KOREA OPEN 2012 SF – Alexandr falls, the Red Wave rises

The Victor Korean Open Series semi-finals saw some expected victories, and some upsets. If the Russians logically failed in the mixed doubles, and if Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei […]

The Victor Korean Open Series semi-finals saw some expected victories, and some upsets. If the Russians logically failed in the mixed doubles, and if Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei will meet in the final as planned, very few would have bet on a loss from top seeds Wang Yihan and Wang/Yu.

By Kira Rin. Photos: Yves Lacroix, Badmintonphoto (live)

If Alexandr Nikolaenko, like his namesake, Alexander the Great, wished to continue his eastward conquest alongside partner Valeri Sorokina, it was not to be as he met his end at the hands of Lee Yong Dae and Ha Jung Eun. The Russians went for a fast aggressive game from the get-go with Alexandr striving  to mark his place with every smash.  However, Lee/Ha clearly showed their superb defense and counter-attacks to take the 1st game 21-18. Not content with just defending, the Koreans replied with quick attacks, taking the match 21-14.

In the other half of the draw, Fischer-Nielsen and Pedersen were only able to barely keep pace tactically, with the Chinese Xu Chen and Ma Jin forcing Pedersen to the back. Even still, the Danes tenaciously attacked Ma Jin and any other gaps they could find. However, Ma Jin was able to direct the game play into their favour, taking the 1st game calmly 21-17. The Danes couldn’t do much about Xu Chen’s raw power, acrobatic moves,  and Ma Jin’s superb coverage, watching helplessly as the match slipped away 8-21.

Cai/ Fu vs. Jung/Lee again

The final of the men’s doubles will be another delight to watch, with Korea’s Lee and Jung taking on World champions Cai and Fu.

In the first semi-final, the two World Championship finalists met again, this time a step earlier in the semis of the . Both sides exchanged quick and fast rallies, with Fu Haifeng starting off with a thunderous 287km/h smash. The duo of Cai and Fu rushed ahead to a 13-3 lead, but Ko/Yoo caught onto the beat and crawled back up to 13-20 before sending a unlucky shot wide.

In a rare show of sportsmanship, when Cai dived unsuccessfully for a net shot in the 2nd game and went under the net, Yoo offered his hand to help Cai up, showing that badminton has always been, and is still a gentleman’s sport.  Ko/Yoo stepped up their defense and court coverage, however, Fu, working in tandem with his quick partner Cai, smashed his way to a 21-14 win.

After an interesting first men’s doubles semi-final, the Korean crowd was eager for more and the next match didn’t disappoint. Jung and Lee showed the two Kims the attacking power honed through years of international experience, smashing their way in 21-15. With Jung/Lee having one foot in the door to winning, Kim Ki Jung and Kim Sa Rang in reply showed off their skills that got them to semi-finals. An intense battle of high powered exchanges of smash and returns ensued, with both sides keeping close tabs on each other. Up to and past the 20-all mark, both sides continued their fast paced attacks upon each other, Jung/Lee intent on finishing the match so they could rest up for the finals, and Kim/Kim possibly intent on winning at least a game from their higher ranked compatriots. Both sides got chances at game points and match points, but in the end, Jung/Lee won the crazy and exciting match at their 4th match point opportunity, at 27-25. Maybe it was luck and a combination of experience and bravery that let them take home the match.

Lin vs Lee, another dream final…

Lin Dan played a careful tactical game, only smashing when needed against Sho Sasaki, who had beaten him in last year’s Indonesia Open. The Japanese, on the receiving end of the smashes, could only watch as the shuttle landed just outside his reach. On his way to winning the game 21-16, Lin Dan broke his racquet string, and had to get his coach to send it for immediate restring, hinting at a possible shortage of playable racquets.  Sho was able to grasp Lin’s tactics late in the game and almost came back from a 9-19 deficit before sending a smash straight into the net to end the game in Lin Dan’s favour 21-16.

Lin Dan changed pace in the 2nd game, opting to defend and counter-attack in open gaps, confusing Sho, who made many errors, letting the Chinese get a well-earned rest with his only 2-game match in this year’s Korea Open.

In the other semi-final, Lee Chong Wei was to book his ticket for the final as well. For every shot Du Pengyu could throw, Lee Chong Wei always had a reply ready, ceding only 8 points in the 1st game. Du adjusted his pace accordingly, but the experienced Lee was able to sense that and upped the pace yet faster to finish the match, 21-13 in the second.

Wang loses, Wang wins

Bae Youn Joo faced off against her enemy Wang Shixian, having never won a game, let alone a match in their 5 meetings since Bae’s only win, in their junior days. Bae took a short lead, running up to 7-5; however Wang Shixian played a high class tactical game and walked away with the first game 21-15. The 2nd game was but a repeat of the 1st, with the Chinese strolling off 21-16, yet again keeping her perfect score against Bae. The other Wang – Yihan-, top seed and main favourite, was not to make it to the final. Jiang Yanjiao managed to outplay her compatriot 21-13, 21-19 and will take on Wang Shixian in tomorrow’s final.

Surprise, surprise

The biggest surprise of the day came in the women’s doubles, where an all-Chinese affair was expected. But top seeds Wang and Yu failed to deliver and were beaten by Kim Min Jung and Ha Jung Eun. Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang kept a leash on the first game, until 14-12 when they raced to 21-12. However, Ha Jung Eun and Kim Min Jung weren’t ones to take defeat lying down and with the backing of the loud and supportive home crowd were able to keep abreast to 21-15 in the second, making it one even.

With the crowd practically screaming their support at every rally won, the Koreans kept the gap close and then overtook the Wang and Yu to reach 20-13. Faced with their backs against the wall, Wang/Yu became even more desperate in their play, recklessly catching back to 17-20 before the Koreans finally finished it off, much to the delight of the crowd.

China will have a representative in the final as Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei maintained a narrow lead until coming to 20-all against Kim Ha Na and Jung Kyung Eun. With both pairs relentlessly attacking each other, only luck led the Koreans to claim the 1st game 26-24.  China then stepped up the attack, steamrolling the Koreans 21-5. Korea could only manage to put up a short resistance before crumbling in face of Zhao and Tian’s experience in the third, with a final victory of the Chinese 21-13.

All results HERE

Badzine’s Photo gallery HERE

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