AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2018 R16 – For the second day running

Malaysians in the lead narrowly lost out to singles opponents from different decades. It is vital to know yourself at every age. By Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent live in Sydney.  […]

Malaysians in the lead narrowly lost out to singles opponents from different decades. It is vital to know yourself at every age.

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

Men’s singles: Photo finish

For a second day running, Hong Kong’s Lee Cheuk Yiu (pictured) precisely didn’t and wouldn’t stop whilst on a court further down 2016 World Junior Champion Sun Feixiang ran out of gas against compatriot Zhao Junpeng and was left with only drop-shot options at the closing of the second game.

In the round of 32, Lee’s Indian opponent kept stepping on his tail the entire way, while against Cheam June Wei a day later, the situation was more dire. Cheam stayed ahead for so much of the decider but Lee, it beggars belief, kept on keeping on, long rally after long rally.

The unexpectedly dramatic moment came when down 19-18, Lee somehow lunged to return a net-shot which clipped the tape and submitted a similar reply. With this Lee had signalled his ultra-commitment and Cheam shrugged as though to ask, “What more do I have to do?”

Subsequently, Lee Cheuk Yiu won match point with his signature off-cross-court jump smash delivered with the sort of bounce and panache a player normally possesses for an opening point and he had the match 21-17, 12-21, 22-20.

It is exactly how a young man should play. What’s astonishing is that Lee is producing full speed to cover the distance quickly with recovery balance for the next shot in mind. You’d think some of them ought to be dive returns but Lee has calculated ahead that he’d rather not, which must warrant unimaginable reserves of energy and oxygen in a deciding game.

As writer T.S. Eliot famously observed:  “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

Transposed to a badminton context, you only gain the wisdom of how and when to play slower successfully by having explored your maximum speed previously. To compliment this point, 2007 World Championship silver medallist Sony Dwi Kuncoro (pictured) basically relied on a good reading of the opponent and fully trusting these instincts to survive the encounter with Malaysia’s Chong Yee Han, 8-21, 21-17, 21-18.

Doubles modes: Thoughtful – 1, Automatic – 1

The crowd rose to their feet when the rubber game went into deuce territory between the tall young men from Korea and China. In amongst the long flat rallies, each side was trying to find a way to come forward and took the risk for the big reward.

The Koreans were attempting suddenly delicate change of pace with their strategy while the Chinese preferred kamikaze dash forward interception. Mistakes and winners were made by both sides but Ou Xuanyi / Ren Xiangyu framed their last attempt to give the match to Kang Min Hyuk / Kim Won Ho (pictured), 17-21, 21-18, 26-24.

The last match of the evening, mixed doubles, went the full distance too with China’s eighth seeds Li Yinhui / Wang Zekang, similarly to their men’s side, going into automatic offense mode during the closing stages to win, 13-21, 21-17, 22-20. Kong Hee Yong / Park Kyung Hoon’s thoughtful comeback was undone at deuce by too mechanically calibrating their shots and lifting one shuttle high and long.

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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 @