KOREA OPEN 2015 QF – Schooling the favourites

China lost three seeded pairs in the quarter-finals of the Korea Open, as Korea’s new pairs Jung Kyung Eun / Shin Seung Chan and Jang Ye Na / Lee So […]

China lost three seeded pairs in the quarter-finals of the , as Korea’s new pairs Jung Kyung Eun / Shin Seung Chan and Jang Ye Na / Lee So Hee joined the Asian Games gold medallists in rocking the women’s doubles seeds.

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

Team China is down to one pair in women’s doubles at the 2015 Korea Open after two more were upset on Friday in Seoul.  The prospect of a first China-less final since 2009 is looming and if it happens, it will be thanks to the efforts of Indonesia’s Greysia Polii / Nitya Krishinda Maheswari, the highlight of whose 2014 was a China-less Asian Games final in Incheon.

But the real surprise on Friday came with the success of two of Korea’s newest women’s doubles pairs, each of them playing in their third tournament together, but only second this year.  The first upset came from Jang Ye Na and Lee So Hee, who beat Danish third seeds Christinna Pedersen / Kamilla Rytter Juhl in straight games.

“We knew going in that the Danish pair were very good but we felt that our strategy worked out well and basically the match turned out just the way we’d hoped,” said Jang Ye Na after the match.

“They caught us after we were leading in the second game.  These Danish players are mentally very strong and in terms of strategy they are also very good.  But we were really determined to not succumb to them this time and we did managed to catch back up.”

This was the first ever victory over the Danes for 21-year-old Lee So Hee, whose first match came when she had just graduated from junior.

“Definitely, after losing several times to the same opponent, it feels good to finally beat them,” said Lee So Hee.

“I have beaten these Danish players three or four times, including today,” added Jang.  “I still don’t think I’ve done this enough to give advice to my partner on that kind of thing but the strategy we planned did work out for us.  I think it helped that we knew so well how these opponents play.”

Payback, and again…

At the last two events before the Worlds, China’s Ma Jin and Tang Yuanting had really be lording it over the Koreans.  At the Australian Open, they beat two Korean pairs on their way to the semi-finals, including Jung Kyung Eun and her then partner.  At the Indonesian Open, they beat three, including Shin Seung Chan.

How things have changed!  In three consecutive tournaments, Ma and Tang have fallen to Korean pairs, including twice to Goh A Ra and Yoo Hae Won.  This time it was Jung and Shin’s term and then bounced back from a game down and from dire situations in the next two games as well.

“Actually, we didn’t watch their matches [against Goh A Ra / Yoo Hae Won] but what did make a difference today was the wind,” said Jung Kyung Eun after their victory.  “On one side, the wind was quite strong and on the other, it wasn’t.  Obviously it was the same for both pairs but at the end of the match, we had the wind with us and I think we were better able to use it to our advantage.”

“We didn’t get any pointers from Goh/Yoo or anything, but we did watch video of the match yesterday between the two Chinese pairs and that helped, I think.”

“We didn’t change our strategy or anything to turn the third game around,” said Shin Seung Chan.  “It was really tough to play when I kept making mistakes.  I guess I was nervous and hasty.  When we started to fall behind, we just tried to tell ourselves not to rush and to just focus on getting the shuttle back and setting up opportunities and to play hard to the end of the match.

Asked about how it feels with the constant partnership rotation, Shin replied, “Now that the pairs have been decided, it doesn’t feel unnatural any more.  At the very first, we still knew each other and we started playing together resolving to try to make it work.  Maybe right at the very beginning, it felt a little unnatural but now it feels much more solid and it feels like a good match.”

Of the new partnership, Jung Kyung Eun said, “I feel that when Seung Chan is at the front, then when I attack, she will be able to finish off a lot of rallies and that means I don’t have to work quite as hard from the backcourt.  We also find we rotate well so that’s why I think the partnership works.

“For me, I was playing with So Hee for a long time so we were used to each other but we were both young and had the same experience as players,” added Shin.  “Now that I’m playing with Kyung Eun, I find I really benefit from her experience.”

“I have never done better than the semi-finals at the Korea Open,” said Jung.  “For tomorrow, we are playing our team-mates so we know how they play and we can relax and play them and I really hope it is we who make the final.”

Jung Kyung Eun also offered her assessment of the big picture for women’s doubles these days: “The Chinese pairs do keep winning these days but from what I can see, the Chinese partnerships keep changing and we have been switching up our partnerships too.  I think we are catching up little by little and the Danish and Indonesian pairs are doing the same so I think the results may start changing like they are in women’s singles.

“The best Chinese pairs have excellent teamwork and also they just make the shuttles fly faster so even if we get into position and prepare, the shuttles are just coming at us faster.”

The most amazing thing about the quarter-final between Nitya Krishinda Maheswari / Greysia Polii and Wang Xiaoli / Yu Yang was the score: 21-4 in the first game!  This was unexpected even considering the Indonesians have a history of troubling and beating the former World Champions.

“Before this match, we hadn’t lost the touch, the feeling of being afraid of them,” said Greysia Polii afterward, “but as we did beat them in our previous match, that gave us confidence.

“During the match, too, the drift was so, so strong.  It was more about technique.  We didn’t use more power or more energy to beat them today, we used the technique and I think this time, we were ready for them.  For the next match, we have to be ready too because they are tough opponents too.

“As players, we have to maintain our mental focus and we can’t get too surprised by our opponents.  If we are too surprised, then it could have an impact on our second game.  We didn’t concentrate on whether they have four or they have zero.  We just keep playing until the end of the match and do our best.”

The day finished with two more minor upsets from the Korean team’s top players.  First, Ko Sung Hyun / Kim Ha Na saw off China’s Liu Cheng / Bao Yixin.  Then Sung Ji Hyun sent women’s singles top seed Tai Tzu Ying home packing early.

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