The finals of the first BWF World Tour event of 2020, the Super 500 Malaysia Masters will be taking place today, and interestingly, in the women’s singles final, there would be a rematch from the last final of 2019 – Tai Tzu Ying vs Chen Yufei.
Unsurprisingly, Kento Momota is in the final of the men’s singles edition but has a different opponent this time compared to the World Tour Finals last month. 2017 World Champion Viktor Axelsen will have his task cut out against his successor to the World Title. Not only is Momota in red-hot form, he also has an incredibly one-sided record in his favour against the Dane.
The men’s doubles final will see third-seeded pair of Li Jun Hui and Liu Yu Chen from China facing the underdogs Kim Gi Jung and Lee Yong Dae of South Korea. The latter pair have already pulled off a bit of an upset by getting this far. Winning the title would be a huge boost for them as they didn’t have too much success towards the end of last year.
In the women’s doubles, it’s an all-China affair with 7th seeded pair of Du Yue and Li Yin Hui taking on Li Wen Mei and Zheng Yu. These two pairs have faced each other twice before and have one victory each. Safe to say then, that it’s hard to predict who will come out on top this time.
It’s going to be an all-China affair in the mixed doubles also. But here, the script of the tournament has been rather straightforward with the top-two seeds in the final. No.1 seed Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong will face Wang Yi Lyu and Huang Dong Ping, seeded second. So far, these two pairs have had 13 meetings and the top seeds hold a huge 11-2 advantage.
It's Chen vs Tai, again!
Focussing on the women’s singles contest would be most interesting. When Chen Yufei defeated Tai Tzu Ying in the final of World Tour Finals, she became the top-ranked player in the world. However, Tai still came into this event as the top seed.
The reason this match is very important is that it will tell us whether the Taiwanese shuttler is facing a decline and whether Chen has become the undisputed leader of the division. Usually, Tai seems a class apart from other players but the Chinese girl was so efficient in the last final that she had no answers.
The Chinese Taipei player has a game that revolves around her unmatched shot-making skills. She can produce the most stunning shots that leave her opponents clueless. But Chen showed such great retrieving skills last time around that those shots were not bringing points. On top of that, the usually effervescent Tai wasn’t looking at her best. Many of those ambitious shots which she would usually pull off were coming off well.
So, for Tai to win, she has to regain her momentum with the racquet and also show a little more tenacity herself. She will also have to play with a lot more patience as Chen would fight harder than most other players.
We would get a good idea from this match about the form of these two players, especially of Tai as she was off her best in the last tournament.
Axelsen's hoodoo against Momota
In the men’s singles division, Viktor Axelsen is really up against it. A former World Champion and No.1 ranked player should not be going into a final, regardless who his opponent is, looking a massive underdog.
But the Dane is! Why? Because of the head to head record, which is a staggering 13-2 and one has to really stretch their memory to remember the last time Viktor triumphed over Momota.
As we saw towards the end of last year, the Japanese isn’t unbeatable. He could be brought under pressure if one fights really hard and forces him to play at a faster speed. But when most players start to run out of steam, the World Champion seems to have a lot more in his reserve.
Axelsen will have to take charge of the game early on. He may well attack from the front court as he has done on occasions. Otherwise, if Momota settles into his rhythm of playing long rallies at a comfortable pace, there is no matching him.
Getting the better of the best player in the world is tough enough, more so when he has a mental advantage heading into a knockout clash. Axelsen has a mountain to climb but could be expected to give quite a fight.Published 12 Jan 2020, 01:33 IST