[BADMINTON] World No 2 Chen Hong smashed Boonsak Ponsana's dreams of winning his second crown on home soil, beating the Thai heart-throb in a hard-fought three-game thriller to capture the prestigious HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's Trophy plus the attractive US$9,600 (around Bt336,000) cash prize.
More than 4,000 home fans thronged into the Nimibutr Gymnasium yesterday to cheer on their lone hope in the men's singles event in the Thailand Open Gold Grand Prix, only to leave the battleground with their heads low in great despair later on.
Boonsak, the 2004 Thailand Open champion, lost the first game 14-21 to Chinese Chen Hong, the one he beat in straight games at the last year's Malaysia Open. With the drum-beating, flag-waving fans cheering on him all the way, Boonsak, attempting to bury his three losses to Chen in 2004, stormed back to win the second game comfortably 21-11.
His confidence sky-high after making an impressive 1-1 equaliser, Boonsak flexed his muscles in the decider, where he commandingly led 10-5 and 11-8 respectively. Chen bounced back mightily to catch him at 16-16 and stormed on to lead 20-16, needing only one crucial point to win the game and the championship.
However, the Thai camp came to life when Boonsak played a miraculous game to save five match-points, stretching the tough battle to end with a two-point margin. To everyone's astonishment, Chen silenced the cheering home crowd with two devastating forehands to the backcourt to end the Boonsak's remarkable challenge.
Despite the loss, Boonsak, who clinched the Singapore Open Super Series early this year, picked up a silver medal plus the US$4,800 (around Bt168,000) cash prize.
"Glad to come this far. I think I played well in the final despite the loss to Chen. It's a pity I lost the first game too easily. If I played an attack from the beginning, I think I stood a better chance of beating him. Moreover, I also made too many unforced errors, especially at the end of the first and third games and that's what counts," Boonsak said.
Meanwhile, top see Zhu Lin from China retained her singles crown yesterday following a scintillating come-from-behind 20-22 21-5 21-14 victory over Hong Kong's Chinese-born Zhou Mi. Unseeded Zhou formerly played for China Mainland to win three major titles in 2003 including All-England and Malaysia Open.
The men's doubles was another exciting contest, with Lee Jae Jin and Hwang Ji Man taking the limelight away from the more established pair of Jung Jae Sung and Lee Yong Dae.
In what could be the last year's final rematch, world No 7 and fourth seeds Lee and Hwang avenged the loss to Jung and Lee, ousting the tough rivals in an all-Koreans affair 21-19 19-21 21-9.
In the women's doubles showdown, top seeds and reigning world champions Gao Ling and Huang Sui, who already landed Korea Open and Malaysia Super Series early this year, captured the crown without sweating after walking over Du Jing and Yu Yang in the all-Chinese battle.
Reigning Asian champions He Hanbin and Yu Yang from China mercilessly crushed Koreans Han Sang Hoon and Hwang Yu Mi 21-12 21-14 to claim the mixed double title.
China ruled the roost at the end of the six-day tournament yesterday with four titles including a sweep of both men's and women's singles, while South Korea took the remaining crown in the men's doubles.
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