KOREA OPEN 2018 Day 1 – Visiting veterans acclimatize

Singles got underway early with several veterans taking the qualifying rounds to get accustomed to playing on court as Seoul settles comfortably into autumn on this Chuseok long weekend. By […]

Singles got underway early with several veterans taking the qualifying rounds to get accustomed to playing on court as Seoul settles comfortably into autumn on this Chuseok long weekend.

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

It was mostly men’s singles qualifying that began the day on Tuesday in Seoul.  The crowd was uncharacteristically large for a opener.  The anticipation of Lee Yong Dae’s return after a 2-year hiatus is combined with Tuesday and Wednesday being official national holidays, marking the Chuseok harvest festival.

There was some real contrast in the various matches that started the day.  On Court 2, Lee Fang-Chih / Chang Ching Hui nearly went the distance in their first mixed doubles game against Pakin Kuna-Anuvit and Supissara Paewsampran of Thailand, winning 30-28 before having to fight again to take the second 24-22.  Zhao Junpeng had almost as much trouble disposing of 2015 runner-up Ajay Jayaram 26-24, 21-18.

Soon, Korean shuttlers got in on the action and Thomas Cup member Ha Young Woong (pictured below) took on Malaysia’s Iskandar Zulkarnain.  The India Open semi-finalist took the first game but had all kinds of trouble in the second, falling behind by an incredible 0-16 before finally regrouping to get on the board.

“The wind is so different,” said Iskandar Zulkarnain (pictured above) after his win.  “In the first game, I could control the shuttle and push it to the corners but in the second game, I couldn’t control because I was not able to adapt to the wind from that side.  I fell very far behind and my confidence really went down.”

Despite the huge point deficit, Iskandar did not simply let the game go, but rather fought back to get 10 more points before conceding the game and getting set for the decider.

“I tried to get the momentum back because I was a little scared.  My coach was very angry at me.  So I just focused and tried to get some momentum back for the third game.

Of his next match, the Malaysia said, “I haven’t played Zhou Zeqi yet because he is still young so I’ll just try to give him a good fight.

“Playing in Korea is very nice.  The rhythm is very good because it’s not so hot and not so cold, it’s good for me, and the environment and the Korean people are very nice.  This year, I have had some difficulties because I had a disciplinary suspension so I hope I can make it to the first round in this tournament so I can prove to everyone that I can do it.”

Unfortunately for Iskandar, he was unable to find a way past Zhou Zeqi.  The youngster, who turned 21 last week, won two close ones and will accompany compatriot Zhao Junpeng (pictured right) into the first round, along with Heo Kwang Hee of Korea and Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yu Hsien.

Women’s singles involved only a single round of four matches.  Three of them went quite quickly, including the return of Li Xuerui (pictured below).  Li hadn’t played in Korea since 2015, when she reached the quarter-finals and this is her biggest individual tournament since returning to international badminton this past spring.  She had an easy win over India’s Mugdha Agrey.

The other three matches involved Korean shuttlers and Lee Se Yeon and Kim Ga Eun’s straightforward wins looked to be emulated on the end court as well as Jeon Ju I took her first game against Porntip Buranaprasertsuk of Thailand.  The former world #8 put together a 7-point run late in the second game to turn the tables and finally emerged the winner in three games.

“I had to change my techniques because there was a lot of wind and I couldn’t control,” said Buranaprasertsuk after the match.  “In the first game, I kept playing to her forehand and she absolutely likes to play like that and it was hard for me.

“Then I tried to give her more overheads and she couldn’t control so I though maybe I can beat her.

“I still don’t think I am confident and I keep having to change my techniques slowly.  If I play a high-ranking player, maybe I cannot stay in it to win because I’m not yet confident.  Physically, I keep feeling better but I am still a little slow.  When my opponent attacks me, I am still sometimes too slow defending.  My reflexes are not yet fast enough.”

Porntip Buranaprasertsuk (pictured below) was a little incredulous when reminded she had once been in the semi-finals here in Korea: “Maybe that was a long time ago!”

“I feel good playing in Korea.  The food is good and the environment is good, too.  I play Yip Pui Yin tomorrow.  I haven’t played her that many times but she has maybe the same still as me: attack, attack, attack.  Maybe you’ll see tomorrow.”

The two players, both known for using jump smashes, which are a rarity in women’s singles, first played each other back in 2005, when Porntip was just 13 years old and the Thailand Open was using the 11-point, score-on-serve system.

“But now, maybe she will just walk and smash,” laughed the Thai, who has not played the 31-year-old Hong Kong player since 2014.

Click here for complete Day 1 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