OLYMPICS Day 2 – Two Thais cause upsets

On Day 2, two Thai pairs beat out higher ranked opponents, including another huge win for Issara and Jongjit, over Korea’s Ko Sung Hyun / Yoo Yeon Seong that clinches […]

On Day 2, two Thai pairs beat out higher ranked opponents, including another huge win for Issara and Jongjit, over Korea’s Ko Sung Hyun / Yoo Yeon Seong that clinches a quarter-final spot for the youngsters.

By Michael Burke and Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondents.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

The last match of the middle session promised to be exciting, featuring a replay of the India Open final between Thailand’s Bodin Issara and Maneepong Jongjit (pictured) and their new favourite opponents Ko Sung Hyun and Yoo Yeon Seong of Korea.

Fourth seeds Ko and Yoo had, until Saturday, been the only casualties on a well-disguised run of form for the Thais, who withdrew from their only tournament since their India Open win.  Their decisive victory over Ahsan and Septano, though, showed that they were ready to cause trouble for more than just the Koreans, who have not beaten them since their first meeting at the 2010 Asian Games.

Living up to potential, the early exchanges were very impressive and the scoring was largely level until the mid game interval, with the Thais taking in an 11-9 lead.  Issara and Jongjit kept up the pressure with some incredible defence and explosive movement to take the first game 21-15.

The continued quality of the Thais dominated the game, making Ko/Yoo (pictured right) look flat despite a still impressive performance, let down only by errors on the final shot of each rally and by a trio of service errors.  The audacious Thais barely controlled their youthful enthusiasm to hold out and eventually take their first straight-game victory over the world #4’s.

The victory means the Thais are assured of a quarter-final spot and only two straight wins by the Poles, along with some accompanying circumstances, can deny them the top position in Group B.

Mixed doubles was the site of the other Thai upset.  Sudket Prapakamol / Saralee Thoungthongkam scored a minor one, as it would have to be in a group containing the world #2, #5, #6, and #7.  The Thais started off their third Olympic campaign with a two-game win over Chen Hung Ling / Cheng Wen Hsing of Chinese Taipei, leaving the group still wide open with no fates yet sealed.

Other matches saw Danish mixed doubles hopes Thomas Laybourn and Kamilla Rytter Juhl take a comfortable win, fighting off a much improved second game from the Indians Valiyaveetil Diju and Jwala Gutta despite a painful blow to the hand of Juhl from her partner’s racket, to take the match 21-12, 21-16.

The mixed doubles World Champions Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei faced a tougher match in Alexandr Nikolaenko and Valeri Sorokina than their first day domination of the Germans.  The Russians started slowly as they did in the previous day’s upset of the British hopes but recovered in the second to post a more respectable score, eventually going down 21-9 21-18.

The loss by the Russians ensured that Group A will finish with at least two pairs with two wins and that sealed the fate of Britain’s Adcock and Bankier, who early in the morning, suffered their second upset, this time to Germany’s Michael Fuchs and Birgit Michels (pictured).

“It’s our first Olympic Games.  We wanted to do our best. We lost two games which we saw as winnable,” a Badminton England press release quoted Imogen Bankier as saying.  “We came into the tournament in the best shape of our lives but we faced two difficult opponents.”

“We have started brilliantly in the first two matches but not got off to good starts in the second game,” added Chris Adcock.  “It’s something we will have to look at.  Maybe it’s our tactics, maybe it’s theirs. We are gutted, obviously.”

So Long, Boonsak

What on paper appeared to be a difficult challenge with Chen Long facing his only opponent of the group stages, Singapore Open champion Boonsak Ponsana (pictured), was eventually not so as Chen simply outplayed his lower-ranked opponent.  Ponsana had a 2-1 record against his Chinese opponent going into this match, and with the shadow of some inconsistent performances from Chen since the Olympic qualification period closed, the match was billed as one of the ones to watch on the day.

The first game went easily to the Chinese player, but the second was more of a challenge, with Ponsana holding the lead for much of the game through solid net exchanges, but he faded towards the end with a series of unforced errors, and Chen Long won in straight games 21-12, 21-17.

The group with the closest bunching of players saw one put out of the running as Britain’s Rajiv Ouseph (pictured below) eked out a 22-20 17-21 21-15 victory over European Championship runner-up Henri Hurskainen.  The elimination of the world #43 means that #25 Ouseph and #38 Kevin Cordon of Guatemala will duke it out for the spot in the round of 16.

No repeat gold in men’s doubles

In a changing of the men’s doubles guard, the now American veteran Tony Gunawan and his partner Howard Bach lost in a comprehensive match in favour of the Malaysian pair of Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong, 21-12 21-14.  The Malaysians showed uncharacteristic discipline, coupled with the more common power, even hitting their opponents to take the match without ever really looking in trouble.

Koo/Tan’s scheduled match with the top Korean pair later in the group leaves the prospect of a very exciting encounter between the two pairs assured of quarter-final spots but both keen to avoid meeting Cai/Fu in the semi-finals.

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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