AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2014 R16 – Far court fracas and frenetics

A new day of action at the Australian Open… with upsets, cheers and tears. By Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent live in Sydney.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live) Chinese Whispers […]

A new day of action at the … with upsets, cheers and tears.

By Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent live in Sydney.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live)

Chinese Whispers

The hands-down thriller of the afternoon, and also the longest match, happened on the furthest court from the entrance, Court #3. What initially appeared as though it would be a walk in the park for the current Olympic champions Tian Qing / Zhao Yunlei (photo) of China turned out to be a titanic battle of wills when the Korean underdogs Ko A Ra / Yoo Hae Won unexpectedly stole the second game by way of finesse defence, in the process stunning and unsettling the Chinese.

Tension in the air built up as the scores remained tight beyond the deciding game interval. The young Koreans kept earning narrow leads until an overrule by the umpire on a line judge calling a shot in broke their focus on the match. A heated discussion with the umpire ensued with Korean Head Coach Lee Deuk Choon also approaching the referee to intervene because it was alleged that the umpire used Mandarin to communicate to the Chinese players which excluded the Koreans from understanding.

The experienced Chinese pair made the most of the surprise overrule in their favour and powered home, 21-9, 19-21, 21-18.


Earlier on the same court, Thai fans bolstered their former world number 1 mixed doubles Saralee Thoungthongkam / Sudket Prapakamol (photo) by yelling out encouragement and brandishing a large flag after the pair narrowly let slip closing the match in straight games.

Despite more than a decade of age between the pairs, the elders still dug out a win in extra time against fierce opponents, 21-18, 20-22, 21-19.

After the first ever encounter between them, Prapakamol praised his opponents, Huang Yaqiong / Lu Kai, who have risen to world number 14 in the space of a year. “Surely, they will do go far in the future.” The Thai veteran raised his eyebrows upon learning they were juniors not that long ago but his partner Thoungthongkam admitted she has been tracking the progress of this Chinese pair.

Saralee Thoungthongkam added using hand actions and words that the secret of their success today and hovering inside and around the world top 10 for more than seven years is, “We don’t [bang] the shuttle with full power each and every time like them, we [vary] the angle and direction of our attack. And I make sure I stay fit and have no injuries.”

The quality of being ultra earnest has got this Chinese pair this far up the world rankings but today Huang Yaqiong, though always at the net at the right time, snatched at a few net kills. The match might have had a different outcome were not for these regular unforced errors.

Thais tumble

Thailand’s luck ran out when it came time for women’s singles. The current World Champion Ratchanok Intanon only made a brief appearance in Sydney owing to 2012 champion Han Li of China taking charge in their match, 21-14, 21-19. Nitchaon Jindapon was helpless against the much taller reach of India’s P.V. Sindhu and succumbed, 13-21, 7-21.

Defending champion Sayaka Takahashi went down to lesser known compatriot Yui Hashimoto (pictured above) 21-13, 21-13. World #74 Hashimoto is enjoying a good run in Sydney this week, having disposed of world #9 Porntip Buranaprasertsek yesterday in straight games too. The senior member of the Japanese women’s singles squad, Eriko Hirose (photo), removed the fourth seed Bae Yeon Ju of Korea. Tripping over backwards and bumping her head on the floor at 18-14 in the rubber game didn’t stop Hirose from closing out the match, 18-21, 21-18, 21-15.

Click here for complete Thursday results

Aaron Wong

About Aaron Wong

Aaron Wong only ever coveted badminton's coolest shot - a reverse backhand clear. He is renowned for two other things: 1) Writing tournament previews that adjust the focus between the panorama of the sport's progress, down to the microscopic level of explaining the striking characteristics of players; 2) Dozing off during men's doubles at the London Olympic Games. Contact him at: aaron @