KOREA OPEN 2011 – Hans up, Hans down

Former champion and world #1 Lee Hyun Il failed at the first hurdle at the Korea Open, losing in 3 to Denmark’s Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (pictured) but the Dane struggled to […]

Former champion and world #1 Lee Hyun Il failed at the first hurdle at the , losing in 3 to Denmark’s Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (pictured) but the Dane struggled to produce more of the same magic against China’s Wang Zhengming.

By Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent live in Seoul.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto

Expectations were high for Lee Hyun Il’s comeback to the Korea Open.  He is one of only two Koreans to win the men’s singles title at home, which he did in one of the most memorable matches of the decade.  True, Lee’s current world ranking is still in the trough that follows his second comeback from retirement, such that he was again forced to play qualifying.  However, even before he won in 2008, with a miracle come-from-behind victory over Lin Dan, his coach Li Mao had predicted that Lin Dan would win that title.

In fact, the anticipated match of the day was the rematch between Lee Hyun Il and China’s Wang Zhengming.  The Asian Championship runner-up had beaten the Korean in the China Masters quarter-finals and the opening day rematch that was supposed to materialize between the two in Korea in November ended before it began, with Lee following most of his first-string team-mates in retiring after less than a game rather than exerting himself in the week following the Asian Games.

In the first game, it was a Lee Hyun Il (pictured) more reminiscent of that Gimcheon forfeit than of the 2008 champion.  Vittinghus charged out of the blocks with a preposterous 12 unanswered points while his opponent looked to be more indifferent than frustrated.  On the other hand, the poker-faced Lee wore an almost identical expression as he was evening the game score a few minutes later, winning 22-20 to force the decider.

“When I got ahead in the third game, I kept thinking ‘I’m so close to winning this now’ and that’s when I started to lose,” said the Dane afterward, “but once I forced myself to concentrate on my playing, that’s when things started going my way.”

Things did, of course go very much his way, as the Bitburger Open runner-up won the third game 21-15 to get a shot at Wang Zhengming, who was runner-up to Bao Chunlai on his last trip to Korea.  Vittinghus, for his part has no history of good results in Korea…until now.

“My Danish team-mates told me not to expect crowds on the first day and I think the crowd situation today helped me a lot more than it helped Lee Hyun Il.  I like it here, though.  The city seems more organized, we have a nice hotel and it is much easier to find good restaurants than it was in Malaysia, though I really like Malaysia as well.  The crowds are certainly better there.

“I feel quite comfortable playing the Chinese actually.  I played three games against Chen Jin last week and before losing to Chen Long in the Bitburger Open, I had beaten him once when he was still an up-and-comer.  I think Wang’s style is similar to Chen’s, though I haven’t played him.”

Unfortunately, for Vittinghus, despite starting much the same way against Wang Zhengming (pictured left), winning the first game decisively and barely missing the comeback in the second, he was unable to put the exclamation point on the deciding game and after drawing close at 14-16, saw the young former World Junior Champion pull away with a blistering finishing kick and win it 21-14.

For complete results from the qualifying rounds of the 2011 Victor Korea Open Premier Super Series, CLICK HERE

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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