Women's badminton pair Zhao and Tian win doubles at Hong Kong Open, prove Olympic success no fluke
Women's pair Zhao Yunlei and Tian Qing prove a point over Olympic rivals in final of Hong Kong Open as China make it a clean sweep
Olympic Games champions Zhao Yunlei and Tian Qing of China proved their success in London this summer was no fluke when they beat compatriots Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli in the women's doubles final at the Yonex-Sunrise Hong Kong Open yesterday.
On a day when the Coliseum in Hung Hom was packed with more than 5,000 fans, the Chinese shuttlers made a clean sweep of all five titles, starting with Zhao and Tian, who won 22-20, 14-21, 21-17.
The victory was an important one because many felt their Olympic gold medal wasn't fully deserved. Reigning world champions Yu and Wang were the top seeds in London but were thrown out of the Games - along with three other pairs - for deliberately losing games at the group stage to engineer a better draw in the knockout rounds.
Yesterday's final was the first time Zhao and Tian had met Wang and Yu in a competitive match since the Olympics.
"We didn't feel we had to prove ourselves here," insisted Zhao, who, two hours later, combined with Zhang Nan to take the mixed doubles title, beating Xu Chen and Ma Jin 21-17, 21-17 in the final.
"The Olympics are over and we'd rather not dwell on what happened in London. We've moved on from that and are looking to the future. Of course, we're very happy to have won here by beating the world champions.
"We are ranked No 1 in the world and we are the Olympic champions, so everyone's gunning for us, not just the old guard but also newer players who are keen to make their mark. We are very aware of this challenge, so there is no way we would ever be complacent."
Yu admitted she and Wang did not deserve to win as they made far too many unforced errors in the final. "We haven't trained much since the Olympics, so physically we're not at our best," Yu, the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games champion when she partnered with Du Jing, said. "If your fitness level drops, you are bound to make silly mistakes."
In the men's singles final, world No 1 Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia had to settle for the runners-up prize after losing to Chen Long, 21-19, 21-17.
Chen, widely considered the heir apparent to Olympic and world champion Lin Dan, was well beaten by Lee in the semi-finals at the London Games but the 23-year-old was in commanding form yesterday, winning his second Super Series title in as many weeks.
"I didn't put too much pressure on myself ahead of the final, because I knew I was up to the challenge of taking on the world No 1," Chen, who won the China Open in Shanghai a week earlier, said. "But there is still a long way to go if I want to be the best player in the world. Indeed, players such as Lin Dan, Lee and Taufit Hidayat are all good models for me to learn from."
Lee offered no excuses for his defeat but said a hectic schedule this year had sapped his energy.
"The Hong Kong Open is my third Super Series event since the Olympics. I also played in Japan and Denmark," the 30-year-old said. "On top of that, I also spent a lot of time preparing for my wedding so, yes, I guess I am mentally drained," added Lee, who married former professional player Wong Mew Choo earlier this month.
"I'm pleased I reached the final here but now I need to get some rest. I'll probably skip the Macau Open [this week] and maybe also the Super Series finals [in Shenzhen next month]. But I will consult my coach first."
The women's singles final was a repeat of the London Games final, with Li Xuerui thrashing compatriot Wang Yihan, the world No 1.
Li, who needed three games to clinch the Olympic gold medal, had an easier task in Hong Kong. After taking the first game 21-12, Li was leading 11-3 in the second when Wang retired injured.
"I'm disappointed," Wang said. "But I didn't want to aggravate the knee injury I sustained at the Denmark Open."
Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun rounded off a successful day for the Chinese with their 21-16, 21-17 win over Malaysia's Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong in the men's doubles final.