KOREA GPG 2013 SF – Korea across the board

Lee Hyun Il wins big as Korea locks up a Grand Prix Gold title sweep for the fifth time in six years. Story and photos: Don Hearn (live in Jeonju) […]

Lee Hyun Il wins big as Korea locks up a Gold title sweep for the fifth time in six years.

Story and photos: Don Hearn (live in Jeonju)

Korean shuttlers are no strangers to title sweeps, even at the Grand Prix Gold level.  In addition to the last two editions of the Victor Korea Grand Prix Gold held in Hwasun, they even did it on the road in Germany in 2008 and in Chinese Taipei this year.

However, this is the first time this century that they have wrapped up a sweep on semi-finals day.  The final four visiting competitors were shown the door today in Jeonju, with a particularly important victory by the masterful Lee Hyun Il (pictured), who also held a broom in Korea’s sweeps in 2008 and 2011.

Lee brushed aside Australian Open winner Tian Houwei in straight games, leaving the budding young Chinese ace bewildered as his 33-year-old opponent glided around the court with plenty of confidence and barely a hint of urgency.

Lee will meet Hong Ji Hoon.  Hong downed his third compatriot in a row but was again put to the test, this time by Hwang Jong Soo.

China’s last gasp came from He Bingjiao in women’s singles.  She came up against Bae Yeon Ju (pictured), another player who reached the World Junior Championship at age 16.

“Moreseo than the other Chinese women’s singles players, He Bingjiao [pictured below] plays a little more like some of the men.  She does a lot of one-jump hits from the base position and she has good wrist action so she holds and then hits, rather than just hitting fast.

“For tomorrow, Ji Hyun and I play together all the time and we know each other’s games so well.  I’ve been so close but I still haven’t won a major title so I’m certainly hungry for one.

“I hope that I can show people what I’m capable of.  If I get too nervous or greedy, then I start to make more mistakes and play below my normal level but I have beaten Ji Hyun both times we’ve played in international tournaments.  It would be great if I could get my first title in Korea.

The afternoon in Jeonju opened with local boy Yoo Yeon Seong teamed up with Jang Ye Na in search of a third straight finals appearance.  They were up against Indonesia’s Irfan Fadhilah / Weni Anggraini (pictured below), who had beaten Jang Ye Na and her temporary partner Shin Baek Cheol in the final of the Australian Open in April.

Jang was able to book her first of two finals when she and Yoo took it in two games.  It is her third straight double finals appearance at the Korea Grand Prix Gold

“I think we feel comfortable playing in Korea so that’s why we have been able to reach the semi-finals twice but Jang Ye Na was playing very well today, perhaps better than she did in Australia,” said Weni Anggraini.

“The two pairings are similar but I think Yoo Yeon Seong is perhaps stronger and faster.”

“We hope to reach the top ten next year,” said Irfan Fadhilah, “but to do that, we need to work on our endurance and our power and we have to keep enjoy playing.”

Unlike their mixed doubles counterparts, Singapore’s Yao Lei and Shinta Mulia Sari were unable to duplicate their best ever result in the Korean autumn.  The 2011 runners-up could not make it back to the final for another shot at Jang Ye Na as they were stopped by world #13 Ko A Ra / Yoo Hae Won (pictured below) in two straight games.

“It would have been nice to have made the final when the tournament was in our hometown, Hwasun,” said Yoo Hae Won after their win, “but we are of course still happy to have made it here in Jeonju.

“Our goal for this year was to get into the top 20.  Now that we’re there, we’ve set our sights on reaching the top ten.  We need to work on improving our attacking play and getting control of the frontcourt area, though.

“The coaches keep telling us to get control and not to give away too many easy points especially in the early stages of each game.”

Jang Ye Na became the only double finalist this year when she and Kim So Young came from behind in the first game to beat World Junior Champions Chae Yoo Jung / Kim Ji Won.  Kim So Young, Kim Ki Jung, and Kang Ji Wook all started the day Saturday with their own double shots but each succeeded in making one only.

Finals line-up
MD: Kim Ki Jung / Kim Sa Rang (KOR) [1] vs. Ko Sung Hyun / Shin Baek Cheol (KOR) [5]
WD: Ko A Ra / Yoo Hae Won (KOR) [2] vs. Jang Ye Na / Kim So Young (KOR) [4]
WS: Sung Ji Hyun (KOR) [1] vs. Bae Yeon Ju (KOR) [2]
MS: Hong Ji Hoon (KOR) vs. Lee Hyun Il (KOR)
XD: Yoo Yeon Seong / Jang Ye Na (KOR) [5] vs. Kang Ji Wook / Choi Hye In (KOR)

Click here for complete semi-final results

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