THAILAND OPEN 2011 – Back with a Bang in Bangkok

There was plenty of excitement as the first round of the main draw got underway at the SCG Thailand Open 2011 on Wednesday. The first round saw many close matches […]

There was plenty of excitement as the first round of the main draw got underway at the SCG 2011 on Wednesday. The first round saw many close matches and close calls for some of the top seeds and plenty of minor upsets during the first day of action in the main draw of the men’s singles, women’s singles and mixed doubles disciplines.

By Gerald Jew, Badzine correspondent, live from Bangkok. Photos:Badmintonphoto (archives) and Gerald Jew (live)

At Chulalongkorn University’s intimate Sports Complex, Bangkok badminton fans were able to quickly forget the disappointment that was caused when last year’s Open was cancelled due to the political strife that spilled out onto the streets of Bangkok. The first round saw most of the top seeds move into the second round, but the path wasn’t easy for some as many of the matches went the full three games or were decided by close two-game wins.


Men's singles top seed Chen Long © Gerald Jew

While most of Bangkok’s commuters were still stuck in the notorious traffic of the Thai capital, China’s top seeded Chen Long played the first match of the day against Thailand’s Tonongsak Saensomboonsuk.  Although Chen won 21-15, 21-18, the match was a slugfest that almost turned Saensomboonsuk’s way in the close second game. Saensomboonsuk took the lead late in the second game and looked like he would force a third game before Chen finally overtook the Thai at 18-17 and never looked back.

A slightly disappointed but confident Chen said “I expected to win more easily, but I was able to come back step by step and win the second game,” as if he knew he would.

Saensomboonsuk could only say of his early morning matchup that “Chen was too good and too fast for me.”

One of the more interesting matches of the day saw the oldest player in the men’s draw take on the youngest player in the draw, and experience proved to be the key as Malaysia’s Wong Choong Hann defeated Denmark’s 17-year-old Viktor Axelsen. After a tough first game that was tied at 18-all at one point, Wong took the final three points and the game. The 34-year-old  showed that he not only had the experience, but also the power and defense to defeat the reigning BWF World Junior Champion. Wong had a much easier time in the second game and cruised to a 21-12 win to send the young Dane down to defeat.

Wong wasn’t left unimpressed though, “I think he [Axelsen] has the heart to be a big player. He’s very aggressive and has everything it takes to become a top player. I knew it was going to be a tough match,” and then added, “I’m twice his age!”

A flu-afflicted Marc Zwiebler rests in the players' seating © Gerald Jew

Even local favourite Boonsak Ponsana didn’t have an easy time of it. Ponsana eked out a tough 22-20 first game win before winning the match with a closer-than-the-score-indicates 21-16 second game win.

Germany’s Marc Zwiebler was the highest seed to fall. The fifth-seeded Zwiebler wasn’t beaten by a better player, but by a flu bug that left him unable to compete. However, because of a rule that would have fined him if he withdrew from the tournament before his match, Zwiebler had to start the match and play a point before he retired from the match and the tournament.

“What a stupid rule,” he said. “All I want to do is go back to the hotel and go to sleep,” which he did after playing two points and then retiring from the match to get his much-needed rest.

The men’s singles consisted of two rounds on Wednesday, and the men played well into the night with all of the top seeds with the exception of Zwiebler and Hong Kong’s Hu Yun moving into Thursday’s third round. The seventh-seeded Hu lost his late night match to Malaysia’s Kuan Beng Hong who was playing his fourth match in two days after making it into the main draw after winning two matches in Tuesday’s qualifying rounds.  Kuan won in two straight games, 21-14, 21-16.

In the women’s singles draw, India’s top-seeded Saina Nehwal faced a formidable challenge in former BWF World Champion Lu Lan of China. Lu gave Nehwal all she could handle in a close three-game match. After splitting the first two games by scores of 21-17 and 14-21, Nehwal finally took the last three points of an 18-all third game to squeeze into the second round before a sizable throng of Indian fans who came out to cheer her on.

China’s Wang Lin, the current BWF World Women’s Singles Champion and recent world number one ranked women’s singles player also fell in a tough three game match. Wang, who is making a comeback from a serious knee injury and whose ranking has fallen to 64th in the world, has been making steady progress in her return to competitive badminton. Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun delayed Wang’s comeback, however, in a close three-game match that saw the eighth seed advance on scores of 21-18, 14-21, 21-17.

France’s Pi Hongyan made one of the best comebacks of the night with a come from behind 21-13, 13-21, 21-19 win over Hong Kong qualifier Chan Hung Yung. Pi was down 14-18 in the deciding third game before taking seven of the last eight points of the match to advance into Thursday’s second round against Korea’s Sung.

Reigning World Champion Wang Lin © Gerald Jew

An elated Pi said after the match, “My strategy was to move her around and play good defense. I watched her play the night before and knew she was an aggressive player. In the second game, the drift affected my play and after I fell behind I gave up on the second game and concentrated on the third game.”

About her second round matchup with Sung, Pi said, “I don’t recall playing Sung before; she’s also an attacking player. I’ll try my best and see how I do.”

Thailand’s young stars, Ratchanok Intanon and Porntip Buranaprasertsuk had mixed results on Wednesday. After playing well at the recent Sudirman Cup, Intanon who defeated both Chinese Taipei’s Cheng Shao Chieh and number one seed Nehwal in Qingdao, lost 12-21, 19-21 to the sixth seeded Cheng. The fourth-seeded Buranaprasertsuk had decidedly better results with a close and exciting two-game victory over Japanese qualifier Nozomi Okuhara. Buranaprasertsuk won by scores of 21-16, 25-23 in front of a highly partisan and raucous home crowd.

Another Thai youngster, qualifier Busanan Ongbamrungphan also provided the hometown fans some excitement by taking a 21-16, 15-21, 21-16 upset win over Hong Kong’s Yip Pui Yin.

The mixed doubles saw all of the top seeds move into the next round with many of the teams recording easy and quick wins to move into Thursday’s second round. Germany’s third seeds Michael Fuchs and Birgit Michels recorded a don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it, nineteen-*minute thumping of Hong Kong’s Lo Lok Kei and Chan Hung Yung 21-5, 21-9.

Korea’s Lee Yong Dae and Ha Jung Eun had a relatively easy win over Hong Kong’s Leung Chun Yiu and Ng Ka Shun 21-9, 21-15.

The number one and two seeded Thai teams of Sudket Prapakamol / Saralee Thougthongkam and Songphon Anugritayawon / Kunchala Voravichitchaikul moved into Thursday’s second round with straight-game victories over the Indonesian teams of, respectively, Riky Widianto and Shendy Puspa Irawati and Fadhilah Irfan and Anggraini Weni.

China’s fifth-seeded team of Xu Chen and Ma Jin will face Anugritayawon and Voravichitchaikul in what promises to be a close match on Thursday, after defeating Korean qualifiers Kwon Yi Goo and Kim Ha Na 21-8, 21-16.

Thursday’s action will see the start of first round play in the men’s and women’s doubles, the third round of men’s singles and the second rounds of the women’s singles and mixed doubles disciplines. Badzine will be on hand to cover all of the action live from Bangkok.

For the full results, CLICK HERE

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