SUDIRMAN CUP 2011 QF – Ha’s heroics save Korea again

Since the release of the draw for the quarter-finals Wednesay night, many may have thought it would be easy to tell who would be bagging effortless victories, as the outcomes […]

Since the release of the draw for the quarter-finals Wednesay night, many may have thought it would be easy to tell who would be bagging effortless victories, as the outcomes seemed to be fairly inclined towards a certain team. However, in badminton – and in most other sports – nothing is impossible. China and Korea may have made an appointment to meet in the semi-finals two days later, but they were both drained and exhausted from the obstacles their competitors have given them tonight.

By Ooi Ee Lyn, Badzine Correspondent. Photo: Badmintonphoto (live)

It was even-handed to begin with as Korea and Malaysia, both teams going heads to heads against each other tonight, were equally worn out from the tie they had the night before. In sense of strength, Korea was rated 60-40 on paper against Malaysia, who’ve been smacked with pain from the retirement of Wong Mew Choo and the disgrace of the 2-10 record of the golden boys Koo / Tan against Korea’s Lee / Jung.

In order to disencumber the problem and stand on the same starting line as their opponents, Malaysia reshuffled the team and drafted a so-called odd line-up to meet Korea’s expectable list of players. Rexy Mainaky, the Malaysian doubles head coach had claimed to Sinchew Daily of Malaysia that the list was plotted in order to grab the men’s singles and doubles matches, so to put the women’s doubles to decide destiny.

Chan / Goh, who hadn’t managed to contribute a single point to the team was withdrawn to allow the more experienced Koo Kien Keat / Chin Eei Hui to dig a way through the Korean’s wall of defense. While, Koo / Tan’s tragic stats against both Lee / Jung and Ko/Yoo became the best reason for the Malaysians to unleash their secret weapons – the usual Tan Boon Heong partnered with Hoon Thien How, the partner with whom he was crowned World Junior Champion seven years ago.

Ko Sung Hyun / Ha Jung Eun and Lee Chong Wei, who spearheaded the Korean and Malaysian army respectively, drew the first blood for their teams, each in straight games, injecting confidence into the arteries of their team-mates as the 1-1 knot was tightened just before the key game between the men’s doubles was unsewn.

Lee still haunted by Hoon

If Lee / Jung are named malignant star to Koo / Tan, Hoon Thien How in return, is in fact the true nemesis of the Korean doubles specialist Lee Yong Dae. What adds spice to the rivalry between the two is, it wasn’t as pairs that they were nemeses, it was, as a matter of fact, solely between Lee and Hoon, for the Malaysian had earned victories with three different partners against the Korean, whom he had met thrice, partnering three other comrades.

In 2009, Hoon, partnered with Lin Woon Fui in Suwon, had disposed of Lee Yong Dae and Shin Baek Cheol in the first round of the Asian Championships on the latters’ home ground. A year later, in the Malaysia Open Super Series 2010, Hoon paired Ong Soon Hock and silenced Lee / Jung, also in the first round, in Kuala Lumpur. Further back in their youthful days playing in the juniors circuit, it was Lee Yong Dae and Jung Jung Young who had lost to Hoon Thien How and Tan Boon Heong in the final of the 2004 World Junior Championships, where the latter received their gold as juniors.

This night, in the Qingdao Sports Center Stadium, Lee Yong Dae could have hoped for his partner in the younger days, his WJC gold medal partner – two years after the Malaysian – Cho Gun Woo to join him in the war against his deadly long-time rival, for perhaps Cho / Lee – a fourth pairing – could break the curse they had against Hoon / Tan. Sad to say, the bane had to be left unbroken, as the Malaysians triumphed over Lee and Jung to bring a 2-1 lead in the tie for Malaysia.

As Bae Youn Joo grabbed the point from Tee Jing Yi, it was once again up to the women’s doubles to decide the fate of the teams.  Both women’s doubles pairs, Ha Jung Eun / Kim Min Jung of Korea and Chin Eei Hui / Wong Pei Tty of Malaysia, had their moments in the sun during China’s post-Beijing rebuilding year but while the Malaysian ladies peaked at the world #1 spot, the Ha and Kim came up just short at #2 and had not beaten Chin/Wong since their first meeting, just before Beijing.

This time, though, after each pair had taken one game,  Kim and Ha clinched the tie-breaker in 21-10 from  and washed Malaysia off the track with a 3-2 victory.  This was Ha Jung Eun’s sixth straight victory and the second consecutive night on which she had been relied on to deliver both the first and the deciding point for her team.  Her real test will come on Saturday, however, when she will no doubt be fielded in both disciplines again against China.  Whether she will find the form that saw her and Lee Kyung Won take the winning match in last year’s Uber Cup final remains to be seen.

Saina slits Wang to salvage pride

On the adjacent court where China was expected to draw an easy win from India, the tie had to be pushed into the fourth match before China was escorted into the semi-finals. It happened with India’s women’s singles pearl Saina Nehwal toppling the world #3 Chinese Wang Xin in straight games of 21-15, 21-14. While most of Saina’s previous distinguishable wins on the circuit were bagged in the absence of the Chinese ladies, her success tonight definitely goes into proving the Indian capable of quaking China’s squad.

As China was leading 2-1, Wang Xiaoli / Yu Yang went on to end the night with good news for the Chinese as they beat Jwala Gutta / Ashwini Ponnappa in 21-18, 21-13, as well as signing an appointment with the Koreans to meet in the semi-finals on Saturday afternoon.

Round-robin results of other groups:

Group 3B: Vietnam bt Bulgaria 5-0
Group 2B: Canada bt Netherlands 3-2
Group 2A: Ukraine bt Poland 3-2

For complete results, CLICK HERE

About Ee-Lyn Ooi