Lucas Mazur and Faustine Noel triumphed over the din of drums from the Thai fans to oust home favourites Siripong Teamarrom/Saensupa Nipada 15-21 21-18 21-14 from the SL3-SU5 mixed doubles semifinals at the Thailand Para Badminton International 2023.
“They started strong and we felt the pressure. We made mistakes early in the match, I found my rhythm somewhere late in the second game,” said Mazur.
On the noise, Noel said: “I couldn’t find a way to play my usual shots. Only in the middle of the third game I started feeling like I was in control.”
Having to play four matches in a day has clearly taken a toll on Mazur.
“All I can do is to try and recover as well as possible after each match with the help of my team.”
The French duo take on Indonesia’s Leani Ratri Oktila/Hikmat Ramdani in the final tomorrow.
Noel believes they need to watch out for Ramdani, younger and faster than Oktila’s previous partner.
“And even though Oktila seems slower than before, she’s highly experienced and skilled,” said Noel.
“We’ve shown we are able to come back even after being down but we don’t want another long match. We have to bring our best from the very start.”
Paralympic and world champion Cheah Liek Hou (Malaysia) fell to Suryo Nugroho 18-21 21-10 18-21 in the SU5 men’s singles quarterfinals.
“I surprised myself with this win because the last time I beat Cheah was in 2019. I thought I’d lose and didn’t prepare for the semifinals,” admitted Nugroho.
Several losses since the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics have shaken his confidence.
“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this but I’ve been making steady progress this year and feel good about qualifying for Paris 2024.”
Cheah has struggled in Pattaya.
“I don’t think my level has dropped so badly so suddenly. I’ve just not been comfortable on these courts since I got here. All my matches have been on Court 5 where I feel a slight draft and couldn’t see clearly. I know I’m older than these guys but I doubt my vision is failing me,” said Cheah.
Nugroho advanced after his 21-15 21-14 win over Japan’s Taiyo Imai to set up an all-Indonesian final against Dheva Anrimusthi.
Thailand’s Darunee Henpraiwan held on for almost an hour to take out Mandeep Kaur of India 21-17 20-22 25-23 in the SL3 women’s singles quarterfinals.
“It feels good to beat her for the first time and to do it in my country is extra special,” said Henpraiwan, 53.
The Paris 2024 Paralympics is a dream she hopes to fulfil and going up against women half her age doesn’t seem to faze her.
“Age is nothing. I love badminton, when I play I feel happy and relaxed. And I love having all these friends around me.”
Henpraiwan was denied 21-8 21-6 in the final by Turkey’s Halime Yildiz.
China’s Cheng Hefang is having mixed emotions about returning to competition.
The Tokyo 2020 gold medallist is happy to be back, but sad it’s taken so long for her to rejoin the fraternity. And surprised by the number of new athletes across all categories.
“I’m sure they are all inspired by the Paralympics. They are all so young, I’m sure they’ll do well and go far.”
Cheng won the SL4 women’s singles semifinals 21-15 21-10 against Norway’s Helle Sofie Sagoy.
“I’ve missed this but travelling to other countries and playing continuously is tiring because I haven’t done this in a long time.”
During the lockdown in China, Cheng stayed with her family and was not able to stick to her usual regime. Team training only resumed about six months ago.
“I’ve put on about 10kg since Tokyo. I ate a lot of my mother’s cooking. And chocolate.”
Cheng takes on Oktila in a repeat of the Tokyo 2020 final tomorrow.
“I’ve missed Oktila the most. We are good friends and I have so much respect for her, returning to competition so soon after having her baby.”
India’s Nithya Sre Sumathy Sivan had the crowd on the edge of their seats when she came from behind to defeat Li Fengmei in SH6 women’s singles to set up a final against another Chinese Lin Shuangbao.
Down 11-3 in the decider, Sivan dug deep to come back 14-21 21-12 26-24.
“I’ve never played against China. My teammates have told me about how good the wheelchair and other standing players are but I didn’t know anything about my category,” said a breathless Sivan.
“Earlier in the match I was having trouble assessing the court and felt the airflow was different on each side. But I kept reminding myself not to change my game. Mandeep always tells me to never forget my own movements and be influenced by the opponent.”
Sivan, who also plays SH6 mixed doubles with Sivarajan Solaimalai, has Paris 2024 in her sights.
“We are so comfortable on court. He’s like a nice older brother, very encouraging and never gets me down.”