Korea went five for five on quarter-finals day at the Singapore Open, with Sung Ji Hyun and Jung/Shin eliminating the last of China’s women, but the women’s singles has intriguing semis in store.
By Seria Rusli, Badzine Correspondent live in Singapore. Photos: Mikael Ropars / Badmintonphoto (live)
Olympic bronze medallists Jung Kyung Eun (pictured) and Shin Seung Chan capped off a perfect day for Korea on Friday at the Singapore Open, beating Superseries Finals winners Chen/Jia in three close games. Officially, China’s last woman, Huang Yaqiong, is set to play Shin in the mixed semis but China-born, Singapore-trained Zhang Beiwen is still set to make women’s singles a fascinating final four.
Zhang Beiwen (pictured below) of the U.S.A. cannot sneak up on anyone any more after she was runner-up at the French Open late last year. The Liaoning-born shuttler played her junior years in Singapore but moved to the U.S.A. in 2012. Now again close to her career-high world ranking, she has returned to the island nation with a view to snatching its Superseries title and she bounced back from missing a match point opportunity to beat world #4 Akane Yamaguchi in three games.
“I feel really happy. This is really the first time I play in the Singapore Open and get into the semi-final, said Zhang afterward. “I can’t express how happy I am.”
“The last time I beat her but she can get any shot so I have to be really, really patient. You saw her out of balance but she can still get up really fast so I have to just be patient.
“In the second game, I was leading a lot and at that time, I really wanted to win so when she caught up, I felt really nervous and hence I did not win the second game. Basically I just prayed for the third game so that this does not happen again.
“For me, every match is really important as I don’t have so much training. In every match, I have to be very focused and try my best and I don’t have so many chances to play with top ten players so this is a really good chance for me.
“I do not have coaches. I am always alone. They have their team, national coaches, and team coaches. So for me I have nothing to lose. She has more pressure. It has been a long time since I have played with the other players so I will just try my best.
Akane Yamaguchi said, “My opponent was really good this time. She’s almighty, she can do anything. I got a bit nervous playing against Zhang Beiwen because she could retrieve all of my shots. I had no idea what to do but I kept on playing. This time, my opponent was really much better than me.”
Needless to say, Zhang will have to be right on top of her game on Saturday, as she plays against world #1 Tai Tzu Ying (pictured). Tai saw off Sayaka Sato of Japan in straight games.
When Sung Ji Hyun (pictured below) sent down China’s Sun Yu in their quarter-final, she not only ended the challenge by the Chinese national team, but she also eliminated the second-last returning champion and an hour later, when Li/Liu had ousted Pratama/Suwardi, it was known that the Singapore Open would have all brand-new champions.
“Sun Yu is a taller player and she is good in attacking so I tried to attack more and be ready for defense and then counter attack,” said Sung after her win. “I also tried to attack first and this tactic worked for me today.
“It is my third tournament now. To start with, it was the India Open semi-final, then the Malaysia semi-final and this is the Singapore semi-final. So I will try to reach the final tomorrow. I hope to finish off in the final and not to stay in the semi-final forever,” said Sung, who is in her fourth semi of the year, since she exited the All England also on a Saturday.
“All the other teams are also doing the third tournaments as well. I think it comes down to the mentality – how strong they are. I will try to be strong and go through for tomorrow.”
Asked about her climb up the world rankings, where she is currently #3, Sung said, “The highest ranking that I had actually is number 2 in the world. When I was number 2, I wanted to be number 1. After this one, whatever happens, I will try to be the champion.
Sung is set to face Olympic gold medallist Carolina Marin, who elicited some payback from silver medallist Pusarla Venkata Sindhu (pictured), who had beaten the Spaniard in the India Open final.
“I think I was really focused on what I had to do and I pushed her here from the beginning of the match and I really wanted to beat her here today,” said Marin afterward. “I did my best and of course I’m really happy with my performance today.
“I just focus on every game. I don’t think about how I played two finals or I lost two finals, I just keep going and try to be confident with myself. I want to try to get the title here.
“Of course, it’s going to be very tough against Sung Ji-Hyun but I will do my best and enjoy on court with this crowd here to support me.
Of her loss, Sindhu said, “I think it’s not my day. In the start, I think I gave her a huge lead and by the time I wanted to cover it then she finished it off right away. In the second game as well, I gave her a huge lead and by the time I came close there were simple errors on my side also. I think it’s not my day today.
Sindhu discounted the impact of fatigue in the result: “I think I am fit enough. When it’s just not your day, the strokes which are supposed to get points you just hit into the net. You just have to come back stronger and learn from your mistakes.”
Like Sung Ji Hyun, both Korean women’s doubles pairs are facing the players who eliminated them from the running for gold at the Rio Olympics. Women’s doubles is the only semi-final round that features the top four pairs in the world rankings.