** This NEW SHUTTLENWS report is sponsored by YANG YANG BADMINTON EQUIPMENT and their German agents, SIAM SPORTS (Tel/Fax 9872-93625). **

by Mike Grossman and Martin Coe

February 15, 1997 (NEW SHUTTLENWS) - Current world men's singles champion Heryanto Arbi of Indonesia won today's battle of champions in overpowering fashion when he defeated 1996 Olympic champion Poul-Erik Hoyer-Larsen of Denmark in a semifinal match at the Air India-sponsored Indian Open badminton tournament in New Delhi.

Arbi, who is coming back from a three-month layoff after injuring a thigh muscle, showed good form thru most of the match. The Indonesian player blasted his way past Hoyer-Larsen's defenses in the first game with his trademark jumpsmashes and jumpsmash-dash-then-net kill combinations. On the other hand, Hoyer was a trifle slow to defend Arbi's accurate crosscourt and down-the-line smash attacks. As well, the Danish player's soft smash blocks and tight net shots so essential to his previous wins over Arbi was error-prone.

It took Arbi less than 10 minutes to claim the first game at 15-4.

In the second game, Hoyer started to find his rhythm and touch after the opening points. Tied with Arbi at 4-all, Hoyer zoomed ahead with a string of 7 points as Arbi began to make errors. Hoyer also started to be able to blunt the Arbi smash attack.

Behind in the scoring at 4-11, Arbi settled down and mounted a comeback but Hoyer's lead was too much to overcome, specially with the Dane having found his touch. Arbi dropped the second game at 12-15.

The five-minute break after the second stanza seemed to benefit Arbi more than Hoyer. The Dane came out in the third game again playing a trifle slow and without the rhythm and touch that he had in the second game. Arbi, on the other hand, got his smash attack going and he overpowered the erratically playing Dane in about 11 minutes to win at 15-2.

In the other men's single semifinal, Indian national champion Pullela Gopi Chand of Hyerabad brought more pride back into Indian badminton when he beat Kim Hyung Joon of Korea 15-8 and 15-9. Gopi Chand becomes the first Indian player to reach the finals of a multistarred international badminton tournament since the days of Indian great Prakash Padukone.

The 23-year old Indian champion was in control of the match from the outset and took less than a half-hour to dispose of the young Korean semifinalist.

Gopi Chand's performance has been a surprise to many but the Indian champion has really prepared for this tournament. He has been training with Prakash Padukone at the BPL Badminton Academy in Bangalore for the past eight months and has greatly improved his stamina and skills as well as his on-court mental attitude.

Additionally, the great Prakash Padukone is also at the Indian Open coaching Gopi Chand as well as other players from the Badminton Academy.

Gopi Chand, though, has a giant task ahead of him tomorrow when he plays the title-hungry world champion Arbi in the final.

One Indian Open championship was decided today. Imam Tohari and Ema Ermawati of Indonesia took the mixed doubles crown with their 15-3 and 15-9 finals victory over Lee Chee Leong and Lee Yin Yin of Malaysia.

In the women's singles semifinals, top-seed Cindana Hartono of Indonesia easily defeated Choi Ma Ree of Korea, the world university students' champion, 11-6 and 11-4, while Korean junior player Lee Soon Deuk beat the more experienced English player Joanne Muggeridge, 11-3 and 11-8.

In the men's doubles semifinals, two Indonesian pairs won to guarantee a second Indian Open title for their country. Top seeds Hadi Sugianto and Aras Razak beat Lee Chee Leong and Tan Kim Her of Malaysia 15-6 and 15-5, while Ade Lucas and Ade Sutrisna defeated Korean junior players Kim Yong Hyun and Yim Bang Eun 15-12 and 15-4.

In women's doubles, Tantri Etty and Cynthia, the Indonesian second seeds at the tourney, beat back the strong challenge of Koreans Kim Mee Kyung and Cha Yoon Suk to book a spot in the finals. Etty and Cynthia had a tough time against the Korean pair. The Indonesians were on the brink of defeat after being humbled in the first game 5-15 and then taken to a 14-all tie in the second. Etty and Cynthia managed to survive the tight second game, taking it at 17-16. They then stormed to a 15-5 win the decider after getting some rest and a talking-to from the Indonesian coaches during the five- minute break.

Lee Soon Deuk of Korea booked herself into a second championship match tomorrow when she and partner Choi Ma Ree defeated fellow Koreans Lee So Young and Park So Yun 15-9 and 15-6 in the other women's doubles semifinal.