AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2015 R16 – Grunt work necessary

China’s 4th and 5th ranked women’s singles made respectable appearances against Saina Nehwal and Carolina Marin, by stretching the 2nd and 3rd seeds to rubber games but weren’t able to […]

China’s 4th and 5th ranked women’s singles made respectable appearances against Saina Nehwal and Carolina Marin, by stretching the 2nd and 3rd seeds to rubber games but weren’t able to maintain their effectiveness and finish as strongly as their mid-match displays.

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

China lose two, Korea advance two

Quite soon into their women’s singles matches it became apparent that Saina Nehwal (pictured above) and Carolina Marin were technically superior to their respective Chinese opponents.  Technically superior, however, doesn’t automatically guarantee a win, a fact we were reminded of in the case of Lin Dan this week.  External, psychological or fluke factors can derail the better player.  To these seeded players, they knew at least that it was do-able but grunt work was necessary.

Yao Xue blasted power shots in all directions from the get go leaving the world #3 Carolina Marin (pictured right) flummoxed trying to keep up.  Once Marin warmed up to the pace she made up the difference in strength with her better court craft and more efficient shot execution.  Yao’s power winners were most effective when straight down the Spaniard’s forehand side, largely because the victim occasionally forgot to protect that corridor.

Being the more agile around the court enabled Marin to produce sharper smashes, the type that hits the floor.  In short, Marin’s 10% sharper smashes trumped Yao’s 10% extra power.

Not being a finesse player hindered Yao once the opponent read her game plan.  Fearing her range of shots was becoming predictable, attempts by Yao to insert delicate shots in the third game came off as unsuccessful experiments and opened up a significant gap which gradually enlarged to 10 points until there was no hope of coming back, 21-17, 16-21, 21-10.

Saina Nehwal repeated her 2014 Round 1 victory in Round 2 this year over Sun Yu (pictured).  Despite both having leaped up a level in the past year, the Indian still proved herself to be the smarter tactically, possessing greater shot variation, and not someone who could be outmanoeuvred enough times by the Chinese player.  Nehwal made it a fourth consecutive win over Sun since the last Australian Open, 21-19, 19-21, 21-14.

Korea advanced two players.  Genetic advantage in the height department narrowly overcame Japanese innovations to make it more like men’s singles, tactics-wise, when Sung Ji Hyun dismissed Akane Yamaguchi, 21-19, 21-13.  Now Sung Ji Hyun will be hoping for 13th time lucky when she faces China’s Li Xuerui, the woman who has beaten her 12 straight times dating back to their junior days.

Graceful deception by Bae Yeon Ju found a way to extinguish the maximum spiritedness by Taiwan’s Pai Yu Po, who threw everything including the kitchen sink at her opponent, but after just under an hour, Bae had eliminated her second Chinese Taipei opponent in as many days.

World number nothing beat #4

With Malaysia’s Koo Kien Keat / Tan Boon Heong (pictured) what was old is now fresh again as far as opponents figuring out their range is concerned.  Today’s match against world #4 Tsai Chia Hsin / Lee Sheng Mu was their first real test because here was a yardstick in terms of teamwork as well as playing aptitude.

Neither side knew what to expect of the Malaysians’ quality which resulted in little flow to games.  The fresh incarnation of Koo Kien Keat has been more willing to helm the rear court and produce the smashes.  He is controlling the faucet on his creativity rather than leaving it on full gush compared to before making him even more unpredictable when you think about it – it isn’t mixing things up for it’s own sake or showboating that many remember.

If the Taiwanese were looking for a pattern in the attack there wasn’t one.  The strange fusion that is Koo and Tan’s different brands of flair – the former’s witty replies and the latter’s baseline wizardry – was effective against the Taiwan players, who were left fighting but still figuring out as the Malaysians took it 21-16, 21-18.

What remains to be seen is how this mindful, do-what-I want in the moment, point by point disposition of the Malaysians’ will succeed against a different style like the automatic muscled motor-reflex pairs like the Koreans and Chinese because of how mentally taxing it must be on Koo.

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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 @