world No 2, who lost 21-19, 21-18 to Kento Momota, the 2014 Thomas Cup hero from Japan who has since risen to five in the world.
A double for Japan?
A Japanese double triumph is possible. Momota’s compatriot Okuhara will play the women’s singles final against Wang Yihan of China who overcame Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand 21-12, 21-12. “I just tried to maximise my strengths,” Wang said, referring to her ability to keep the pace high. “The last time I played Okuhara, in the French Open, I lost. So I don’t know if I can win tomorrow.”
Big names still remain
The only other surviving titleholders, Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeong Seon, did not reach the men’s doubles final when they lost 21-17, 22-24, 21-15 to Hendra Setiawan and Mohammed Ahsan, the world champions from Indonesia.
Updated: December 12, 2015 04:00 AM