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Badminton: India’s Kidambi shocks home hero Lin in China Open final

Srikanth Kidambi, 21, caused the shock of the tournament when he beat two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan to win the Thaihot China Open men’s singles final. Photo: AFP.

Srikanth Kidambi, 21, caused the shock of the tournament when he beat two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan to win the Thaihot China Open men’s singles final. Photo: AFP.

November 16, 2014: World No. 16 Srikanth Kidambi stunned the Fuzhou crowd when he upset Chinese superstar Lin Dan 21-19, 21-17 to win the Thaihot China Open in his first World Superseries final. It was Lin’s first defeat in a final since losing to World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei at the 2012 Korea Open.

 

Kidambi’s win gave India an unprecedented two titles at a World Superseries event, with famed compatriot Saina Nehwal earlier beating Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi 21-12, 22-20 to win the women’s singles title.

 

China won two titles from four finals, with Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei victorious in the mixed doubles and Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli winning the women’s, while Chai Biao and Hong Wei lost to Korea’s Lee Yong-dae and Yoo Yeon-seong in the men’s.

 

The soft-spoken Kidambi, just 21, struggled to put words to his emotions after the win over his idol, just months after recovering from a bacterial infection in his brain in June.

 

“To beat Lin Dan in a final is a dream come true. I just played my 100 per cent because there was nothing to lose. Before coming here, I was playing well. When I beat my compatriot (RMV Gurusaidutt) in the first round, I felt confident because it’s always tough to beat a player who knows you well. I just wanted to win each round that I played,” said Kidambi, who dedicated the win to his coach, Pullela Gopichand.

 

“As I got close to a second game win [against Lin], I just told myself to focus on the next point, since I have lost a few matches while leading. Today is my coach’s birthday, so this title is a gift to him.”

 

Kidambi played the shuttle soft for the most part, was alert to Lin’s cross netshots and bravely went for the lines when he had the option to smash. Given no quarter, Lin showed his frustration, committing a series of errors in both games as he went down. Only briefly in the second game did he unleash his firepower, but the frequent errors appeared to sap his resolve.

 

“I’m glad to be in the final, but it’s a pity I could not win,” Lin said. “I was injured during the last month, so getting into the final made me happy. Srikanth played positively. The loss of the first game affected my mood. I hadn’t practised the last few weeks, so I could not adjust my game.”

 

Nehwal was masterly against Yamaguchi, the World Junior champion. Yamaguchi’s tireless rallying style had broken the spirit of China’s Sun Yu and Korea’s Bae Yeon-ju in earlier rounds, but Nehwal prevented the match from becoming a similar contest. Although Nehwal won the first game quickly, Yamaguchi settled in for a long brawl in the second, which was a neck-and-neck affair.

 

Yamaguchi had game point at 20-19 but Nehwal conjured a magical stroke, a deceptive service return skimming the net that helped her pull level. The Indian had match point after a long exchange that Yamaguchi finally lifted long.

 

“I was surprised to see the scores by which Akane beat Sun Yu and Bae Yeon-ju,” said Nehwal. “I was not expecting to beat three Chinese in a row. I will remember this title for the rest of my life. Each year I used to wonder if I would ever win the China Open because it is such a difficult event. The crowd was lovely. It was a special feeling to see a full house cheering for both of us.”

 

Yu and Wang won their fourth straight China Open with a narrow 21-16, 19-21, 22-20 victory over compatriots Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei.

 

“Fuzhou is called the ‘City of Good Fortune’ and it has brought us luck,” said Yu. “It is one of the birthplaces of badminton in China, so we were determined to do well here.”

 

The day’s opening final was also a tight contest as Zhang and Zhao defeated the Korean pair of Yoo Yeon-seong and Eom Hye-won 23-25, 21-14, 21-18.

 

Yoo made up for the loss as he and Lee Yong-dae won their fourth World Superseries crown this season by beating China’s Chai and Hong 21-14, 21-15.

 

Source: BWF (www.bwfbadminton.org); Editing by SportAsia

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