AUSTRALIAN OPEN QF – The art of the steeper smash

Despite being decorated international players, not everybody is blessed with a sharp smash. It really does make a difference to ending points sooner. By Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent live in […]

Despite being decorated international players, not everybody is blessed with a sharp smash. It really does make a difference to ending points sooner.

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

#6 + #13 = #510

In mixed doubles, the fifth seeded scratch pairing made up of world #6 Kim Ha Na (pictured) and world #13 Choi Sol Gyu – but together ranked #510 – warmed to form at the right time to oust second seeded world #12 Du Yue / He Jiting, 16-21, 24-22, 21-13.

Kim Ha Na’s steady smashing poise and technique from the rear to in between the Chinese was met with respect as there were seldom counter attacks. This seemingly neutral scenario was actually Kim imposing the match rhythm she desired. In turn, her partner Choi benefited by maintaining his comfortable optimum alertness in order to be creative with power.

Choi and Kim worked nicely as a team whereby Kim eventually came forward and her skilful steeper smashes put a decisive end to critical points.

Combination fried Chinese

In women’s singles, it was only a matter of time before Ayumi Mine (pictured) progressed over her Chinese opponent but it still warranted the full 47 minutes for a straight-game victory, 21-15, 21-13. Mine’s comprehensive court coverage left few gaps for Han Yue to explore with success.

Mine appeared unworried about losing the odd point from a taller opponent but otherwise her defensive hand skills were also impeccable and more imaginative such that this became a threat too. Mine won with occasional outright smashes too which is credit to her masterful technique but it did make you wonder how much sooner she would be capable of finishing matches were she also blessed with the extra 14cm of height of her opponent.

The next Houwei and Song?

Could it be the 2013 all over again in men’s singles where two fresh Chinese names make themselves known by reaching the final?

Certainly, there are shades of Tian Houwei and Xue Song in the way both Lu Guangzu and Zhou Zeqi (pictured) are playing. Zhou’s robust smash surprised fifth seed Tommy Sugiarto, whose racquet was ready but regularly framed the return because it is that much more powerful than you’d expect for somebody of a slight East Asian physique.

Lu’s technique is even more penetrating as he possesses the agenda-pushing smash reminiscent of Xue Song wherein it is produced with compact preparation, comes off faster, and often hits the ground so he fires it at will even when opponents are in balance. Fourth seed Sameer Verma had few answers to this Chinese proposition in the same way that Taufik Hidayat was at a loss about how to counter Xue Song also during the quarters of the Australian five years ago. Both Lu and Zhou advanced to the semi-finals.

Sony Dwi Kuncoro and Sai Praneeth were purveyors of the steeper smashes but once felt, their Chinese and Hong Kong opponents respectively made sure to prevent future possibilities.

Korean unable to find the angle

Indonesia’s second seeds Wahyu Nayaka / Ade Santoso (pictured), who are known for their vocal antics on smashes, had a battle on their hands, unlike their first seeded compatriots Angriawan/Hardianto.

Last year’s Sudirman Cup Korean pairing of Choi Sol Gyu / Seo Seung Jae engaged their opponents in fierce rallies. The Koreans preferred the flat ones, whereas either Nayaka or Santoso were equally dangerous at putting away a high lift at the rear as well as equally capable at cutting down shuttles at the forecourt.

Hence, the Indonesians had the slight technical edge going into the rubber game deuce. Ultimately, the Nayaka/Santoso didn’t need to win the match so speak but were given it. The Koreans had a chance to level the deuce but their overcooked return while one of their opponents was on the floor sailed long of the back line to hand it to Indonesia, 21-19, 14-21, 23-21.

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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 @ badzine.net