SUDIRMAN CUP Day 1 – Line up second preferences

Hong Kong takes 1 point from mighty China after the defending champions had clinched the first tie of Group 1, and then some. By Aaron Wong, Badzine correspondent live in […]

Hong Kong takes 1 point from mighty China after the defending champions had clinched the first tie of Group 1, and then some.

By Aaron Wong, Badzine correspondent live in Gold Coast.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

Un-gettable, that’s what you are

“[Hong Kong] had already lost 4-0 so there was no pressure.  So we could have fun,” effused Tse Ying Suet in a mixture of Mandarin, English and her native Cantonese upon beating mixed doubles world #1s Chen Qingchen / Zheng Siwei.  It was the unlikeliest of turns given that she and Tang Chun Man (pictured top) opened with the worst game score out of any of the ex-British colony’s players this afternoon, 10-21.

Rarely in international doubles of this standard is a player capable of winning rallies from the rear court on one’s own.  Zheng Siwei (pictured right) proved otherwise throughout the opening game and found either opponent equally vulnerable.

Undeterred, Tse/Tang employed a succession of three-quarter-strength cross-court drives whenever Chen/Zheng were in perfectly straddling the middle line to turn the tables and take the next two, 21-16, 21-18.  The astute change of pace and their rare dual left-handed mixed proposition produced unreachable winners at the convenient moment Chen Qingchen’s touch at the net also decided to vacate.

Zheng’s post-mortem of the lost match sounded like a reminder to himself: “No matter how easily you’ve won in the past or at the start of a match, when the going gets tough figuring out the solution is all that’s important.”

So near yet so far

The opening men’s doubles match could easily have gone to three games too.  Fu Haifeng / Zhang Nan (pictured) took advantage of the least experienced Law Cheuk Him by hitting the final shuttles in his direction to win it, 21-15, 26-24, but in fact each of these three men were rather average by their personal standards.  Unforced errors ensued many a time, with each player deliberately pressed beyond his reflexes.

Fu / Zhang have only spent one hour and nine minutes or two matches together this year so it was evident that the famous Chinese pair were keeping their strategy simple, seldom deviating from Fu looking after the rear court.  Most of the match was spent finding back the form that brought them gold medals at Rio.

Hong Kong had wasted a game trying to find a good length on their defence.  The match developed on more equal footing once mixed doubles specialist Lee Chun Hei settled down after swapping sides.

What you see when you look closer

Hong Kong’s entire Day 1 line up is perplexing for not containing any of their highest ranked players, which leads one to reason that they didn’t have the goal of winning the tie.  Neither were they all the youngest players.

At a stretch, you could argue that Hu Yun (pictured) was selected in the event of meeting reigning Olympic and World Champion Chen Long, in a clash of whose patient style of play is superior.  But why intentionally scheme to win this one particular category?  Overall, Wong Wing Ki or Ng Ka Long would seem to be a better choice as this offers more experience to a younger player against any of the potential three Chinese candidates – Wong already has wins over Lin Dan and Shi Yuqi and Ng against all three.  Had Hong Kong’s men’s doubles also created an upset, the other potential win would have had to come in men’s singles, which they weren’t necessarily trying to convert in reality or on paper.

China opting for three fifths experienced and youth for the rest in today’s tie was a worthy exercise.  Lin Dan was the only outright recent best performer.  Reuniting former world #1 pair Bao Yixin / Tang Jinhua (pictured bottom) for women’s doubles is considered as even in quality as any of their three current top 10s.  Sun Yu happens to be the highest world ranked but there’s little to choose between her and He Bingjiao.

Fu/Zhang rounded off the experienced staff but obviously they needed practicing.  All of this “allows” the young mixed doubles world #1s Chen/Zheng to try their hand at representing their country and fail if they do (which they did) under controlled circumstances.  In fact, the failing at a non-critical fixture yields more important lessons than victory at this stage of their careers.  No minders followed them into the mixed zone to reduce the glare of answering questions after a loss on live global broadcasts.

Click here for complete Day 1 results

Aaron Wong

About Aaron Wong

Aaron Wong only ever coveted badminton's coolest shot - a reverse backhand clear. He is renowned for two other things: 1) Writing tournament previews that adjust the focus between the panorama of the sport's progress, down to the microscopic level of explaining the striking characteristics of players; 2) Dozing off during men's doubles at the London Olympic Games. Contact him at: aaron @