Shi Struggles, Momota Cruises – Day 4: HSBC BWF World Tour Finals

Home hope Shi Yuqi staged an escape act against India’s Sameer Verma to earn himself a title shot at the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals 2018 today.

The Chinese (featured image) will face Japan’s Kento Momota in a rematch of the TOTAL BWF World Championships 2018 final.

India were within a point of having two singles finalists, but Sameer Verma couldn’t capitalise on his match point against Shi and went down in three well-fought games. Verma, against all expectations, had Shi under the gun but couldn’t pull the trigger in time; the third seed made the most of his reprieve and held on for a 12-21 22-20 21-18 victory.

It was Shi’s nervousness, combined with some sensational counter-attacking play by Verma, that saw the Indian get a hold on the proceedings. Verma was sharp, giving Shi no opportunities; to make his own task worse, the Chinese went wide of the lines on his smashes.

Shi got some of his consistency back in the second game and it was a tense, neck-and-neck affair until a couple of errors at the net by Shi gave Verma match point at 20-19. The Chinese however came up with the goods when it mattered – a down-the-line smash helped him level; a great netshot got him game point, and he converted at the first opportunity.

It was a different Shi Yuqi in the third game. The nervousness was gone; the Chinese moved slickly and caught the shuttle early at the net, and Verma’s lifts gave him enough opportunities to put away. Smashes on either flank were precise and powerful, and even though Verma stayed in the hunt, the gap kept widening.

“I’m very depressed now,” said Verma. “I won the first game and was leading in the second game but lost my concentration. I could have stayed patient and kept the shuttle in play. I was thinking of my missed opportunity at the start of the third game. I have a lot left to learn. But overall it has been a good experience and I hope I can continue with this momentum.”

Korea’s Son Wan Ho was one of the few players to beat Kento Momota this season. The Korean would’ve fancied his chances today, but Momota didn’t give him a whiff.

Son, true to style, plied his steady game. His problem was that Momota could not only match him in that department, he could also choose his moment to put his opponent under pressure. The Japanese played the waiting game when it suited him, and when he sensed his chance he exploded with jump smashes and drilled his winners close to the lines. There was little Son Wan Ho could do in the face of such opportunistic and decisive play, and the result was a foregone conclusion long before the end came at 21-14 21-12.

“Compared to our last match, I was more decisive today,” Momota said. “I was a bit more aggressive from the beginning.”

Lee/Shin Beat Matsumoto/Nagahara

Lee So Hee and Shin Seung Chan’s revival from an early-season slump continued as they made their fourth straight final with an electric performance against world champions Mayu Matsumoto/Wakana Nagahara in Women’s Doubles.

The Japanese had beaten the Koreans in straight games in their group match, but today Lee and Shin were all over their opponents. The hard-hitting Koreans put the Japanese on the defensive, but they also mixed up their attack well, with both Lee and Shin surprising their opponents with soft shots and sharp angles.

“We lost to them in the group stage; we studied that match and changed our pattern of play,” said Shin. “We’re happy with our form. It wasn’t so good earlier in the year, but we have been training well over the last few weeks.”

The Koreans face Japan’s Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi, who had an early end to their semifinal against Li Yinhui/Du Yue after Li retired due to a right knee injury.

Watanabe/Endo Surprise Danes

Yuta Watanabe and Hiroyuki Endo pulled off the surprise of the evening session beating Denmark’s Kim Astrup/Anders Skaarup Rasmussen 21-19 21-13.

It was a stubborn fightback from a large deficit in the opening game that swung the match Japan’s way. Watanabe and Endo, magnificent in defence, put up a wall that the Danes couldn’t breach. Endo had a great second game, taking on all the work at the back and following up to kill any shuttle that was marginally short. The missed first game deflated the Danes, whose level steadily went down from then on.

“They made it very difficult for us today to score our points and it was physically very tough and mentally also very tough,” said Astrup.

“We lost ourselves after 15-all in the first game. Of course it would’ve changed the match if we had taken the first game. It broke our spirit a bit. But hats off to Yuta as it’s its eighth match but he was still running around like a Duracell (battery),” added Rasmussen.

Watanabe and Endo face world champions Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen (China), who beat Chinese Taipei’s Chen Hung Ling/Wang Chi-Lin 18-21 21-12 21-15. Veteran Chen Hung Ling will be easing off the elite international circuit following this tournament.

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