India’s Srikanth Kidambi saw his hopes of making it to the Hong Kong Open Super 500 final dashed after he conceded a straight-games defeat to local favourite Cheuk Yiu Lee in their semifinal match on Saturday (November 16).
Kidambi had moved on to the semifinal after Chen Long was forced to withdraw from their quarterfinal match on Friday due to a strapped right thigh.
For the No. 36-ranked Lee, it was yet another upset victory, having beat World No. six Viktor Axelson in the quarterfinal on Friday (November 15).
The first game was a rather one-sided affair, with Kidambi, for the most part, unable to keep up with Lee, who came alive right off the blocks. Putting out consistently high-quality shots and defending with keen tactical awareness, the Hong Kong native carved out a 11-4 lead early on.
Kidambi rallied back to put five more points on the board but struggled to keep his shots within the boundary while having no answer for most of Lee’s drop shots, eventually conceding the game 9-21 in just 14 minutes.
Kidambi seemed to come alive in the second game, as he worked his way up to a 5-1 lead, catching Lee out with some high-handed smashes and producing unforced errors from his opponent.
However, the 23-year-old Hong Kong native soon started firing on all cylinders again and brought himself back into the game. Intercepting Kidambi’s shots with a little brush across the flight path of the shuttle, Lee kept the former World No. 1 honest, but the Indian kept the advantage and momentum in his favour, confounding his younger opponent to where he fell down on the court on a couple of occasions.
After reaching game point with a 20-15 advantage, Kidambi stalled out, while Lee kept racking up the points, eventually equalising the score. A relentless back-and-forth followed, with neither opponent seemingly able to score twice on the trot and seal the game.
Following some phenomenal play from both men, Kidambi was unable to return an exquisite smash from Lee and conceded the game 23-25, and consequently, the match.
It was a remarkable comeback from the 2017 New Zealand Open winner, who was down 15-20 at one point in the game. Lee will now face Jonatan Christie or Anthony Sinisuka Ginting in the final on Sunday (November 17).
For Kidambi, it was the continuation of a mostly disappointing season where a finals appearance at the 2019 India Open was his best performance so far.