NEW ZEALAND OPEN 2016 Day 3 – Taegeuk sun over the Land of Sails

Korea had a perfect day on the courts with none of their players dropping a match after a long day that ended at nearly midnight.

Korea had a perfect day on the courts with none of their players dropping a match after a long day that ended at nearly midnight.

By Kira Rin. Photos: Sina Zhang (live) and Badmintonphoto (archives)

Team Korea. 13 matches. 13 victories

By the time that long night ended Day 3, not a single match was dropped for team Korea; however, some players had to work harder for their matches than others.  Go Ah Ra and Yoo Hae Won (pictured top) almost woke up on the wrong side of the bed when they found China’s Du Yue and Xu Ya fighting tooth and nail to match their every stroke. The loss of a game was the stimulus enough for them to reduce their errors and focus on their rallies to open up attacking opportunities.

In a rather odd schedule, the mere nine first-round matches in women’s doubles began the day and seven of those nine winners had to play third-round matches late in the day, while two enjoyed walkovers.  Goh/Yoo had a much easier time of it in the evening, beating Australia’s Lam/Sun.  Shortly afterward, Olympic women’s doubles hopefuls Setyana Mapasa and Gronya Somerville (pictured right) became the only players left standing for Oceania when they beat last year’s semi-finalists Tanaka/Yonemoto, who had beaten Somerville here in 2015.

Malaysia’s Goh Soon Huat gave Lee Dong Keun a run for his money by dictating the fast pace. Soon Huat had a brief lead, but fast and furious rallies from Lee forced him to the floor, once diving 3 consecutive times to get the shuttle back over the net. Unfortunately, he landed on the floor hard after a dive, causing a pulled muscle on his hip. Soon Huat bravely fought on to continue the match despite the pain, but was forced to concede the last 4 points to Lee’s favour.

Young and Dangerous

At the golden age of 20, Soo Teck Zhi (photo) was a formidable foe with both speed and power to match. veteran Hsu Jen Hao found this speed too much to handle as the 2014 runner-up was always a step behind in rallies.

The 2013 Asian Junior Champion himself did confirm that superior speed is required in modern badminton: “Jen Hao is a good rally player. I had to be very patient to set up good shots and be faster than him.”

The speed of his racquet, along with his speed of his steps and speed of reading his opponent’s movements allowed the red-clad Teck Zhi to finish each rally in the most efficient manner possible.

Rising star meets experience

The youngest of Indonesia’s Olympic hopefuls Jonatan Christie (photo)  found himself on the wrong end of the court, facing last year’s finalist Qiao Bin. Initially buoyed by a tight victory in the first game, Jonatan upped the pace to widen the points margin. However, the veteran Qiao Bin was always there to intercept the shuttle at every point in the rally, eventually forcing a final game with 6-point streak. While Jonathan did manage to maintain the speed, it wasn’t enough to faze Qiao, who steadily built an unassailable lead. An unlucky slip on the court left Jonathan on the wrong corner as Qiao gently tipped the shuttle over the net.

In fact, that ended Indonesia’s singles challenge altogether at this tournament, and Christie, Ginting, and Mustofa all failed to produce the kind of result that could help them into the world’s top 16.  Korea’s Lee Dong Keun is inching his way back into that very club as he takes on two-time New Zealand winner Riichi Takeshita in the quarter-finals.

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About Kira Rin