KOREA OPEN Day 1 – Koreans drop two seeds from mixed main draw

Korean shuttlers made a big noise in the Korea Open mixed doubles first round, which ended with Kim Ha Na and Seo Seung Jae causing one upset, balancing one Korea […]

Korean shuttlers made a big noise in the mixed doubles first round, which ended with Kim Ha Na and Seo Seung Jae causing one upset, balancing one Korea walkover.

By Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent live in Seoul.  Photos: Yves Lacroix / Badmintonphoto (live)

Even before the main action started on Tuesday with mixed doubles being played  a day early, Korea had already lost its only seeded pair to a walkover caused by Choi Sol Gyu suffering an injury in men’s doubles qualifying.  However, the only other exit by a seeded pair would constitute good news for the Korean camp.

Defending mixed doubles champion Kim Ha Na lost her partner just a few weeks after slipping out of the world’s number one spot last December.  Now just over a week after finally slipping out of the world’s top ten, she is in her first event with a strong, young partner.

But Kim Ha Na and Seo Seung Jae (pictured) had already picked up two Gold titles long before Seo turned 20, just last week.  They picked up the Chinese Taipei Open and U.S. Open titles earlier this summer and took that momentum onto the court in Seoul.

It wasn’t easy.  Their opponents Lee Chun Hei and Chau Hoi Wah (pictured) were on a roll of their own, having reached the semis at last month’s World Championships, for which neither of the Koreans had qualified.  They also happened to have won a major title in a previous trip to Korea, at the 2014 Badminton Asia Championships.

Seo Seung Jae, who was a singles specialist until just a few weeks before becoming an overnight doubles sensation at the Sudirman Cup, came up with plenty of his now signature steep, crisp smashes and varied drives and the Koreans had key surges at the end of the first and deciding games.

“We have been in Grand Prix Gold events but being in our first Superseries and playing a top team in the first round, we were quite worried going in,” said Kim Ha Na.  “I wasn’t feeling at my best but I thing Seung Jae actually played above his level so in the end we won and we’re really glad about that.”

“I was also keen to do well in men’s doubles but we ended up against our team-mates and didn’t get the result we wanted,” said Seo Seung Jae.  “I think I did concentrate on making the most of the opportunity and really wanted to win the mixed match.”

Asked about his switch from singles to the doubles squad within the national team, which basically happened last spring, Seo said, “I really only had about a week of doubles training before we played the friendly exchange with Japan before the Sudirman Cup, then we had the remaining training for another week.

“I still think, although we won today, I have a lot of weaknesses and I’m going to work hard to shore up those parts of my game.”

Kim Ha Na’s role at this year’s Korea Open is a little complicated, as she is both underdog and defending champion.  “At this point, I feel I’m getting older so I really want to play to enjoy it but that still means trying hard to win,” Kim said.  “We’ve managed to follow our plan well and even won a couple of tournaments so we are improving faster and even our is going up faster than I expected so I’m glad about that.”

Asked if she intended to get back to the world’s top ranking spot, where she was a year ago, Kim Ha Na redirected the question to her partner Seo Seung Jae, asking with a laugh, “Can we get to world #1?”

“Well, I still have a lot to work on but becoming world #1 is definitely the goal,” Seo answered with a smile.

Also at the end of the day, three other upstart Korea pairs caused trouble to European stalwarts.  England’s Chris and Gabrielle Adcock (pictured above) are effectively the top seeds now that world #1 Zheng/Chen abdicated before the event began.  The Chinese were actually joined by the #3 and #5 pairs due to injuries.

Still, the Brits were put to the test, dropping their first game to Korea’s Kim Duk Young / Kim Hye Rin before bouncing back to win.  Mathias Christiansen and Sara Thygesen of Denmark followed a similar comeback scenario against the pairing of the two Kims’ level doubles partners.  Marvin Emil Seidel and Linda Efler of Germany also won narrowly over a Korean pair.  They saw off Kim Jae Hwan / Lee So Hee in straight games, but each finished 22-20.

The rest of the main draw action begins Wednesday at the SK Handball Gymnasium in Seoul.  Most of the qualifying rounds finished as expected.  Korea’s Lee Dong Keun duplicated his upset of Sony Dwi Kuncoro (pictured right) from the Singapore Open this year.  Lee will be hoping his first main draw victory at his home Superseries will come this time, in Wednesday’s match against Anthony Ginting.

Click here for complete Tuesday results

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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