World champion Lucas Mazur held off a stubborn challenge from India’s Tarun Dhillon to enter the men’s singles SL4 final of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
The Frenchman led 11-4 in the third game, but the Indian kept nipping at his heels and nearly caught up at the end. Mazur, physically flagging from the effort, received medical attention late in the game; the Indian couldn’t capitalise on his momentum and Mazur took the match 21-16 16-21 21-18.
He will face another Indian, Suhas Yathiraj, in the final. Yathiraj wasn’t stretched in his semifinal, easing past Indonesia’s Fredy Setiawan 21-9 21-15.
“I feel really exhausted. I gave all I could so I feel very proud of my performance,” said Mazur. “I used the support of the French team. They cheered for me a lot and that pushed me. I won a lot of points as a result.”
Yathiraj said he had “a bone to pick” with Mazur as the Frenchman had a better record against him.
“Extremely, extremely happy because I didn’t know until 2016 I would play Para badminton professionally. Many times I asked myself if I was doing the right thing because I have another job. I don’t have words to describe this. There are moments in life you will cherish forever and this is one such moment. Tokyo 2020 will be in my heart forever.”
Bhagat to Face Bethell
Another Indian, Pramod Bhagat, made the final of men’s singles SL3, beating local hope Daisuke Fujihara. The world champion takes on Great Britain’s Daniel Bethell in the final.
“Really happy with my form,” said Bethell, who was too good for Manoj Sarkar in their semifinal. “I was really nervous. He is world No.3, so I knew I had to keep playing well, had to step up my level a bit. Had to keep the rallies going on. Against Pramod (in the final), we have played each other so many times in finals over the last few years. Everyone’s been talking to me about it for the last year. It’s going to be great fun to get out there and give the people a good show.”
Kim Jung Jun Survives Test
Wheelchair great Kim Jung Jun overcame a strong opening spell of play from longtime rival Chan Ho Yuen to outplay him in the men’s singles WH2 semifinal, 15-21 21-15 21-15.
Another Korean great, Lee Sam Seop, nearly crashed out in the WH1 semifinals. Lee was two match points down against compatriot Lee Dong Seop, but fought his way back and earned a shot at the gold, 19-21 21-7 22-20.
“It was so tiring,” said Lee Sam Seop. “I’ve been playing for 20 years, so to make the final makes me so happy. I’ve faced many tough matches like this in my career, but the pressure here was different, it was so intense. I wasn’t relaxed at all, I just couldn’t enjoy the match.”
Against his opponent in the final, world champion Qu Zi Mo, Lee Sam Seop conceded that his opponent was in better physical shape.
“Age won’t matter. My parents and my family have been supporting me, and their support will keep me going.”