In China’s sixth Sudirman Cup title at home, and their 13th overall, was another lesson in handling pressure.
Having come through a trial by fire in their semifinal against Japan, China executed another perfect demonstration of handling the stress of playing a final in front of an expectant home crowd. They were tested by Korea, but they aced those tests before the tests turned into crisis.
There was, for instance, the opening match in which Seo Seung Jae and Chae Yu Jung had match point against Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong. The mixed doubles world champions, who survived game and match points in two previous matches, once again came up with the goods from 16-19 and match point down.
The crestfallen Koreans could barely mount a challenge in the third game.
“We believed in each other. That was the main reason for our win,” said Zheng. “Without this crowd we couldn’t have won, they gave us the encouragement we needed. This is not the first match that we had to come back from match point down. We faced this situation a few times in this tournament, we had to save game points to win. This is a valuable experience for us, and we have to learn from it, on why we were down in the first place.”
It was up to An Se Young, normally unflappable under pressure, to rescue Korea. Having beaten Chen Yu Fei in their last three matches, An had the edge; on the other hand, Chen, having lost in straight games to Akane Yamaguchi in the semifinal yesterday, was expected to be vulnerable.
The Olympic champion came up with a brilliantly controlled performance, preventing the long rallies at which An is adept; at opportune moments she pushed the pace and her smashes regularly homed in on the lines. There was a brief phase when An got her game going, and she whittled down Chen’s lead to come to within a couple of points at 16-18. Just when the game seemed set for a cracker of an ending, An played a couple of weak points, and Chen had the game in the bag.
The Korean was again playing catch-up in the second, and there was a flutter when she saved three match points to level at 20-all. Once again, with a cloud hovering, the Olympic champion stopped a developing crisis, leaving a distraught Korean in her wake.
China were champions for the 13th time!
“It was really hard, especially because this was at home, there were a lot of expectations and high pressure,” said CBA President Zhang Jun, who called this the most memorable team campaign he’d seen, particularly after the come-from-behind semifinal win.
“I believe that all teams were of the same high level. It was down to how the athletes play on court, and our players did great especially when they were down.”