AUSTRALIAN OPEN QF – 367-day Plan B versus 120-second Plan B

Jonatan Christie had a year to come up with a Plan B since losing to Lin Dan in the final of the 2018 New Zealand Open. An astute one it […]

Jonatan Christie had a year to come up with a Plan B since losing to Lin Dan in the final of the 2018 New Zealand Open. An astute one it was which returned the favour of straight games defeat in a match where tension kept mounting.

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

Lin Dan (pictured right) had two minutes to realise what had tactically unfolded and to come up with his own Plan B at the change of ends following the first game. In fact, to paraphrase wisdom that he expressed at the 2017 , success boils down to adjusting to one’s opponent quickly – which he clearly hadn’t.

Christie didn’t opt for the moderate paced, stroke play, wait for the half opportunity cat-and-mouse game plan that Lin’s previous two Indian opponents applied, nor did he apply the pedal-to-the-metal turbo acceleration of the Ginting-Praneeth second round encounter. Rather, he blended both aspects within each rally to cause a significant amount of wariness inside his opponent in the first game.

To Lin’s credit, his pure shot-making was finely tuned in the first game. Angles on the half smashes and drop-shots flew close to the tape of the net and his hairpin net-shots tumbled and grazed the tape as they went over. Christie returning the majority of these, however, forced Lin initially to execute ever finer shots which turned into errors.

The conundrum posed by Christie was to bait Lin into going all out, with the younger man betting he could win against the older athlete on those stakes. After they swapped sides, Lin’s feet had finally found Christie’s rhythm. The Chinese star applied judicious extra full speed and stretch on defending smashes down the line and sliced drop-shots.

In the first game, Lin wasn’t used to how quick Christie could recover and how hard the smashes were at key moments. The Chinese star solved the first problem just in time to earn game point by coming from behind in the second game, but the second problem was only held at bay. Christie managed to sneak in the odd powerful smash and clear to secure the match during a dramatic extra point session.

These days it Lin still possesses sufficient speed to traverse the court on shots he sees coming, it’s the recovery on an opponent’s power smashes and their follow-up shot that’s pivotal.

At one point, the umpire requested play to continue and disallowed the court to be mopped so Jonatan Christie (pictured left) used his own towel to wipe the floor and then his face with the same surface area while Lin Dan sat on the floor behind his court.

In the end, it was third seed Jonatan Christie who beat eighth seed Lin Dan 21-9, 24-22, to secure Indonesia-Taiwan rivalries in both semi-finals.

Lin Dan was not the only former World Champion to lose on Friday.  Shortly before he lost the battle of the Asian Games gold medallists, Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan (pictured bottom) lost out in the battle of former men’s doubles World Champions, as Ko Sung Hyun and Shin Baek Cheol beat them in straight games.  Earlier in the day, reigning women’s doubles World Champions Matsumoto/Nagahara were also beaten, by Greysia Polii – a former Asian Games gold medallist herself, incidentally – and Apriyani Rahayu.

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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