SINGAPORE OPEN R16 – Home challenge ends with a nail-biter

Singapore’s Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han were inches away from a huge upset over the All England champions but in the end had to leave the upsets to visiting […]

Singapore’s Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han were inches away from a huge upset over the All England champions but in the end had to leave the upsets to visiting shuttlers at the .

By Seria Rusli, Badzine Correspondent live in Singapore.  Photos: Mikael Ropars / Badmintonphoto (live)

Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han were a game up and then allowed their opponents to tie it up.  Then they were 19-15 up in the decider, then held match point at 20-19, but in the end they let slip away the upset that was within their reach.

The world #16 mixed doubles pair from Singapore have been around the block a bit since their last appearance in a Singapore Open second round.  They have won a couple of International Challenges, reached a couple of Gold semi-finals, and played some tough matches with some of the world’s best pairs.

“We didn’t have much expectations of ourselves, we only hoped to perform our best and put up a great fight,” said Terry Hee after the match.  “I think that made us open up in terms of our mentality so we played well today.”

“After the first game, we were feeling confident as our level was not too far away from them,” said Tan Wei Han.  “We were just hoping to play steadily in the second game, trying not to rush and not be impatient.”

On their strategy for the deciding game, Hee said, “We tried to remember how we played in the first game and we tried to prevent our points from lacking behind.  We focused on scoring one point at a time to go above them.  Unfortunately, they fared better than us in the end.

“I feel that the main thing is that we were uncertain about our shots towards the last part because we wanted to win.  That resulted in our hesitation because we wanted to do so many things, we ended up losing focus.

“We are satisfied with our performance but it’s very sad that we couldn’t win the game because we had our match point.  However, we will come back stronger.  We will meet again in the first round of the Badminton Asia Championships and hopefully we can do better than today.”

Tan Wei Han added, “We ourselves were not expecting to have such a close fight with Lu Kai and Huang Yaqiong.  We were just trying to put up a good fight but we actually succeeded better than our expectations so we are quite satisfied.”

Huang Yaqiong said of her victory, “I feel quite happy with today’s match as in the third game we started alright and as the game moved on we fell back.  We managed to fight back and hence I feel happy.  We did not change our game much but it is more of the mentality.  We have firmer mentality and believed that we could win the game and catch up point by point.

On facing a crowd that was firmly supporting the Singapore team, Lu Kai said, “We did feel the pressure especially at the last part, when we were quite far behind.  Hence, it did affect us quite a bit.  But at the end, we still have to be firm in our mentality and way of playing.

Huang Yaqiong admitted to feeling some fatique playing 3 in a row.  In the past two weeks, she has reached three finals and a quarter-final but she at least is down to just one discipline this week in Singapore.

Danes whittle down the Chinese field

As for China’s women’s doubles contingent, it went down to one after Denmark’s Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Christinna Pedersen saw off their second Chinese opponents in a row, beating Bao Yixin and Yu Xiaohan in two.

“We are really happy about how we managed to win today,” said Rytter Juhl.  “When the draw came out, we were not really happy because it is tough to have the Chinese pairs in both the first and second round.  But today we really showed that we have the level to beat them.  It is great and we are happy right now.

“In the beginning of both games, we were struggling quite a bit but what we did better was our fighting spirit,” said Pedersen.  “Hence we were able to come back in both games and show them that if they were to beat us today it would have to be a long and hard match.  I think that mentality is one of greatest strengths and how we managed to fight back instead of being stressed out on court today.  It was really good today.”

“I think we will face the Japanese pair tomorrow and we have played with them many times,” said Rytter Juhl, “but again it depends on the condition and whether we play on court 1, 2, 3 or 4 so we have to adapt to that.

“It is going to be an exciting match.  We will take the good things today and as Pedersen said, it is really good when we keep on fighting even though we are behind and we were behind 11-4 today.  So we have talked about that that we will be behind in some period of the match and we will not feel really good on court but we just have to keep the spirit on.

Christinna Pedersen added, “We have been looking so much forward this year.  Last year we did not play in the Singapore Open so we have been looking so much forward for the people, the crowd, and just everything is really nice here.

Men’s Doubles has remained comparatively resistant to upsets this week.  The only seeds to have lost so far are Denmark’s two Madses, whose first match was cut short by after only five rallies.

Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia and Malaysia’s Tan Boon Heong participated in a match among four former world #1 players when they took on Olympic silver medallists Goh/Tan.

“I feel that we still have to practice again,” said Hendra Setiawan.  “So far, we have only had the chance to train for short periods, 2 to 3 days, and then have to join competitions.”

Tan Boon Heong clarified, “Sometimes I go to Indonesia, sometimes he comes to Malaysia.  We do not have much training as there have been too many tournaments since January.”

Despite the disadvantages, the two veterans put up a stiff challenge to the Superseries Finals winners, who won 21-19, 21-18.

Missed opportunity

Korea’s Son Wan Ho seemed to have things in his favour.  He was runner-up here in Singapore last year and the defending champion had just been beaten yesterday by Son’s team-mate Lee Dong Keun.  Not only that but the top two seeds had withdrawn and the only other player seeded higher than Son, Viktor Axelsen, had suffered an upset a day earlier.

All of this came together on the day Son ascended to #2 in the world for the first time in his career.  Still, Son had to face a talented and driven Jonatan Christie and what the Indonesian brought to the court turned out to be more significant than all the background factors.

“Son Wan Ho was not at his best performance,” said Christie.  “I could see that his leg is still a bit painful like when he played in the Indonesian league in the beginning of this year.  I can see that his legs are not as fast as usual and I made use of this opportunity and apparently it worked very well.

“Perhaps, my stamina in the first game was still good and hence I was able to cover the court well.  However, in the second game there was one rally where it took up a lot of my stamina.  I have had a lot of similar experiences.  For example in the All England, when I faced Kenta Momota where I had won the first game and led in the second game and my performance dropped after similar long rallies.  I did not want this to repeat and hence I focused myself on giving him pressure.

“I have exceeded my target as last year I only managed to get up to the second round and now I have managed to get into the quarter-final.  I want to be able to accumulate as many points as possible as I have lost a lot of points from the Malaysia Open this year.  I went to the semi-final last year and this year I lost in the quarter-final.  Hence I am trying my best to gain as many points as possible.

Of his next opponent, Lee Dong Keun, Christie said, “For sure, Korea will learn my game because I beat their player today.  I lost to him in the last match with him in the Korea Grand Prix Gold but that was 2 years ago and he then went to the military.  Now, from what I see he is stronger and that is where I want to challenge myself again.  Like what my coach always says, if there is an opportunity, grab it and do not waste it.  I will just focus on recovering my body today.”

Lee, whose own ranking has fallen to 35th from a career high of 15th last year, beat Hong Kong Open winner Ng Ka Long in three tough games.   The only men’s singles seeds left are Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk and Shi Yuqi.

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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