Badminton worlds: Shi faces Momota, Marin v Sindhu in finals

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              Shi Yuqi of China plays a shot as he competes against Chen Long of China in their men's badminton semifinal match at the BWF World Championships in Nanjing, China, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
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NANJING, China (AP) — Shi Yuqi of China beat two-time champion and compatriot Chen Long 21-11, 21-17 to reach the final of the badminton world championships on Saturday.

These worlds could mark a changing of the guard for the Chinese men, as Shi also beat five-time champion Lin Dan in the third round. These are Shi’s second worlds.

Then again, he faces Kento Momota, who beat Shi en route to the Asian Championships title in April. A Japanese man has never won the worlds.

The women’s final features two-time champion Carolina Marin of Spain against Pusarla Sindhu, who has a second shot in two years at becoming the first Indian to win a worlds. It’s also a repeat of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics final, won by Marin.

Shi looked sharp in the semifinals, returning smashes with ease and forcing the more experienced Chen into difficult shots. It was Shi’s second straight win against Chen, after starting his career 0-4 against the Olympic champion.

Even so, Shi wasn’t prepared to say he was China’s best male player.

“I have my advantages but they (Chen and Lin) have their own strengths,” Shi said.

He put his victory down to hometown support.

“I’m very confident because my relatives and friends from my hometown have come to support me,” Shi said. Nantong is in the same Jiangsu province as Nanjing, three hours away.

Momota defeated the unseeded Daren Liew of Malaysia 21-16, 21-5.

“Shi Yuqi is very comprehensive and able to defend,” Momota said. “Tomorrow I will control my pace in front of the net.”

Momota has been in top form since returning from a gambling-related suspension that sidelined him for 15 months and caused him to miss the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. After the Asian title, he added the Indonesia Open in July.

In women’s singles, Marin beat He Bingjiao of China 13-21, 21-16, 21-13. Marin was overwhelmed in the first game but got stronger as the match went on, ultimately cruising to victory.

“It means a lot to me to get to the finals,” said Marin, the world champion in 2014 and 2015 and Olympic champ in Rio.

Sindhu defeated second-seeded Akane Yamaguchi of Japan 21-16, 24-22. Sindhu trailed 8-4 in the first game and a remarkable 19-12 in the second. Yamaguchi blew her one game point by serving to the wrong court. Two more final errors gave Sindhu the match.

“I was determined to fight until the last point,” Sindhu said.

Sindhu and Marin are 6-6 in career meetings. Sindhu won their last match in the Malaysia Open quarterfinals.