KOREA OPEN 2017 Day 1 – Mixed heats up early

The Korea Open got underway with exciting matches right from qualifiers as Sudirman Surprise pair Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa fought through to the main draw. By Don Hearn, Badzine […]

The got underway with exciting matches right from qualifiers as Sudirman Surprise pair Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa fought through to the main draw.

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

We knew mixed doubles would be the focus of attention on Day 1 of the 2017 Korea Open as it was the discipline that would see most of its first round played a day early.  But the players in the qualifying rounds were not willing to make the tiny crowd wait until then for some thrills.

India’s Satwiksairaj Rankireddy has garnered as much attention as is possible for a 17-year-old with no major titles yet.  He and Ashwini Ponnappa (pictured) shook things up in the Sudirman Cup with a key hit and some tantalizing near misses.  On Tuesday, in Seoul, they saw off New Zealand Open winners Ronald and Annisa Saufika of Indonesia, after blowing a 5-point lead late in the first game, but following it up with a win in the second.

“It was quite an easy match,” said Ponnappa afterward.  “There weren’t too many rallies because it was a little difficult to control.  There was quite a bit of wind and I think both pairs were kind of struggling with that but in the end I’m glad that we ended up putting more shuttles over the net than inside the court.

“We’re getting there.  This is just our second actual tournament, apart from the Sudirman Cup.  It feels great to actually get out of qualifying because we want to do well but in order to do that we have to first get to the first initial stages.

“Both of my new partnerships involve equal concentration.  Absolutely.  We want to do well and then work really hard when we go back home.  It’s about making the combination click.

“We’ve played quite a few close matches but we haven’t really been able to pull out those matches towards the end so I think it’s very important for us to stay calm and focus, especially towards the end.  You can see in the first game today, we were leading by quite a bit and we ended up giving away the next couple of points.  We need to figure out how to get in control and keep control without making so many mistakes.

“Satwiksairaj’s got a hard smash so that’s a very big plus point for us.  It makes things a lot easier for me.  Whereas in the past, when I played mixed doubles, you’d see me at the back and the guy at the front but now he does his job and I have to make sure that I do mine really well.  I can’t afford to make too many mistakes because he is covering most of the court so whatever I do, I need to be a little more focussed.

“When I play on court, I don’t have any pressure because I’m younger and I just have to keep in control,” said Satwiksairaj.  “I like hitting smashes.”

“Satwik has been good at mixed doubles since he was very young, even as a junior and a sub-junior,” explained Ashwini.  “He’s got an eye for mixed doubles.  He’s really good at controlling and to play mixed doubles, you really need to have that.   As opposed to men’s doubles, where it’s a little different because you have shared responsibilities.  In mixed doubles, the guy’s got to be really good at controlling to make sure that the shuttle goes to the girl who’s at the net.

“He’s got a really good eye for that and I think that’s quite important.  It becomes easier for me to play with him because I can be confident that he does his job really well and that is taken care of, without worrying to much about opening up too much and having to cover for him.  I think I found my self doing quite a bit of that in the past but I’m not doing it now.”

On their only previous Superseries outing, Satwiksairaj and Ashwini lost in the first round in Australia to Hong Kong’s Lee/Chau.  This time, they will again face a Hong Kong pair in the round of 32, facing the double-southpaw pair of Tan/Tse.

Malaysia’s Mohamad Arif Abdul Latif again teamed up with Rusydina Antardayu Riodingin (pictured above) to send off two World Junior boys’ doubles champions in separate pairings.  Two very close matches were enough to send the international duo into Wednesday’s first round where they will play two young fellow qualifiers from Korea.

Two Japanese pairs round out the qualifying quartet, who will all play the only remaining first round mixed matches on Wednesday.  11 other openers happened later on Tuesday, while Choi Sol Gyu’s injury sent Universiade gold medallists Lee Chia Hsin and Wang Chi Lin into the second round without a fight.

Click here for complete Tuesday results

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