KOREA MASTERS 2016 SF – Kim Ha Na into final at home

Jeju-born world #1 Kim Ha Na is in her third international final in Korea but her first on her home island of Jeju, where three tough challengers will try to […]

Jeju-born world #1 Kim Ha Na is in her third international final in Korea but her first on her home island of Jeju, where three tough challengers will try to block the home nation from achieving a fourth title sweep at the Gold.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto and Don Hearn (archives)

Korea’s Kim Ha Na (pictured top) won her first international title almost exactly 5 years ago and just over a year ago, she took her first international title on Korean soil when she won the Korea Masters in Jeonju.  But tomorrow will still be a very special opportunity for the 27-year-old to take a truly ‘home’ title.

Born on the southern island of Jeju, Kim confessed in an interview with Sports Donga last summer that the distance from her hometown to the national training centre in Seoul meant that she only saw her family once or twice a year.  She also said that she had told her folks to no longer travel to each tournament in Korea because she hardly ever won.

Since then, of course, Kim has won the Korea Masters 2015, and then the Korea Open Superseries this past autumn.  But just in case her family might have missed those occasions, her next opportunity will be coming right at home, almost.

The 2016 Korea Masters is taking place this week in the town of Seogwipo, on the south coast of the island.  From the main centre, Jeju City, one has to go around or partly over Halla-san, South Korea’s highest mountain.

In spite of the remoteness of the location, a field rich in young talent descended on Seogwipo.  While Kim and Ko Sung Hyun were disposing of Kang Ji Wook, the other quarter-finalist from Jeju, Singapore’s Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han (pictured above) were seeing off a couple of reigning Asian Junior Champions to book their spot in the semis against the top-seeded Koreans.

Ko and Kim started strong, varying their attacks and benefiting from the Singapore pair having trouble with their lift length.  They seemed to let their guard down in the second game.  The confidence they had built up in the opening game seemed to make them too content to defend in the second and the Singapore kept attacking until they forced their opportunities to finish the rallies.

The deciding game was all to the favourites.  They leaned a little more into their attacks, kept up their concentration and kept Hee and Tan guessing until they had run away with it 21-7.

The Koreans will face Dechapol Puavaranukroh / Sapsiree Taerattanachai (pictured above) in the final.  The Thais limited Choi Sol Gyu and Chae Yoo Jung to their third semi-final finish in a row and gave themselves the opportunity to finish the year much as it began, as their last Grand Prix Gold final was in India last January.

Chance for another double for Ko

Ko Sung Hyun (pictured above, with Kim Ha Na), meanwhile, is the only male player this year to achieve a doubles double at a major tournament.  Unlike at the German Open, however, this time he is in his first finals appearance with young partner Kim Jae Hwan, who is playing in his first international final since graduating from juniors.

Chinese Taipei’s Lee Yang and Lee Jhe Huei (pictured left) already spoiled one player’s doubles double attempt last weekend, when they denied Olympic champion Zhang Nan his second title at the Macau Open.  Today, they needed three games to get past Chung Eui Seok / Kim Duk Young.  This give them the opportunity to deny Ko Sung Hyun in a similar way, but as they meet in the opening match on finals day, Ko will not even have the momentum, assuming he and Kim should win the title for which they are the top seeds.

Stop the sweep

Another role that Lee/Lee might be playing again is that of sweep spoilers.  They were the only thing keeping China from a title sweep in Macau and they have the most realistic chance of keeping Korea from the top of a podium in Jeju.  They are also the first non-Korean men’s doubles finalists at this event, even since before it was a Grand Prix event.

In the men’s singles, as well, there will be a rare appearance by a visitor.  Since the Grand Prix edition in 2010 saw an all-Chinese final, there had been only one non-Korean finalist in this discipline.  But this week, Malaysia’s Liew Daren helped ensure it would happen again when he beat three-time defending champion Lee Dong Keun in the quarter-finals.  His opponent Chen Chun Wei of Chinese Taipei had done the same but the Malaysian dominated their semi-final encounter and booked his spot in a final for the second time this autumn.

India’s Parupalli Kashyap (pictured right) had threatened to stop the sweep a day early.  He led top seed Son Wan Ho throughout most of their first game but couldn’t hold on at game point and went down 21-23.

In the second game, Son took advantage of the drive rallies and did some fast rushes to the net as he surged late to take it 21-16.  Son thus entered his fourth final of the year.  So far he has three Superseries runner-up finishes but no titles in 2016.

Korean women rule

Jeju Island has been nicknamed Samdado (三多島) for being an island with rocks, wind, and women in supposed abundance.  While Kim Ha Na will be the only Jeju woman in action on Sunday, the women’s singles and doubles semi-finals featured plenty of women from the peninsula.

Korea Open winners Jung Kyung Eun and Shin Seung Chan (pictured left) eliminated the last visitors from the women’s doubles draw, beating Ayako Sakuramoto / Yukiko Takahata in straight games.  Their opponents will be Indonesia Masters winners Chae Yoo Jung and Kim So Yeong.  They had already beaten second-seeded Chang/Lee in a tough quarter-final before seeing off Kim Hye Rin / Yoo Hae Won on Saturday.

Sung Ji Hyun had little trouble beating World Junior Championship semi-finalist Kim Ga Eun in straight games.  To win back the title she last won in 2012, she will have to prevail over Lee Jang Mi, who beat Japan’s Natsuki Nidaira to reach only the second major final of her career.

Finals line-up
MD:  Lee Jhe-Huei Lee Yang (TPE) [1] vs. Kim Jae Hwan / Ko Sung Hyun(KOR)
MS:  Son Wan Ho (KOR) [1] vs. Liew Daren (MAS)
WD:  Jung Kyung Eun / Shin Seung Chan (KOR) [1] vs. Chae Yoo Jung / Kim So Yeong (KOR) [6]
WS:  Sung Ji Hyun (KOR) [1] vs. Lee Jang Mi (KOR)
XD:  Ko Sung Hyun / Kim Ha Na (KOR) [1] vs. Dechapol Puavaranukroh / Sapsiree Taerattanachai (THA) [2]

Click here for complete semi-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