WORLD JUNIORS 2006 – Asia rules

More Asian Dominance in Badminton’s Future?   If Day Two of the World Junior Championships is any indication of the future of badminton, then it looks more than ever as […]

ImageMore Asian Dominance in Badminton’s Future?

 

If Day Two of the World Championships is any indication of the future of badminton, then it looks more than ever as if that future lies in Asia. Not a single team from outside of the host continent finished atop any of the 8 subgroups despite the fact that Denmark, England, and Germany were all seeded. Furthermore, normally mighty Denmark followed up its earlier loss to Japan by losing 3-2 to Chinese Taipei to drop to fourth spot in Group X. In fact, Russia’s wins over Pakistan and Turkey were the only dents in Asian dominance on Day 2.

 

Don Hearn, Badzine correspondent in Incheon

When the morning dust had settled, Singapore, Japan and India had earned their spots in the top eight alongside seeds Thailand, Malaysia, China, Indonesia and Korea. In the bottom half playoffs, the only matchup that was hotly contested was Ukraine vs. Canada where Ukraine took all of the allotted 3 hours to take the tie from the Canadians, who had got out to a 2-0 lead on the strength of their singles.
Few surprises at the top…
Among the sixteen teams at the top of each group, the results were, for the most part, exactly what we have come to expect from the adult teams of the respective countries. Malaysia and Indonesia both won handily but, as might be expected, the girls conceded a single point in each tie. Malaysia’s girls’ doubles fell in straight games to the Japanese team and Indonesia’s Aprilia Yuswandari was beaten by Xing Aiying (photo) of Singapore, who is a ninth seed for next week’s individual girls’ singles event.
…but perhaps some raised eyebrows
Among the wins by the top seeds, China’s looked perhaps the most interesting. After an easy win in the mixed doubles, in the singles, where China has traditionally had all kinds of depth, victory was anything but certain.
First, Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk moved China’s Lu Qicheng all over the court to win the first game in boys’ singles. He then had match point in the second but could not put it away. The Thai’s net play was still superior in the decider and that kept him close but at 10-9, he looked desperate to finish a very long rally that eventually went to Lu. From then on, Tanongsak started to show signs of fatigue. Lu, after pulling away to 19-12, and then allowing his opponent to pull within one, tried to power his way to the win. It finally worked with two big smashes that ended the final game 21-18
Next, it was China World Cup winner Wang Yihan who looked less than commanding against Porntip Buranaprasertsuk. The tall Chinese struggled to finish the first game 22-20 and Porntip stayed close most of the way through the second game before Wang finally ran away with the game 21-15 to secure China’s place in Saturday’s semi-final against Indonesia. In spite of the score, however, Wang never lost her composure. We might have to wait some time before we see her truly under pressure in these championships.
ImageTwo candidates for applying that pressure might be the two youngsters battling it out in neighbouring Court 5. After a scorching 12-minute victory for Lee Yong-dae and Yoo Hyun-young in mixed doubles and a shaky but sufficient win for Han Ki-hoon in boys’ singles, Korea’s Jang Soo-young took on Philippine Open champion Saina Nehwal (photo) in girls’ singles. Jang took the first game but Saina stormed back to tie the match with a 21-10 win in the second game. Jang then responded in kind with a decisive 21-7 in the final.
As the Koreans’ doubles superiority made them overwhelming favourites, the final singles match was more interesting for what it portends for next week’s individual event. Saina says that she no longer feels the pressure that she did before the re-draw, when she was the top seed. While she hopes she can challenge Wang Yihan in the final, she says she is focussing on the tough competition in her half of the draw, which includes number three seed Liu Jie of China and second seed Lydia Cheah of Malaysia. Saina says she has beaten Cheah all three times they have played each other; however, also standing in her way is Jang, the Korean who beat her today. The young Indian seems confident, however, saying that Jang was not as strong as the more experienced Korean player whom she beat in Seoul in August in front of an enthusiastic local crowd.
Even if a local cheering section materializes by next week, Saina’s trainer, Dinaz Vervatwala, says that the whole team has been working on their mental training and they should be prepared. She points to the morning upset of Germany as evidence of these Indian players’ will to win.
The Junior Worlds are being hosted by the city of Incheon, which is bidding to host the 2014 Asian Games. The tournament venue is a sparkling facility that is so new that the website has an architect’s illustration instead of a photograph. Although the main viewing gallery starts a distant two storeys above the gym floor, this has not yet been an issue as only a handful of spectators were on hand to watch the end of group play. If Korea wants to capitalize on the home court advantage, they will need to fill those lofty seats with the crowds of weekend spectators that have appeared when Incheon has hosted the Korea Open.
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Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @ badzine.net