AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2017 R16 – Richer guy buys tomorrow’s ticket

In the meeting of two of last year’s fresh men’s singles Superseries champions, the one who took home more prize money bought his ticket into the quarter-final. By Aaron Wong, […]

In the meeting of two of last year’s fresh men’s singles champions, the one who took home more prize money bought his ticket into the quarter-final.

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

In R16 of a strong cast, still boasting nine previous Superseries champions, the stakes were high to win and several candidates pulled out a surprising development for men’s singles which was jump smashing from the baseline, including the shortest of them all Anthony Ginting.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one heard it was there a sound?

Defending champion Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus (pictured above) finished the rally at 2-2 in the opening game but the increase in score was added to Ng Ka Long under controversial circumstances. Coach Kenneth Jonassen was on his feet with arm in the air at the umpire’s decision.

“I finished the point, the shuttle hit my opponent and flew out at a different angle. I signalled to apologise for hitting him and he acknowledged. Then the umpire gave the point to him and he didn’t say anything so I went up to ask. The umpire didn’t see it happen and responded that even if it were true, it’s his (the umpire’s) call to make.”

Vittinghus went on to say he was extremely rattled and needed time to get the strong emotions out of his system and back in control.

Long known for his utter commitment within rallies, his hot performance today continued throughout at a rhythm above that which left behind Hong Kong Superseries champion and seventh seed Angus Ng Ka Long, 21-9, 21-13.

No surprises then that Vittinghus was one of the aforementioned who launched himself skyward from the baseline. “For Srikanth and Ginting, it’s a big part of the game. I’d planned ahead to play safe from the baseline [by default] but today it felt right.”

“Ever since the last my form has gone down but I have to admit it is at a high level these past two days. I’ve beaten the world #7 so we’ll see. I’m happy because I made two, maybe three unforced errors at most in the match. The matches will only get tougher here on. I don’t play like this inspired every day but I expect I’ll still be producing a high level.”

Vittinghus shared about being in Sydney again, “My ranking has dropped to #30. I here just to enjoying playing and it’s a new experience having the giant billboard of myself outside the stadium. There’s no defending champion pressure, I’m not one of the favourites.”

Keeping #1 guessing

Indonesia Superseries Premier champion Srikanth Kidambi (pictured right) sorted out Son Wan Ho in three games for the second time in six days, 15-21, 21-13, 21-13.

As his daring on shots grew wilder in the rubber game, Kidambi jump smashed a winner from the baseline on addressing a deep lift. For a time, the Korean deselected from his repertoire of shots anything that might lose points including any semblance of offensive. He restrained his typical forehand off cross court smash because one of them was read and he couldn’t reach the reply although later applications were outright winners.

His reduced repertoire and the guesswork required on the Indian’s shots began to psychologically dismantle Son’s defensive game too. The result is the Korean was without a plan but he is so practiced at being steady that his footwork remains in balance and there are still rallies involved until the inevitable demise.

“Son doesn’t attack as much and keeps the rally going. You either have to be even more steady to crack him or full on attack.” remarked Kidambi about his risk taking. “In the first game, I gave away the early lead with too many mistakes but the second started off well.”

The Indian talked about the title drought years and his recent form. “I felt all along I was an aggressive player. Winning these kinds of matches against a top player like the #1 helps my confidence comes back.”

Erased from the mind but not muscles

Notice the reversing of the scoreline and post-match comments. The reigning Olympic champion Chen Long (pictured left) appeared to have no memory of losing to Anthony Ginting at the previous Australian quarter-final, which was the only time they’d met previously, but his body remembers what his mind doesn’t.

For singles players, whether one wins or loses, the muscles remember the opponent and become a little familiar with their timing the next time around. So it was with Chen who was quite at ease with where Ginting’s good enough smashes and dropshots were landing.

Anthony Ginting ought not to make too much of the 10-21, 13-21 loss as it was as much a new tactical problem he didn’t solve during the match as it was for Chen in their first meeting. On a singles fundamentals level, Ginting was guilty of not regularly manoeuvering his tall opponent off centre base by more than two steps as he had done last year and also against Danes Viktor Axelsen at the Sudirman and Jan Jorgensen the day before. The young Indonesian’s shot production and fast footwork was still decent in the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ way that Chen wins his own matches nowadays.

“Today my opponent is quite young and I’m relatively old. I’m not thinking I’m very old. I didn’t feel it was that different from our encounter here last year. My general aim is trying my best to play well, be more competitive, and preserve a healthy condition. The way I see it there’s so many tournaments to attend it’s not realistic to expect that I’ll win every one.”

When asked about how many years he would still like to be competing, Chen was non committal and rephrased the healthy condition sentiment.

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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 @