NEW ZEALAND OPEN 2015 SF – Lee Hyun Il still sharp

Veteran player Lee Hyun Il proved that he still had his experience necessary to take on any player that dared challenge him as the Korea scooped his ticket for the […]

Veteran player Lee Hyun Il proved that he still had his experience necessary to take on any player that dared challenge him as the Korea scooped his ticket for the final of the Skycity where he will face China’s Qiao Bin on Sunday.

By Kira Rin, Badzine Correspondent live in Auckland.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

“I have eaten more salt than you have eaten rice” – ancient Chinese proverb. If one must have consumed a lot of salt, it would mean one has lived a long life, and is therefore full of experience.

Experience over youth

Korea’s Lee Hyun Il (photo) is back in the game.  Hsu Jen Hao, 1st seed and 2014 runner-up at this event, was the next in line to face the great man and was welcomed to try his best.

Hsu’s stellar performance over the week could not prepare him for the one-sided match that was to follow. Lee was always a few steps ahead, shutting down attack options and forcing Hsu into corners, literally. The Korean never allowed the Chinese Taipei player to take the lead, even for a second, and sealed the match with a massive 15-point difference.

Of his game, Lee Hyun Il remarked, “It was an easy match. [Hsu Jen Hao] wasn’t tall, and therefore didn’t have a good reach. I just kept playing to the corners.”

On the other side of the draw, Boonsak Ponsana had difficulty in facing his opponent Qiao Bin. While Boonsak forced a rubber game through sheer tenacity in retrieving shots, Qiao Bin never let up in his attacks, thus queuing up to face Lee Hyun Il.

The stamina queen falls

If both sides have won a game each, the match goes into a deciding game to determine the victor. While Cheung Ngan Yi had come back to victory from a game down in her previous 2 matches, it was not to be for this match against Saena Kawakami of Japan. When Kawakami stepped ahead with a one-game lead, all eyes were on Cheung to mount her usual comeback. Unfortunately, Kawakami was also well versed in the “iron wall” defense, and the game turned into a long battle of stamina. By the third set, Cheung was making mistakes due to exhaustion creeping up on her body.

Coach and player Wong Wing Ki stated, “During the last game, her mental state was a bit down, so couldn’t control the shuttle. She is also tired from playing 3 3-game matches in a row.”

Kawakami will take on China’s Youth Olympic gold medallist He Bingjiao (photo), who beat Japan’s Aya Ohori in three games.

The spear and the shield

If both sides possess the strongest shield of the “iron wall” defense, then the deciding factor would be the spear that could hit the fastest and hardest. Both Japanese pairs of Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota (photo) and Shiho/Koharu demonstrated the principle perfectly, as rallies would become yin yang exchanges of attack and defense. Fukushima/Hirota’s spear proved to be the sharper of the duo as their attacks kept the shuttle down to the other side much more consistently.

Double red flags for Kido

Doubles specialist Markis Kido had a long day as he had to face four of China’s talented players. He was no match for the sheet power the four could bring down on his pairings. Yu Xiaoyu and Xia Huan were the first victors, constantly heaping pressure on Pia Zebadiah Bernadeth in their mixed semi-final, while denying Kido the chance to hit his precious power shots.

Reigning Asian Junior Champions Huang Kaixing and Zheng Siwei were the next pair to challenge Markis Kido and his partner Agripinna Prima Rahmanto Putra (photo). Power shot after power shot were rained down on the Indonesian pair, and while Kido did get the chance to hit his favourite smashes, they were always returned to empty spaces.

While Xia Huan was able to secure a second finals spot at the expense of Vita Marissa and Komala Dewi, Indonesia can take solace in having secured a finals appearance in the form of Fajar Alfian / MuhammadRian Ardianto, who were able to overcome Hoon Thien How / Lim Khim Wah. While Lim kept the rally going, despite the smashes and pressure heaped upon him, Hoon made unforced errors, smashing shots into the net. He could only watch in frustration as his partner struggled to overcome the smash barrage on his own.

Finals line-up
XD: Zheng Siwei / Chen Qingchen (CHN) [5] vs. Yu Xiaoyu / Xia Huan (CHN)
WS: He Bingjiao (CHN) vs. Saena Kawakami (JPN)
MS: Lee Hyun Il (KOR) [3] vs. Qiao Bin (CHN)
WD: Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota (JPN) [3] vs. Xia Huan / Zhong Qianxin (CHN) [4]
MD: Fajar Alfian / Muhammad Rian Ardianto (INA) [7] vs. Huang Kaixiang / Zheng Siwei (CHN)

Click here for complete semi-final results

About Kira Rin