ASIAN CHAMPS 2014 QF – China and Korea alive in all five

The home team joined China in placing semi-finalists in all five categories today at the Badminton Asia Championships as Shin Baek Cheol joined Xia Huan in qualifying for two semi-finals […]

The home team joined China in placing semi-finalists in all five categories today at the as Shin Baek Cheol joined Xia Huan in qualifying for two semi-finals each.

Story and photos by Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent live in Gimcheon

While the number of seeds was again nearly halved on Day 3 of the Gimcheon Badminton Asia Championships, this was a day of fewer surprises.  The successful underdogs who featured in the quarter-finals included both China’s young and emerging pairs and Korea’s reunited veterans.

China’s Xia Huan got things started early.  In the first match of the day, she and Zhong Qianxin took down Korea’s women’s doubles fourth seeds Ko A Ra / Yoo Hae Won in three tough games.

Not to be outdone, Korea’s Shin Baek Cheol and Yoo Yeon Seong (pictured) reunited to unceremoniously dump men’s doubles second seeds Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda of Japan in straight games.  Since last year’s Japan Open, Yoo has been paired with Lee Yong Dae and more recently Kim Sa Rang before the new qualification guidelines for the saw him put back with Shin.

Similarly, in the, Yoo and Shin traded mixed doubles partners once again and were ever so close to booking themselves a semi-final showdown for Saturday afternoon.  Yoo and Eom Hye Won, though, lost a nailbiter to Thai veterans Sudket Prapakamol / Saralee Thoungthongkam.  Sudket settled down after receiving a yellow card in the first game for kicking the signboards following a questionable line call.  The Thais dominated the second before pulling out a 24-22 victory in the decider to earn a shot at Shin and Jang on Saturday.

Xia Huan, meanwhile, booked her own second semi-final berth as she and mixed partner Zhang Wen (pictured top) chalked up a late win over former world #5 Chen Hung Ling / Cheng Wen Hsing (pictured below) to follow up on their ousting of the defending champions on Thursday.

“I think the shuttles were a little slow,” said Cheng Wen Hsing afterward, “so when we tried to smash, it just died in flight.  Defending was okay but if we only defend, our game dies.  Our opponents are younger, so maybe their smashes were more powerful than ours.

“We know Xia Huan is good but she seemed to have trouble with her knee and that gave us some openings.  But we stopped playing together after the 2012 Olympics and we just got back to playing together regularly in March so now we need some time to play better and better.”

With Chen and Cheng’s loss, the Taiwan challenge ended, as both singles quarter-finalists were also unable to advance.

“Everyone on the Chinese Taipei team told us ‘You are the last hope’ so I said I’d try to win, but it’s a pity we couldn’t continue.”

“Now we go back to Taiwan and we have to prepare for the Uber Cup but we have a Taiwan club tournament May 6th to 11th so we’ll be very busy.  The good thing, I hope, is that we will continue to be in match mode.”

The other major upset in doubles came when India Grand Prix Gold winners and last year’s World Junior Champions Li Junhui / Liu Yuchen eliminated men’s doubles fourth seeds Hashimoto/Hirata, Japan’s last remaining doubles pair.

The Sho must go on!

Sho Sasaki blocked an imminent all-Chinese final in the men’s singles.  Xue Song took the first game and looked keen to keep on track for the final but Sho Sasaki would have none of that.  It took him five match points but he finally closed it out and will be the next to face Korea’s Hwang Jong Soo, who upset Hsu Jen Hao in two games.

The other semi-final features Lin Dan (pictured), of course, against compatriot Liu Kai, who upset India’s Guru Sai Dutt in the opening match on Court 2.

India still has a shot in both women’s events, though.  First Pusarla Venkata Sindhu (pictured below) continued her unbeaten streak against Busanan Ongbamrungphan.  Her first meeting with Busanan was in this very hall two years ago, when she beat the Thai en route to winning the Badminton Asia Under-19 title but Sindhu stopped short of predicting a counterpart senior title this weekend.

“Tomorrow, I am playing Wang Shixian so I hope I am playing my best but I’m just going one match, one step at a time.  I have to put 100% into this semi-final,” said Sindhu after her quarter-final victory.

“I won against Wang three times and then she beat me the last time, at the India Open in Delhi.  That time, it was just not my day.  My taps were going into the net and my main attacking strokes were too.  Everyone thought that it was my match but I just let it slip from my fingers.

“Of course, after this event, we are going to be preparing for the Uber Cup but the players who are here for this tournament are mostly the same who will be in the team event so both tournaments are very important for me.”

This is especially so for Sindhu, considering that her semi-final opponent is likely to be fielded opposite her in second singles, should India play China in the Uber Cup.

As for Wang Shixian, she allowed 19-year-old Korean Lee Jang Mi (pictured) to eat away at her lead in their second game but unlike at the Korea Open, she did not require a third to see off the youngster and she moved comfortably into the semis as the only Chinese hope in the category.

“I think my advantage this week has been that I’m not well known to the other players,” said Lee of her success this week, when she posted back-to-back upsets over recent top 10 shuttlers Minatsu Mitani and Porntip Buranaprasertsuk.

“They don’t know my strengths and I just tried to stay with them in the matches.  I still don’t expect to be chosen for the Uber Cup team.  The thing I really need to work on in the future is my stamina.  It’s so important in singles and mine really needs improvement.”

Korea will be depending on Sung Ji Hyun, who avoided granted Tai Tzu Ying an opportunity for revenge on her home court after she had beaten Tai at home at the Chinese Taipei Open final last autumn.  She will be facing Sayaka Takahashi, who also survived a late run by a young Korean before finishing in two against Kim Hyo Min.

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 @