KOREA OPEN R32 – Junior champs to take on world #1

Newly-crowned Asian Junior Chamions Baek Ha Na and Lee Yu Rim produced an early upset in the Korea Open women’s doubles to set up an encounter with the mighty Matsutomo/Takahashi. […]

Newly-crowned Asian Junior Chamions Baek Ha Na and Lee Yu Rim produced an early upset in the women’s doubles to set up an encounter with the mighty Matsutomo/Takahashi.

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

It was the first match and first win for new Asian Junior Champions Lee Yu Rim and Baek Ha Na at the Korea Open today.  They bounced back from a one-sided second game to edge out Thailand Open runners-up Chayanit Chaladchalam / Phataimas Muenwong 21-19, 12-21, 21-18.

While originally the draw had them facing another qualifier if they had succeeded in getting through the preliminary rounds, 11th hour withdrawals sent the entire qualifying group into the main draw in unexpected ways.  In the case of the young Koreans, their first upset leaves them facing world #1 and Olympic gold medallists Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi in Seoul on Thursday.

“The Asian Junior was our first big title and we were so happy to get it,” said Lee Yu Rim after the win.  “Now this is our first time at any event as big as a Superseries so our target going in was to make it to the round of 16.

“From yesterday, with the changes in the draw, we realized that we would be playing Matsutomo and Takahashi if we won.  We know we still have so much to work on but we still are going to do our best to show what we can do on court in the second round.

“In the first game we felt that we could win it but when we play junior events it’s different.  In junior events, our opponents have similar racquet skills to ours and they are similar in power to us, too.  In senior tournaments, to start with there is a big differnece in power and the players are also much better able to control the shuttle than we and the other junior pairs are.

“Coaches Ra Kyung Min and Kang Kyung Jin were telling us after the match that we had to concentrate on getting ready for the next shot faster after making our own shots.

It remains to be seen whether luck, adrenaline, and home court advantage will earn them much against the Olympic champions but the experience will be invaluable.  In all, Korea put 7 pairs into the second round, including their fellow teenagers Kim Min Ji and Seong Ah Yeong, who will be taking on All England champions Chang Ye Na and Lee So Hee.  An 8th pair was denied by Baek/Lee’s predecessors, 2016 Asian Junior Champions Du/Xu of China.

One of the closest women’s doubles contests came when Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu beat Jongkolphan Kititharakul Rawinda Prajongjai 24-22 in their second game.  The Thais had beaten the Indonesian pair last month to begin their march to the SEA Games gold medal.

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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