AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2017 R32– Tang almost turns it around again

Like at the Sudirman Cup, Tang Chun Man made Chinese opponents nervous. This time in the first round of men’s doubles at the Australian Badminton Open Zhang Nan and Liu […]

Like at the Sudirman Cup, Tang Chun Man made Chinese opponents nervous. This time in the first round of men’s doubles at the Australian Badminton Open Zhang Nan and Liu Cheng held on.

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

You can sense the clenching of buttocks in the seats in the stadium.  At the previous Australian first round, it was Nozomi Okuhara overcooking her hard-fought opportunity to deuce at the end of the rubber match against Sun Yu.  This year, Wednesday morning patrons were delighted by Hong Kong’s Tang Chun Man (pictured) and Or Chin Chung dragging reigning Olympic champion Zhang Nan and new partner Liu Cheng to the brink in men’s doubles.

The theme of quick Chinese points loomed over the match.  Zhang/Liu appeared set to steamroll straight through as whenever they regained control of rallies they were able to deposit the point in their account with a two-shot tandem attack.  The pair from the former British colony had to constantly rotate their offense until the inevitable disappointment for much of the first two games.

Zhang Nan intercepted at every half opportunity and his downward angle on shots was the steepest.  Liu Cheng (pictured), no less, proved he is more than a reductive Fu Haifeng replica by tumbling shuttles delicately at the net.

Might as well try this

Interestingly, even though Or has the more robust smash of the pair, Tang is highly competent at mixed doubles and it was having him at the back that paid dividends.  Tang varying the strength of his smash between 70 and 90% had the effect of making it slightly steeper or being mistaken for out but landing in, which he interspersed with the odd unexpected drop shot aimed at the service T.

Tang’s flick serve on Zhang Nan snatched the second game.  The umpire had firmly requested Zhang Nan be ready as he kept turning to refer to his coach, Sydney Olympic gold medallist Zhang Jun.

Once head up, Zhang Nan appeared to carry a glazed look at his opponents right before being aced.  He tried protesting and he may have felt the stadium was not on his side because they wanted a rubber game.  The ace, incidentally, wasn’t gamesmanship but perfectly judged and executed.

Tang/Or held the lead in the decider until 15-all and reached match point first because Zhang Nan made an uncharacteristic net drive mistake, in addition to Hong Kong sending a shot that clipped the net in their favour.  One match point wasn’t enough as Tang hit his final smash wide on a well-constructed rally.

Forward strides

Hong Kong have historically not been memorable at men’s doubles but the future is brightening up as Tang/Or compensated for their embryonic strokes with smart, in-the-moment decision-making on not overplaying.  It almost caused an upset and elicited praise from their opponents.

“The Hong Kong pair are quite good.  Both being left-handers meant we had to adjust our tactics,” said Zhang Nan.

Liu added, “In the second game, our opponents kept pushing us to the rear court.  It disrupted our mood and we managed to capture the match by becoming patient just in time.”

Nothing speaks louder than knowing how you played forced the reigning Olympic champion to heavily rely on advice from another Olympic champion in order to barely defeat you.

Click here for complete Wednesday 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 @