Photo credit: Tang Shi
As if a dramatic finish in one of the men’s single semifinals at Chinese Taipei Open wasn’t enough, the second semifinal finished in a similar way. Both semis were settled with more than 20 points for each player in third game.
Local favorite Chou Tien Chen had been cruising all week to enter the semifinal of the World Tour Super 300 tournament on his home soil today. At no point in the first three rounds has he been really under pressure and today was expected to be just like that as well. But his Malaysian opponent wanted it differently.
Ranked 60 in the world, 20-year old Lee Zii Jia eyed his chance for reaching the final as he and Chou stepped on court for their second encounter today. They met first time at the semifinal of Chinese Taipei Open last year – so the scenario was an exact copy this year. Last year Chou won in three games, and today the two needed three games again before the winner was found.
Reaching the limit
It was the local top seed that got the best start. Chou was leading most of the way up through first game but – as in both of the women’s single finals – the score was leveled out towards the end of the game. Lee came up to 15-15 after having been down with 5 points mid-way through the game. Finally it was still Chou Tien Chen who got first game though; 21-17 for the Taiwanese.
Second game saw a turn in the control of the match. The young Malaysian established a comfortable lead from 5-5 and up, and he didn’t look back from this point. He equalized the match by winning 21-14 and once again the two had to decide the semifinal in three games. And this is where the drama started.
Apart from a 7-point streak for Chou Tien Chen mid-way through third game, it was an extremely close affair all the way. Towards the end of the match Chou had literally no energy left but one must respect that he kept on fighting. He tried all kind of tricks to get an extra pause between every point – leaving court to dry himself, putting new grip powder on his racket, bending over and leaning onto his racket or even sitting down sometimes to get an extra few seconds. It was obvious that the Taiwanese favorite was about to reach his limits.
Best result of the year
Lee Zii Jia on the other hand didn’t look as affected by the long match that lasted 80 minutes in total. He maintained cool and focused until the end and on his third match point – after Chou having failed to convert his two – Lee could raise his arms in joy. He won 24-22 and qualified for the final at Chinese Taipei Open.
No matter the outcome in the final tomorrow, this is already Lee’s best result this year. Previously he had two times round of 16 as his year best – at Malaysia Masters and the Asian Games. His opponent in the final tomorrow was to be found between Jan Ø. Jørgensen (3) and unseeded Riichi Takeshita.
Selected results from the semifinals at Chinese Taipei Open:
MS: Lee Zii Jia, Malaysia vs. Chou Tien Chen, Chinese Taipei (1) 17-21 21-14 24-22
MD: Chen Hung Ling/Wang Chi-Lin, Chinese Taipei (1) vs. Bodin Isara/Maneepong Jongjit, Thailand (5) 21-16 21-10