All bar one of the seeded players in the men’s singles draw progressed to Day 2; as big names such as Lee Chong Wei, Taufik Hidayat and last year’s runner-up Nguyen Tien Minh received a warm reception from the Australian crowd.
By Aaron Wong, Badzine correspondent, live in Sydney. Photos: Australian Badminton Open (live)
Paul Simon and Lee Chong Wei entertain Sydneysiders
As Grammy legend Paul Simon began singing his heart out just a couple hundred metres away, Lee Chong Wei (pictured left), world number 1 in men’s singles badminton, entered the Australian Open arena to rapturous applause upon his Sydney debut. India’s Arvind Bhat was the perfect first round foil for him. Someone not easy, someone who can put up resistance, someone able to smash the shuttle to the floor against the superstar, and most of all, someone undaunted at being given such a tall order.
In fact, the tall order worked both ways. The lanky Indian used his height advantage to blistering and steep attacking effect but was ultimately beaten by the pinpoint accuracy of Lee’s rear shots, which kept finding the line. To his credit, Bhat’s high quality offense enabled Lee to showcase his knack for extricating shuttles from tight spots, thus giving the crowd what they came for – delight coupled with amazement.
Right after winning 21-10, 21-18, though, enjoying the limelight in a new city, Lee highlighted that badminton sometimes does feel like a job: “My condition is not the best since the All England but I promised to be here.”
The senior statesman, Taufik Hidayat, reminisced fondly at his long career when asked about his expectations for this tournament having just advanced to the second round, “Sydney, this is where I played the Olympics in 2000. I’m glad my sponsors brought me back here and I’m pleased to see all the fans.” But he confirmed his imminent retirement this June truly means ‘that’s all folks’. Hidayat categorically stated on camera of having no intention of reappearing in league competitions post-retirement.
Koreans are known to have to work extremely hard academically to get somewhere in life. Badminton as a career seems hardly different given tonight each of the four men spent no less than 50 minutes and 3 games on court with Lee Dong Keun and Park Sung Min living to fight another day.
Nguyen be nimble, Nguyen be quick, Nguyen jump over all your tricks
Former Australian Open champion and 2012 runner-up, Nguyen Tien Minh (pictured right), played the highest octane match of the evening against Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin and was full of praise for his opponent’s swift court coverage abilities. Being the best proponent of the running style though, Nguyen would triumph in devastating fashion 17-21, 21-9, 21-8, but the scoreline belies the consistently thrilling medium-length rallies that never abated throughout the match.
“My hand skills are not great so I must make up for it with speed around the court,” confessed the ever-chatty Vietnamese player.