Badminton Life

Unseeded Zhang and Zhao land doubles badminton crown

BIRMINGHAM, England - Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei, a brand new partnership which does not even appear in the top 100 world rankings, sensationally joined the very few unseeded players to have won the All-England Open on Sunday.

In only their third Super Series tournament together Zhang and Zhao completed their destruction of a stellar field by beating Nova Widianto and Lilyana Natsir, the second-seeded former world champions from Indonesia, 21-18, 23-25, 21-18.

It followed Zhang's and Zhao's conquest of their top-seeded compatriots Zheng Bo and Ma Lin in the second round, and announced them as a major threat for the forseeable future.

"The second round match was the toughest," said Zhang. "Then after that it has been easier - and of course there has been no pressure of expectations."

They did it in a marvellous 89-minute match in which the advantage fluctuated first one way and then the other, and the rallies switching between defence and attack, slow and fast, with fascinating complexity.

The Chinese fought back from 12-17 and 14-18 in the first game, and from 5-11 in the second game, and advanced to match points at 20-19 and 21-20. Nova Widianto brilliantly saved both, one with a great switch of direction across court, one with some potent smashing.

Generally, though, both pairs found it hard to ram attacks through in slow conditions, which made for some ingenious tactical variations and subtle changes of pace which the crowd loved.

The variety was made all the more intricate by the fact that both women were so strong that there were occasions when both partnerships were able to play more like a conventional doubles pair, fluidly changing, and with the woman trying some smashes from the back instead of the man.

For a while it seemed the Indonesians' saved match points had generated enough momentum for them to win the match. They advanced steadily to 9-3, 11-6 and 12-8 in the final game, before the Chinese fought back again.

As the match moved past the hour mark, they were slightly the more energetic pair, and some lively attacks from Zhang and some sturdy defence and sharp interceptions by Zhao got them back to parity at 14-14.

That was the crucial twist. The Indonesians hung on bravely, but the two crucial moments came at 19-18 when a slightly slower Natsir, under pressure, blocked one forecourt shuttle just wide, and lifted another long.

The Chinese celebrated with exuberant hugs as their country kept on course for a possible three All-England titles and a new world class partnership had been born.

Source from AFP

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