Thai shuttle star Kunlavut fights his way into French Open badminton final; China shuttlers in three final

Thailand's Kunlavut Vitidsarn stormed into the French Open badminton final after beating India's Lakshya Sen 20-22, 21-13, 21-11. - AP photo

PARIS (Xinhua): Chinese shuttlers are eyeing a triple-title finish at the 2024 French Open as the badminton powerhouse will compete in the men's singles, mixed doubles and women's doubles finals.

However, in the women's singles semifinal, Chinese player Chen Yufei was edged out by her long-standing rival, Akane Yamaguchi of Japan, after a gruelling three-game match, thus ending her campaign for the crown.

Men's singles second seed Shi Yuqi successfully overcame Indonesia's surprise package Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo in two straight games 21-19, 21-14 in 54 minutes.

The victory sets up a highly anticipated final against Thailand's eighth seed, Kunlavut Vitidsarn, who also made a dramatic entry into the finals by overturning a match against India's Lakshya Sen 20-22, 21-13, 21-11.

"Tomorrow's match against Kunlavut will certainly be challenging. It's been a while since he has reached a final, and I'm sure he's as eager as I am to win the championship. Despite not having faced each other for quite some time, I hope to give it my all," Shi Yuqi stated, reflecting on their evenly matched history with one victory apiece.

The women's doubles semifinals featured a "China vs. Japan" showdown, with top seeds Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan sweeping past Japan's third seeds, Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara, securing their spot in the final. However, the other Chinese pair, Liu Xuanxuan and Xia Yuting, were halted in their tracks by Japan's Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida.

In the mixed doubles category, the all-Chinese semifinal saw fourth seeds Feng Yanzhe and Huang Dongping outplay fifth seeds and defending champions, Jiang Zhenbang and Wei Yaxin, to set up a clash against South Korea's Seo Seung-jae and Chae Yoo-jung, who defeated sixth-seeded Thai team of Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai 21-18, 21-16 to reach the final.

China's Chen battled fiercely through three games but ultimately fell to Yamaguchi 21-15, 18-21, 22-20, in a gripping women's singles semifinal.

In the decisive game, the second-seeded Chen managed to save two match points when trailing at 18-20, but couldn't sustain her scoring momentum. Yamaguchi seized the next two points to clinch the victory.

Despite the slightly disappointing outcome, Chen emphasized the importance of taking this competition as an opportunity to acclimate to the Olympic venue and to consolidate her experience promptly.

"After these matches, I feel I've adjusted to the venue's lighting, the direction of the airflow, and even my mentality. However, it's crucial to reflect upon these experiences, or else it might be forgotten in half a year," the 26-year-old commented.

This tournament served as a test event for the Paris Olympic Games, taking place at the Porte de La Chapelle Arena. This venue, dedicated to badminton and rhythmic gymnastics at the upcoming Summer Olympics, is the only permanent facility constructed within the smaller Paris area specifically for the Games.

Yamaguchi will face the top seed An Se-young from South Korea, in the final. The latter secured her spot by overcoming Tai Tzu-Ying from Chinese Taipei in the other semifinal match with the score of 21-12, 17-21, 22-20.

In a thrilling final game against Tai, the reigning world champion mounted an incredible comeback from a seven-point deficit at 18-11 before overturning four match points at 20-16 with a 6-0 run, showcasing a remarkable turnaround. - Xinhua

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