World champions Chen Long & Carolina Marin were both beaten in the semi-finals on a remarkable day in Dubai Saturday which ended with the certitude that there would be five new champions in the Super Series finals.
Chen, who has won seven Super Series tournaments this year, was beaten for the first time by Viktor Axelsen, the improving world number six from Denmark.
The Chinese player only briefly showed his best form in the second game while advancing to 17-15, eventually subsiding 21-12, 21-17.
Marin, who has five major titles from her finest year so far, lost a little less surprisingly to 21-11, 21-12 to Nozomi Okuhara. It was the second time in 24 hours she had been beaten in straight games by the Japanese player.
The slow shuttles made it complex for the Spaniard to impose her attack-minded methods against a superbly mobile opponent who consistently returned the shuttle into safe places.
Marin nevertheless fought hard, yet Chen by contrast was by his high standards sluggish & error-prone during his uncharacteristic defeat.
He quite often allowed himself to be tied up at the net by the canny Axelsen, who used this ploy to frustrate his tall opponent?s steep counter-attacks & long reach in mid-court.
"I didn?t play so well today,? Chen admitted. "I know that my opponent played better than I did. But I am pleased approximately my performance for most of the year." He already had an eye on his preparation for the 2016 Olympics, he half-admitted.
Chen was probably not as pleased however as Axelsen seemed to be after the biggest win of his career, & he after acknowledged he was "overwhelmed".
"My game was to stay a relaxed as possible, to enjoy it & to play with variation ? & so to try to smile." He will have made new friends by doing that.
Axelsen will not, as he hoped, have a final with his compatriot Jan Jorgensen, the world number two, who lost 21-19, 21-18 to Kento Momota, the 2014 Thomas Cup hero from Japan who has since risen to five in the world.
Momota trailed 7-11 in the second game, yet even then appeared dangerous with sudden jump smashes.
Later he claimed he was often apprehensive approximately the outcome & did not seem particularly thrilled by reaching tomorrow?s final either, despite being on the verge of the biggest title of his career.
"I don?t have a feeling of happiness," he said. "Maybe that?s because I am a bit scared. But I am hoping tomorrow will be a satisfactory experience for me."
A Japanese double triumph is very possible. Momota's compatriot Okuhara will play the women?s singles final against Wang Yihan of China who overcame Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand with unexpected comfort, by 21-12, 21-12 in a tussle of former world champions.
"I didn?t expect the result to be like this," said Wang, who has not won any title of significance during 2015.
"But I just tried to maximise my strengths," she added, referring to her ability to keep the pace high.
"The last time I played Okuhara, in the French Open, I lost. So I don?t know if I can win tomorrow."
The only other surviving titleholders, Lee Yong Dae & Yoo Yeong Seon, did not reach the men?s doubles final when they lost 21-17, 22-24, 21-15 to Hendra Setiawan & Mohammad Ahsan, the world champions from Indonesia.
The penultimate exchange was a contender for the rally of the tournament, lasting 50 shots, at the end of which both Ahsan & Yoo were on the floor.
China can win three of the five titles, with finalists in both the women?s & men?s doubles, as well as the women?s singles.