AUSTRALIAN OPEN R32 – Sign your name to cross the line

Fans’ human behaviour is such that they’re just pleased to witness players pulling out their signature shots whether or not a victory is ultimately delivered. By Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent […]

Fans’ human behaviour is such that they’re just pleased to witness players pulling out their signature shots whether or not a victory is ultimately delivered.

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

Marathon man

Kantaphon Wangcharoen (pictured above), Thailand’s world #17, refused to be denied a second round berth and took 84 minutes to dispatch the Japanese fourth seed Kenta Nishimoto.

As the match progressed, Wangcharoen thrilled the crowd with his signature dives, often two within the same rally, which only saved the situation half the time. Nevertheless, he was signalling his utter commitment.

Nishimoto was perpetually playing catch up in the rubber because speed and energy had left his legs. He had to admit defeat to the better marathon man who won 19-21, 21-18, 22-20.

Some unsuccessful signature shot applications were Hong Kong’s Lee Cheuk Yiu (pictured right) being unable to keep his smashes within the lines so he tried fewer and fewer. Thailand’s Bodin Isara was never lifted to enough by his opponents from Taiwan when he transferred to the rear so negligible screaming missile smashes of his were heard.

Men’s singles lost its defending champion Lu Guangzu, who typically does solid and steady very well but overpressed on his shots today when meeting an opponent of the same ilk, third seed Jonatan Christie of Indonesia.

Sometimes a player’s signature saves the day as not only in the case of Wangcharoen but also of Michelle Li and Li Xuerui…and only just.

In the nick of time

Michelle Li (pictured), seeded first last year, initially looked on course for a repeat first round exit. Mid-second game onwards, the Canadian managed just in time to summon smoothness in her strokes and court movement. Her signature cross-court cut drop-shots began appearing as instant winners.

Li’s extra height, reach, and physical strength gave her the advantage in the rubber over Gregoria Mariska, who at one point did the splits but still didn’t retrieve the shuttle. The eighth seeded Canadian advanced 13-21, 21-18, 21-13 into Day 3.

London Olympic gold medallist Li Xuerui took her own time to adjust to Sayaka Takahashi’s greater agility especially on changing the direction of smashes.

Once accustomed to the pattern of offence, Li began reeling Takahashi backwards and forwards from the net using deep lifts. At her career peak, Li used the backhand push as defence turned into offence whereas nowadays it’s applied to tire out an opponent or simply not to put herself out of position.

Every time the Japanese was forced to end the point lying on the floor from exhaustion, unable to touch the last shuttle, the crowd applauded for the sentimental Chinese favourite is returning to her best, post-knee surgery.

 

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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