SUDIRMAN CUP 2013 SF – Thailand KO’d by Ko

Ko Sung Hyun starred for Korea by winning both of his matches, in the mixed and men’s doubles, thereby propelling Korea to a 3-1 victory in the first semi-final of […]

Ko Sung Hyun starred for Korea by winning both of his matches, in the mixed and men’s doubles, thereby propelling Korea to a 3-1 victory in the first semi-final of the 2013  against first-time semi-finalist Thailand.

By Mior Muzaffar Mior Dahalan, Badzine Correspondent live in Kuala Lumpur.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

Considering merely team history, Korea came to the courts in Kuala Lumpur’s Stadium Putra as heavy favourites as they were playing in their 13th straight semi-final at this 13th Sudirman Cup competition.  Their Thai opponents, however, were the group seeds that Korea had had to upset in round robin play earlier in the week and were in their first semi-final in Sudirman history.

The 1st match was the mixed doubles between Ko Sung Hyun and Kim Ha Na (pictured above), ranked 69th in the world, against world #6 Sudket Prapakamol / Saralee Thoungthongkam. Despite the Korean pair’s low ranking, their recent success in winning the Asian Championships in Taipei last month and finishing in the runner-up spot at the Indian Open Superseries a week later really shows that they are one of the in-form pairs in the world right now.

From the get-go, it was clear that the Thais were not going to go as quietly as they had on Tuesday – the only other time these two pairs had ever met – and in the first game it was a close affair with beautifully constructed points from both sides really getting the crowd going. Eventually the Korean pair just edged it with a 21-18 win.

In the 2nd game, the Koreans set the tempo early and led 11-8 at the interval but the Thais showed real resilience and clawed their way back in the game, but in the end the Korean pair just packed to much firepower in their game and took the second game 21-19 to give Korea a one-point lead in the tie.

The 2nd match, men’s singles, was between the veteran Boonsak Ponsana (pictured) and the newcomer Lee Dong Keun, who in fact has yet to play his first Superseries tournament outside of his homeland.  In this first ever meeting between these two players, Boonsak showed real composure and great court control to easily win this match 21-9, 21-12 to level the score between Thailand and Korea to 1-1.

When asked whether he was confident to win against Boonsak and earn a point for Korea, Lee Dong Keun said, “I won all my games before this, so I was quite confident. But Boonsak read my game well and all my tactics were fruitless in this match.

“I wasn’t tired at all, I could’ve played another game if I had had to but maybe he is more experienced than me.”

Boonsak, meanwhile, confessed, “My tactic today was to make the Korean run to all four corners of the court and at the same time to use a lot of trick shots.”

This brought up the men’s doubles, where Denmark and Korea Open champions Ko Sung Hyun and Lee Yong Dae (pictured) easily dispatched Thailand’s new pairing of Maneepong Jongjit / Nipitphon Puangpuapech 21-12, 21-11. The Korean pair ranked #2 in the world showed their class and led this match from the start to the end. This expected victory gave team Korea the advantage 2-1 and allowed them to feel tantalizingly close to the final.

After the match, asked how it was possible for him to play a very high level of badminton in mixed doubles and men’s doubles  in one day, Ko Sung Hyun replied, “The level of training in Korea is very intense and punishing so this is not a problem for me.”

“In the next match, if we meet China we will try our best as our confidence is very high after winning all our matches so far,” added Lee Yong Dae. “My combination with Sung Hyun is still quite new, compared to my previous partnership with Jung Jae Sung with its ups and downs. But I’m confident I can achieve as much with Ko Sung Hyun.”

With the match score 2-1 favouring the Koreans, the women’s singles was the most anticipated match of the day, as it involved world #6 Sung Ji Hyun (pictured below) against the World #5  Ratchanok Intanon, the two most recent additions to the club of Superseries winners.  Sung Ji Hyun was composed throughout the match and didn’t let Ratchanok find her rhythm.  The Korean cruised to a straight-game 21-17, 21-14 victory.

“I’m not frustrated at all.  My game is just not up to the standard it should be that’s why I lost,” explained Ratchanok.

“Although she is ranked higher than me, we have played against each other so many times, so I was quite prepared what to expect of her style of playing,” said Sung Ji Hyun, who enjoyed a head-to-head advantage of 5-2 over Intanon before today.

“There wasn’t any big game plan before coming to this match.  I just wanted to have fun and enjoy it.”

With the victory in the women’s singles, Korea will now get the chance to recapture the Sudirman Cup that they last won in 2003 against mighty China. As for now, they can just relax and wait for the outcome of the 2nd semi-final between China and Denmark.

Sudirman Cup Semi-final 1 result: Korea 3, Thailand 1
XD: Ko Sung Hyun / Kim Ha Na (KOR) beat Sudket Prapakamol / Saralee Thoungthongkam (THA) 21-18, 21-19
MS: Lee Dong Keun (KOR) lost to Boonsak Ponsana (THA) 9-21, 12-21
MD: Ko Sung Hyun / Lee Yong Dae (KOR) beat Maneepong Jongjit / Nipitphon Puangpuapech (THA) 21-12, 21-11
WS: Sung Ji Hyun (KOR) beat Ratchanok Intanon (THA) 21-17, 21-14
WD: Jung Kyung Eun / Kim Ha Na (KOR) vs. Saralee Thoungthongkam / Sapsiree Taerattanachai (THA)  (not played)

Click here for complete semi-final results

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