Unseeded Wang Zhiyi withstood an incredible late fightback from world champion Akane Yamaguchi to record a stunning victory in the women’s final of the Badminton Asia Championships on Sunday.
Later, Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia took the men’s title with a 21-17, 23-21 win over Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie – then tore off his sweaty top and hurled it into the Manila crowd in celebration.
China’s Wang, ranked 16th in the world, needed treatment on a back injury but hung on to beat the Japanese top seed and defending champion Yamaguchi 15-21, 21-13, 21-19 in 78 minutes of pulsating action that had the raucous crowd rocking.
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“I think it’s something I couldn’t have imagined because before the competition everyone including myself didn’t think that I could achieve these results,” the 22-year-old said after winning the biggest title of her young career.
“This was a very difficult match because my opponent is a world-class athlete, but I think I was in the right frame of mind to battle her. My goal is to win every competition so I hope I can keep up with these better performances, be resolute and work harder.”
As in her semi-final win Saturday over second seed An Se-young of South Korea, Wang had to recover from the loss of the opening game.
After levelling the match, the up-and-coming Chinese player looked to be heading for a comfortable victory as she raced into a 16-5 lead in the decider, before nerves and her niggling back kicked in to give Yamaguchi a lifeline.
The Japanese player used all her experience to claw her way back as Wang began to make unforced errors and Yamaguchi levelled at 19-19 after a lung-bursting 30-shot rally.
But Wang, who moments earlier had needed attention from the trainer at the side of the court, summoned up reserves of energy and forced Yamaguchi to go long to set up a first championship point.
Another marathon rally followed, but when Yamaguchi netted, Wang collapsed on her back in exhaustion and elation as she became Asian champion for the first time.
The men’s final was a more straightforward affair with third-seeded Lee mostly in control throughout against Christie, the fourth seed.
Christie fought back in the second game but failed to nail two game points, the 24-year-old Lee sealing the title on his first championship point when his opponent fired wide on a forehand.
The Indonesian challenged the out call but a video review confirmed it and Lee collapsed on his back, before tearing off his top and hurling it into the crowd, followed by his racquet.
On a good day for badminton superpower China, they also won the mixed doubles and women’s doubles crowns.
Sindhu was the solitary medal winner from India, finishing with her second bronze at the event. But she was absent from the medal ceremony. Sindhu’s father PV Ramana was quoted as saying by PTI that she had to travel back earlier and got the permission from authorities.
“Nothing like that [skipped the ceremony in protest], she accepted the medal, it is just that she had to rush for a flight back home, so she took permission from the authorities,” he said.
“See Sindhu has to go to Uber Cup (May 8-15, Bangkok) and there were no direct flights available from Manila to India for tomorrow and day after. If she had reached on 4th May, she would have missed out of a few days of training ahead of the Uber Cup.”
Triple gold for China
Here’s a look at the finals score-lines:
The mixed doubles final was an all-Chinese affair that went the way of top seeds Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong in two quick games. Chen Qing Chen and Jia Yi Fan also lived up to their billing in the women’s doubles to defeat Rin Iwanaga and Kie Nakanish in the women’s doubles final.
Another upset of sorts came in the men’s doubles where Indonesia continue to show off their astounding depth. Pramudya Kusumawardana and Yeremia Rambitan, nicknamed ‘PraYer’, defeated Tokyo 2020 bronze medallists Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik in straight games. The Malaysians had defeated the Indian pair of Satwik-Chirag in the quarterfinals in a thriller.
With text inputs from AFP