AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2017 QF – The double meaning of execution

Every player interviewed talked about studying their opponents prior to interrogation. The proof of the pudding then lies in executing the plan. And whose plan? By Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent […]

Every player interviewed talked about studying their opponents prior to interrogation. The proof of the pudding then lies in executing the plan. And whose plan?

By Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent live in Sydney. Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

Women’s doubles: Two executed Korean duos

On Court 2, the two Korean women’s pairs left in contention were on the verge of crossing the border into ‘semi-finals-land’ and never went further.

In a surprise twist of fate, the – individually as well as together – better Korean pair world #3 Chang Ye Na / Lee So Hee were composed and focused throughout the first two games. They had a plan of action in place but went down 10-21, 24-26, 21-16, after Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota hung in there in the second game by virtue of autopilot defensive spirit which is a hallmark of Japanese women’s doubles.

Lee is often thought of as the power ratio in the Korean duo but today Chang Ye Na (photo)  was forcing the agenda through belting shuttles and dictating her side’s formations on court well before applying greater urgency in the rubber game.

This outcome for the Koreans could be part of a broader issue. Lee and Chang have reached their optimum. They are the sum of their parts, superior to a generic Korean proposition yet the effect they are producing still has a standardness about it, albeit very polished.

Their flavours complement one another: Chang plays the visionary and Lee provides reliable support. Each is intelligent and not terribly given to nerves, camaraderie is perfect, and their performances are smooth and reproducible but yet it lacks the next level of synergy of Korea’s last great pair Ra Kyung Min / Lee Kyung Won – who are the current and former accompanying coaches to Sydney. Their recent losses, including today’s, seem less to do with executing instructions. Can something extra be extracted from Lee and Chang?

Revenge out of reach

World #2 Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Christinna Pedersen (who could’ve been world #1 by now if they’d reached the final in Indonesia last week) had a plan, knew what to expect, and the reality was the human body and mind still has to be able to deliver.

The Danes were not entirely reliant on it but Rytter Juhl’s heavy left-handed straight ahead smashes – one here and one there – helped, and we know she can do them time after a time.

Kim Hye Rin / Yoo Hae Won (pictured below) took a leaf out of the book of the Japanese who beat their compatriots and it garnered match point. The Korean perspective followed a general sequence of: don’t let the Danes get on the attack and if you do just weather it for a while, especially whatever Rytter Juhl comes up with. Rytter Juhl’s former life as mixed doubles World Champion came in handy in converting match point when all 183cm of her – plus arm span – at the forecourt leaped to touch the shuttle in the forecourt. Revenge for the straight games defeat at last week’s Indonesia Open Premier was one point too for the Koreans who lost, 11-21, 21-15, 21-23.

“They made us work for it. We were really struggling after the first set. Maybe they stepped up a level or two. They made it difficult especially for our defence in the second. It’s not good to be uncomfortable [in that department] against Koreans as they all have a good attack and really want to get onto it. Koreans always want to come forward to control the the front court so we know we also have to. Christinna did some rushes to the net,” a light-hearted Juhl said afterwards.

“We talked about how they can sense the victory of getting into the semi-final and might get nervous. We told ourselves to stay close in the match and maybe we can do it in the end.”

Mixed doubles: Overrode the code

The most exciting pair in mixed doubles at the moment, Thailand’s Sapsiree Taerattanachai (pictured below) and Dechapol Puavaranukroh have longer to wait to take their first Superseries because the clever recent world #1 Kim Ha Na not only snuck in a win despite her deficiencies on the day but overrode the original programming by her coach.

“We hardly expected to win as we figured we’re not as good as other opponents. Our Thai opponents have strong wrist power and I find their shots hard to defend back. Before partnering Duk Young I had experienced it so I was a little prepared for this aspect,” revealed Kim Ha Na.

“Our coach gave advice but the play didn’t turn out that way so I talked to my partner a lot about what I read going on. I was being faulted on my service but Duk Young’s was stable so we relied on his for as many points as we could.”

Men’s doubles: Both sides getting warm

Malaysian men’s doubles posted a fresh world #1 this year whose results aren’t hot lately and fell on Day 1 to Japan’s third pair. Their second pair world #24 Ong Yew Sin / Teo Ee Yi (pictured below) succumbed to China’s Zhang Nan / Liu Cheng, 21-14, 12-21, 15-21.

Malaysia needn’t worry and it’s not because Tan Boon Heong was the lone flag-bearer heading into Saturday. Ong/Teo played to plan to capture the first game and their talent shines through because it wasn’t a capitulation, but was rather a case of their having been beaten by winners.

The Chinese returned to court warmer or at the normal temperature they should be at to make matters exciting in terms of both sides showing all they are made of. Liu/Zhang flew into their favourite formation of the Olympic champion in the forecourt. There was a moment Zhang dashed to front from the baseline not to save a shuttle but for duty in much the same way Zhao Yunlei might have run past him in mixed doubles in the past. Liu Cheng found extra oomph on his smash from the rear too.

The bright side is that throughout the match, the Malaysians were unafraid.  They neither withdrew on their defensive stances nor overheated as a result of the exchanges. Their focus and un-fussy approach kept them in good doubles balance, and they were not given to playful or exaggerated defence as previous top Malaysians have been wont to do, although there were signs Teo’s racquet skills were capable of this. For them, Liu’s bigger smashes came off their frame and they saw Zhang, the forecourt genius, coming too.

Ong/Teo realised that down 8-13 in the rubber game was the critical juncture to not let the match run away. They way they won this one point points to the future for both pairs. Liu Cheng again displayed lack of hesitation at the net and the multiple smashes from him were weathered until he needed to catch a breath and cleared long. Liu/Zhang proved they have more dimensions than their favoured formation and the second Malaysian pair can handle it. What’s left is for Ong/Teo to practice at home the same plan as the first game while under denser hostility.

“Our partnership has been less than a year and I’m satisfied that we’ve improved a lot. We worked together to solve the problems we hadn’t expected. Nonetheless I still notice spaces on court and between us where our play conflicts,” observed Zhang of his trajectory in this discipline.

Click here for all Friday 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 @