With the debris of her challenge all around her, and a point away from her seventh straight loss to her nemesis, Tai Tzu Ying managed to do something that’s never been associated with her – climb back from the dead.
Her semifinal win over An Se Young today at the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals 2023 will count as possibly the biggest comeback win of her career. She’s so unused to the feeling – and so used to others doing it to her – that she can’t remember the last time she saved a match from such a hopeless position. That it came today against the steadiest player in the world, and an opponent who’s had her number ever since they met for the first time four years ago, was cause for delight. Tai sported a bright smile after she walked off court having converted near-certain defeat from 10-19 and 16-20 to victory at 19-21 21-15 22-20.
Tai will take on her opponent from the 2020 final, Carolina Marin, who is seeking her first season finale crown. In a battle of Olympic champions, Marin wore down Chen Yu Fei and announced her readiness for the final.
Sporting a 2-10 record going into the semifinals, and having lost six matches in a row to the Korean, including yesterday’s final group match, Tai had an uphill battle ahead of her, but she produced one of her best performances in recent times against the best player in the world. Stubborn in the rallies, biding her time, and uncorking frequently the wizardry she’s known for, Tai came up with the right mix to challenge the player who’s been nearly unbeatable this season.
Yet, with An running away with the match at 19-10 in the third, it was all but over for the three-time champion.
A twist remained in the tale. Tai stayed in the rallies, alert for the slightest opportunity. The spirted resistance began to pay rewards, with, An, incredibly, losing 12 of the last 13 points. The Korean was speechless when she came off court.
Viktor Axelsen stayed on track for his hat-trick and fifth title overall. Axelsen, winner of two Superseries Finals and two World Tour Finals, made his fourth final in four years with a flawless performance against Anders Antonsen, who had beaten him in the 2020 edition. Axelsen faces 2018 winner Shi Yu Qi, who will look to repeat his Group A win over the Dane.
Zheng Si Wei also was on track for a fifth title individually. Zheng and Huang Ya Qiong demolished the challenge of world champions Seo Seung Jae/Chae Yu Jung 21-12 21-5. The mixed doubles will be an all-Chinese final, with Zheng/Huang against Feng Yan Zhe/Huang Dong Ping.