Wang Zheng Ching, of China, capped his spectacular run in the Bahrain International Series Badminton Tournament 2023 by defeating young Indian star Ayush Shetty 21-19, 21-14 in a power-packed men’s singles final at the Indian Club last night.
Wang hadn’t really been tested on his dominant journey to the final but, in the opening few minutes, it looked, for all the world, like he had finally met his match in his 18-year-old opponent who won the bronze medal at the 2023 World Junior Championships earlier this year.
Shetty matched Wang smash for smash and tested his opponent’s speed across the course with a series of deliciously delicate drop shots as the two players stubbornly refused to let each other get the advantage.
But, after the two had drawn level once again at 13-13, Wang edged ahead to lead by three points, at 16-13.
But Shetty won three points in a row to make it 16-16 and soon, the two players were level again at 18-18.
Something had to give in this titanic battle and it was Shetty’s luck that buckled under the strain with Wang taking full advantage of his unforced errors to reach game point at 20-18.
Shetty still took the next point but Wang ensured that he went into the second set 1-0 up with an emphatic overhead smash.
The battle picked up from where it had left off in the second set with neither player willing to give an inch until both were level at 6-6.
Wang, then, edged ahead at 10-8 but Shetty caught up again minutes later to make it 10-10.
Suddenly, Wang surged to a four-point lead, at 15-11 and, this time, Shetty appeared unable to catch up as his opponent stretched his lead to seven points, at 18-11.
Shetty did manage to get another three points but that was all he would manage with Wang letting out a roar as he hit the winning stroke.
In the women’s singles final, China’s Chen Lu produced a display of high-class badminton as she roared back from a two-point deficit in the first set to complete a remarkable 21-13, 21-10 victory over Dai Wang.
Chen appeared to be struggling to find her rhythm when the game started as Dai took a 3-1 lead early.
That was when Chen seemed to shift gears, mixing powerful smashes with perfectly-placed drop shots as she swept ahead 11-7.
Soon, she led 18-10 before closing the set out 21-13 and continued to dominate in the second as she built up a nine-point lead at 13-4.
Dai struggled on gamely but Chen was now in her element and the only mistake she made thereafter was when she found the net after having served for the game at 20-9.
Meanwhile, China’s Xie Hao Nan and Zeng Wei Han wasted little time in disposing of their Thai opponents Sirawit Sothon and Nathapat Trinkajee 21-15, 21-9 in the final of the men’s doubles.
The Chinese pair were in supreme form from the start as they took a 5-0 lead in the first set before the Thai duo managed to draw level at 7-7. But that was as good as it was going to get for Sothon and Trinkajee because Xie and Zeng stepped on the accelerator to lead 19-13 before easily clinching the set.
With their confidence sky-high, the Chinese pair blazed their way to a 14-4 lead in the second set before finishing the game off swiftly.
However, the match of the day was the women’s doubles final which saw China’s Wang Ting Ge and Wang Yi Duo beat compatriots Ding Ke Yun and Wang Zi Men 23-21, 16-21, 21-19 in a thriller that showcased the incredible strength, stamina and skill of all four players.
After narrowly clinching the first set, Wang Ting and Wang Yi saw their opponents stage a comeback in the second.
And Ding Ke and Wang Zi were superb as they took a 5-3 lead and stayed ahead for the remainder of the set before taking it 21-16.
With all to play for in the final set, in a match that had already seen several long rallies and some spectacular, acrobatic returns, both pairs proceeded to better everything that had come before.
There was little to separate them until, with the score 6-6, Wang Ting and Wang Yi inched ahead at 8-6.
Soon, they were leading 12-8 and then, 14-11 but Ding Ke and Wang Zi were not about to give up that easily.
They reduced the deficit to just one, at 15-14, but Wang Ting and Wang Yi powered ahead again to reach match-point at 20-16.
It looked, for all intents and purposes, that Ding Ke and Wang Zi were out of the game but somehow they won three successive points to make the score 20-19.
But that was as far as they would get before their opponents delivered the coup de grace.
In the first final of the day, another all-Chinese affair, mixed doubles pair Ma Xi Xiang and Wu Meng Ying eased to a comfortable 21-17, 21-13 win over compatriots Zhou Zhi Hong and Yang Jia Ye
Ma and Wu were so dominant that, after they took the first set, they didn’t allow their opponents any respite in the second as they raced to a 9-5 lead and, before long, were poised just two points away from a memorable victory, at 19-13. Shortly thereafter, it was all over as Ma and Wu hugged in celebration before shaking hands with their opponents and the match officials.