Veteran beats Taufik to reach second consecutive final

PETALING JAYA: Old war horse Wong Choong Hann trotted his way to the men’s singles final but Mohd Hafiz Hashim came a cropper in the men’s singles semi-finals of the Taiwan Open badminton championships yesterday.

Independent player Choong Hann showed excellent court control to stun Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia 21-16, 16-21, 21-11 yesterday to move a step closer to his dream of winning his first Open title in six years.

It was his second win over the former world champion Taufik in just a year after having beaten the Indonesian at the Beijing Olympic Games last August.

Ironically, Choong Hann’s last Open title was won at the 2003 Taiwan Open when he was at his peak of his badminton career.

Today, Choong Hann will take on Vietnamese Nguyen Tien Minh.

Tien Minh, the reigning Thailand Open champion, poured cold water on the hot run of Hafiz with a 21-18, 21-16 win in the other semi-final match yesterday.

Hafiz has been playing better since coming under the charge of former world champion Hendrawan but his defeat showed that he still has some catching up to do.

Choong Hann attributed his win over Taufik to his better net play.

“The key yesterday was the net play and fortunately, I was on top of it,” said Choong Hann in a telephone interview yesterday.

“I was more focused and went for the attacking shot after setting it up. It all worked well for me.”

There were signs of Choong Hann slowing down after taking the first game. He started to make some unforced errors in the second game and allowed Taufik to force a rubber game.

One would have expected him to be a spent force in the decider but Choong Hann came charging into the game, taking a 6-0 lead.

And he stayed ahead all the way despite strong resistance from the Indonesian to enter his second consecutive final in two weeks.

Choong Hann, who lost to Chong Wei in the Macau Open final last week, said he was determined to win his first title in six years.

“I did win a satellite tournament in Italy last year but I cannot even remember when I won an Open title the last time. It has been so long ago,” he said.

“I had hoped that it would be an all-Malaysian final. The Vietnamese has been shaping up well and he certainly will not be easy meat for me. I will be prepared.”

There was disappointment for Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying after an agonising 11-21, 21-17, 22-24 defeat to India’s V. Diju-Jwala Gutta in the mixed doubles semi-finals.

They had held the upper hand in the decider but their lack of experience showed as they allowed the Indians to turn the things around for a slim victory.

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