KOREA OPEN 2018 SF – Zhang Beiwen: “I’m gonna get blisters!”

Zhang Beiwen denied Sung Ji Hyun a 5th home final appearance with her 1st ever win over the Korean, and now gets ready for a gruelling final. By Don Hearn, […]

Zhang Beiwen denied Sung Ji Hyun a 5th home final appearance with her 1st ever win over the Korean, and now gets ready for a gruelling final.

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

Zhang Beiwen (pictured top) booked a spot in the final of a event for the second time this year.  As with the last time, at the India Open, her run has involved denying a home favourite.

In India, Zhang beat Saina Nehwal for the first time in the quarter-finals of an event she had won twice.  On Saturday in Seoul, she did the same to Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun (pictured right), winner of this event in 2013 and 2015.

In each game, Sung Ji Hyun had the slight 11-10 edge at the interval and even sneaked ahead late in each game but both times, Zhang kept the pressure on and stayed more consistent to pull ahead, thus winning in straight games.

“I think I was too hasty today and my body felt like it was working pretty hard.  I couldn’t get the accuracy with my attacking shots either,” said Sung Ji Hyun after the match.

“Of course, she has a very good attack and I found I was unable to defend with drive returns and ended up popping the shuttle up too high.  Once she gets a string of points that way, the momentum really starts to swing her way.

“Because she attacks so well, I was trying to vary my serves, mixing more short serves in with my long serves.  I should have prepared to use more drives today, too, but, well…”

“I feel so sorry that I didn’t show the performance I wanted to with so many fans here on the weekend.  Still, I have to get ready to bounce back.  I was playing in front of my home crowd and the opportunity to make the final came around and I wasn’t able to grab it so it’s really disappointing.”

Asked if we could expect her back for another try next year, Sung managed a smile, a little chuckle and an affirmative nod.

Zhang was, of course, smiling and upbeat in the mixed zone after her victory.

“I just relaxed and enjoyed it,” said the 28-year-old, who was cleared to represent the United States in the World Championships for the first time this year.  “I had never beaten her before and this was her home court so I didn’t have to be nervous.

“I didn’t really have a lot of strategy.  It was so windy, there was AC everywhere.”

In the final, Zhang will be up against either 2017 runner-up Nozomi Okuhara – against whom she has lost all four of her encounters, including in the first round here last year – or 2016 champion Akane Yamaguchi, who has only won 5 of her 8 matches against Zhang.

Asked which player she would rather face, Zhang said, “For me, there is not much difference but of course, against Yamaguchi, I have a little bit more chance but both players are very tough for me to play so it really doesn’t matter.  But Nozomi is like a fast car but one that really saves on gas.

“I will just give my best, what else can I say?  I will have to tape both my feet because I am gonna get blisters!”

Click here for complete semi-final 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