KOREA OPEN 2016 R32 – Local teens spring singles surprises

Korean teens Kim Hyang Im and Kim Ga Eun helped create a winning atmosphere for the local women’s singles contingent, which managed to pile at least six players into the […]

Korean teens Kim Hyang Im and Kim Ga Eun helped create a winning atmosphere for the local women’s singles contingent, which managed to pile at least six players into the second round of the .

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live)

It was just over seven years ago that Sung Ji Hyun, in her last year as a junior, upset then world #1 Zhou Mi to herald the coming of a new stalwart in Korea’s women’s singles team.  Now with veteran Bae Yeon Ju having just begun her early retirement, the time is nigh for some more talent to emerge and on Day 2 of the 2016 Korea Open , the youngest members of the Korean national team got off on the right foot, while little-known veteran Lee Jang Mi delivered the first upset of a seeded player.

First on court on Wednesday was 18-year-old Kim Hyang Im (pictured).  The youngster from Gwangju had no intention of letting Chinese Taipei’s Pai Yu Po get past her, even if the Taiwan shuttler was ranked more than 300 spots above her in the world rankings.  Kim shut down Pai in straight games, then coasted through a ‘bye’ created by the withdrawals of the retired Bae Yeon Ju and the absent All England champion Nozomi Okuhara to await her next opponent in Friday’s quarter-finals.

Not long after, some more experienced team-mates got in on the action.  First, Korea’s new #2 Kim Hyo Min (pictured) took care of European Championship semi-finalist Line Kjaersfeldt of Denmark.  She had to work for it but after 71 minutes, Kim came away with the deciding game victory 21-19.  Like her team-mate Hyang Im, Hyo Min finds herself already qualified for the quarter-finals, in her case, taking advantage of the bye awarded to withdrawn Olympic gold medallist Carolina Marin.

Then came Lee Jang Mi’s turn.  For the last three years, Lee had been thwarted at home by Chinese invaders.  In 2014, she pushed Chinese ace Wang Shixian very hard both in the Korea Open and at the Asian Championships in Gimcheon but both times, she was forced to make an early exit.  Last year, Lee was no match for China’s Li Xuerui and her Korea Open main draw appearance was over in just 20 minutes.

This year in an old arena in the new, temporary host city of Seongnam, Lee Jang Mi finally made her break.  She took down world #11 Sun Yu in straight games and left Chinese hopes in Korea resting on the shoulders of two of its own teenagers.  Japan Open champion He Bingjiao and Asian Junior Champion Chen Yufei both advanced to the second round.

When Chen Yufei advanced to the final of those Asian Junior Championships this past summer, she was able to coast through on a walkover by Korea’s Kim Ga Eun.  This week, though, Kim is back in playing form and she too booked her spot in the next round.  The youngster played well above her world #265 ranking to best former Asian Games silver medallist Yip Pui Yin (pictured below) of Hong Kong.

Through a combination of byes, walkovers, and all-Korean matchups, the home team is now assured of at least 3 quarter-final spots but Sung Ji Hyun and Kim Na Young will hope to increase that number and the second round contingent could go as high as 7 if Lee Min Ji can find her own magic against Japanese star Akane Yamaguchi.

In the men’s game, too, the upsets started early.  The number of seeds was considerably reduced by Monday’s withdrawal announcements but Srikanth Kidambi also became the first seed to exit the old-fashioned way.  He was beaten in three by Hong Kong’s Wong Wing Ki.

Korea’s 19-year-old Seo Seung Jae also upset world #40 Brice Leverdez of France and this had to make up for the disappointing losses by his older team-mates Lee Dong Keun and Jeon Hyeok Jin, whose recent successes have tagged them as the Korean heirs to Lee Hyun Il and Son Wan Ho, who advanced to the second round without incident.

Danish players were on both sides of the upset list early on Wednesday.  Men’s doubles 4th seeds  Mads Conrad-Petersen / Mads Pieler Kolding lost out to the new Chinese pairing of youngsters Wang Yilu and Huang Kaixiang.  Later in the afternoon, though, Emil Holst picked up his first main draw victory in a Superseries, beating Hong Kong’s Hu Yun in straight games.


Click here for complete Wednesday 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