KOREA OPEN 2014 QF – Southern quartet powers into semis

Thailand sent two to the semis at the Victor Korea Open to join Lee Chong Wei and Indonesia’s Maheswari/Polii on a chilly Friday in Seoul. By Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent […]

Thailand sent two to the semis at the Victor to join Lee Chong Wei and Indonesia’s Maheswari/Polii on a chilly Friday in Seoul.

By Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent live in Seoul.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live)

Seoul temperatures stayed below zero for only the second time at this edition of the Victor Korea Open but the Southeast Asian contingent went 4 for 4 against northern competition.  Lee Chong Wei reached the semi-finals for the 6th straight year but he was joined by Ratchanok Intanon, Boonsak Ponsana, and in whittling down the Chinese singles contingent bound for the final four.

Alone in carrying the Indonesian banner on the fourth day of competition, Nitya Krishinda Maheswari and Greysia Polii (pictured) provided Indonesia’s first women’s doubles representation in the Korea Open semi-finals since Greysia reached the final here way back in 2006.

“It feels good to be back playing at the top ten level and to know that I can still survive with my talent,” said Greysia Polii (pictured) after beating Ma Jin and Tang Yuanting in three games.  “It hasn’t been an easy journey since 2006 but I feel great.”

Former world #1 Ma Jin (pictured below) may be playing her first tournament with her new, young partner but the Chinese ladies were seeded 7th for this event based on notional points.  Tang Yuanting has already begun a collection of titles that includes the New Zealand Open and the East Asian Games gold  but her best result so far is possibly her runner-up finish at the Hong Kong Open.

Greysia Polii, meanwhile is in her third Superseries semi-final since being reunited with Maheswari: “We’ve been playing together again since May, but we were last together back in 2009.  In terms of the skill and the physicality but also mentality, I think we are both more mature players now.

“Today, we focussed on preparing to play against Ma Jin.  She is a very skilled player and she is also mentally very strong so we knew we had to be concerned about her more than her partner.

“The shuttles are very slow so we have to maintain our strength and that sometimes affects our choice of strategy.  In the second game, we just let it go and focussed on the third game.  We knew in the third, that our strategy had to be smarter and when we saw the chances we really had to put it away.

“Next, we play Bao Yixin and Tang Jinhua.  We played them in both the Denmark and French Opens and we lost them both in tight, third games.

“I don’t think they are unbeatable.  They are not the most mature players but for us, we have to stay strong mentally.  We cannot lose our focus even a little bit because women’s doubles matches are so long.”

Lee Chong Wei was the first player this week to deny a Chinese shuttler in a discipline other than women’s singles.  He totally dominated Du Pengyu in their quarter-final to set up a semi-final meeting with Japan’s Tago Kenichi, who was similarly dominant against Jan O. Jorgensen of Denmark.

All four Thai quarter-finalists were up against Chinese opposition today.  The first salvo came from veteran Boonsak Ponsana (pictured below), who bested Gao Huan in three games.  It was Boonsak’s third victory over the 23-year-old, whom he hasn’t played since 2010.

“His style is a bit different from the other Chinese players,” said Boonsak after his win.  “He uses a lot of double action shots.”

His win pits him against Gao’s compatriot Chen Long, who narrowly avoided going to a third game with Vietnam’s Nguyen Tien Minh (pictured).

“I figure my chances are about 40:60 against Chen Long.  It is difficult playing at the Korea Open because the shuttles are very slow.”

“The last couple of times he lost to Chen Long, it was very close but Chen Long is very strong and tall.  Boonsak is very tricky, he plays a lot of tricky shots and that might put pressure on Chen but he is still so strong,” added Thai coach Udom Luangphetcharaporn.

Immediately after Ponsana’s match, Ratchanok Intanon (pictured below) was in action against China’s Han Li.  Although she is the second seed and also the World Champion, Ratchanok was not the clear favourite going into her quarter-final.  It was a first-round victory over Ratchanok that kicked off a run to the 2012 Macau Open final that first put Han Li on the international women’s singles map.

“In my training, I just prepared my defence because she is very good at the net,” said Ratchanok after her match, which she won in a pair of 21-18 games.

In fact, things won’t necessarily get any easier for the 18-year-old Thai in the semi-finals.  Her next opponent, Sung Ji Hyun, is not only the defending champion but she has won six times in her eight meetings with Intanon.

“Sung Ji Hyun is tall and she has a good attack so maybe I have to play faster.  If I just defend, it’s not good for my chances,” said the #2 seed.

While Sung will have home court advantage, she may not have the crowd support she had last year.  With the shock defeat of Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong, it is unclear how much interest will be shown by Seoul badminton fans on the weekend.

By the time Bae Yeon Ju played her quarter-final against #3 seed Wang Yihan – incidentally the only match involving a Korean that was played after working hours – the crowd had dwindled to a fraction of its size at the beginning of the afternoon.  In the last 3 editions when Sung has made semi-final appearances, Lee Yong Dae was also on his way to Korea Open titles.

For her part, Ratchanok denied that the Korean winter has had any effect on her preparedness: “I’ve been playing in the China League and it’s also cold there so this is not so different.”

Click here for complete quarter-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