AUSTRALIAN OPEN R32 – Tough gentle touches

Tight unattackable net-shots are the toughest strokes to master in the business. Find out who got them just right and who unfortunately didn’t. By Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent live in […]

Tight unattackable net-shots are the toughest strokes to master in the business. Find out who got them just right and who unfortunately didn’t.

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

Australian ousts eighth

Australia’s top women’s singles player Wendy Chen (pictured) wiped out the Japanese eighth seed from this year’s tournament, 8-21, 21-15, 22-20.

A typically slow start and horrific early scoreline for the Queenslander didn’t crush her ambitions. Chen stayed fitter to be able to win the next two games over higher ranked world #68 and recent Orleans Masters champion Shiori Saito.

Chen’s lead throughout the deciding game and conversion on match point were the result of delicate net-shots and unfussy defence which forced her increasingly spent opponent to cover much court and arrive later and later to shuttles.

Gone top seed girl

Another uncharacteristic and forgettable performance by Michelle Li of Canada happened at the .  In 2016, she went down to World Champion Goh Jin Wei and in 2018, China’s unheralded Han Yue (pictured) – herself a World Junior Championship runner-up – issued a ticket home after the first hurdle to the second seeded Canadian.

Han had clearly studied for Li’s repertoire of shots. On the other hand, Li lacked the magic touch of Wendy Chen and accumulated unforced errors at the net to the tune of 11-21, 11-21.

The machine, the artist, and the lead foot

In men’s singles, four individuals drew positive notice and the attention of the spectators but only three of them could progress.

Japan’s Riichi Takeshita continues in the tournament care of his relentless machine like shot precision in disposing of Ajay Jayaram, 20-22, 22-20, 21-17.

Panji Ahmad Maulana (pictured) demonstrated strokes artistry in excess to made one wonder how many more dimensions there are within him and is such loveliness reproduceable under pressure. He cleared an Indian opponent and the most difficult one lies in wait in the form of second seed and Singapore champion Sai Praneeth.

The match of the day belonged to lucky number seven seed Lee Cheuk Yiu of Hong Kong and recent world #1 junior Lakshya Sen (pictured).

If you didn’t know you would hardly believe just by watching that Sen is just 16 years old because of his physical appearance and more so the maturity with which he carries himself on court in terms of composure and tactical judgement.

The finest examples were the young Indian’s quietly effective defence and recovery during long rallies, and the aptitude to repeatedly return a Gold level opponent’s net-shot with another net-shot.

Both players shone and Lee barely cleared the close battle, 22-20, 13-21, 21-19. Lee’s consistent energy spanning the full hour and willingness to go for cross court smashes from both left and right thrilled the crowd. Despite the differences in their shot production, their strategies and consistency were largely similar hence the tightest of closing scorelines.

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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