AUSTRALIAN OPEN SF – And then there were five

Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, Korea and Japan each submitted two entries per discipline for the semi-finals. In singles, Indonesia snuffed out the both Taiwanese hopes while both Thais stopped short at […]

Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, Korea and Japan each submitted two entries per discipline for the semi-finals. In singles, Indonesia snuffed out the both Taiwanese hopes while both Thais stopped short at the hands of Chinese and Japanese adversaries at the 2019 .

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

5 x 24

Here’s an update on the 24-year old army. This Australian Open was on course across all disciplines until Wang Tzu Wei (pictured right) went down in straight games in men’s singles and Li Junhui didn’t come out on top in the men’s doubles rubber after finishing the second game strongly.

There are 24-year-olds in the remaining contests and mixed doubles will belong to the army, it’s whether as a pair or just half claim it.

Finals day 24-year-olds – roll call

WS: Nozomi Okuhara (JPN, pictured top)
WD: Sayaka Hirota (JPN)
XD: Huang Dongping (CHN), Wang Yilyu (CHN), Melati Oktavianti (INA)

Convivial Atmosphere

Indonesian fans injected energy into Saturday’s proceedings. The vuvuzela or its equivalent made an early appearance during women’s doubles but was disallowed by event staff after the first game, which still left Indonesian fans with five melodies they could sing, set to the beat of air sticks, clapping, and percussion of coin tins being shaken.

The uninitiated Australian crowd on the opposite side of the stadium attempted to “shush” the habit of continued cheering after rallies had begun but to no avail. The Indonesians continued singing, making sound effects whenever opportunities to smash arose and carried on no matter who won the rallies.

Other fans produced voice Mexican waves of the typical battle cries of the Koreans and Japanese players. During last match, which was men’s doubles, the volume of “Oppa fighting” screams competed with Chinese encouragements.

Imagine what it could’ve been like had P. V. Sindhu, Lee Yong Dae / Yoo Yeon Seong, and Lin Dan had survived this far, the tournament director was thinking.

Mixed doubles: Entertaining moments

In mixed doubles, the crowd loved how the plucky young Japanese pair scrambled at 15-18 in the rubber game. Arisa Higashino dived, followed by Yuta Watanabe. Both were on the floor looking on helplessly as Melati Daeva Oktavianti was poised ready at the net with racquet up to simply return the shuttle. But Watanabe’s perfect save hit the top of the tape and was impossible to do anything with, thus taking his side to 16-18.

Throughout, Praveen Jordan (pictured) displayed his prowess in a calm manner with his effortlessly powerful drive backhands being admired by spectators and instrumental in causing all sorts of difficulties for the Japanese until he and Oktavianti had won 21-13, 12-21, 21-17.

Women’s doubles: Hard work doesn’t pay off

Women’s doubles was an occasion for tears for Rio Olympic gold medallists Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi, who went down to compatriots Sayaka Hirota / Yuki Fukushima (pictured) in the longest match of the day.

At the end of a long and focused rally at the rubber game deuce, Matsutomo on purpose left the last shot flying diagonally past towards her backhand line only to find it called in. She protested strongly and even asked the crowd for adjudication to which they yelled “Out!” in agreement, but most of them could not have seen the shuttle land anyway.

The referee came over only to reinforce to Matsutomo/Takahashi that they had to accept the line call which, had it been an error and had there been Hawk-eye to overturn it, would have yielded them match point. Matsutomo reportedly wept as she walked through the mixed zone. Second seeds Hirota/Fukushima reached the final in dramatic fashion, winning 15-21, 21-15, 23-21.

Men’s singles: The home run

A slower start by Taiwan’s Chou Tien Chen helped Jonatan Christie take the first game at deuce.

And then poor judgment on when to take rear line shots as well as applying too much strength, and thereby sending his own shots long of his opponent’s perimeter, explains a lot about the Indonesian’s poor second game.

After the opener, Chou was slightly hotter in the smashing department while Christie was better at net kills. The match was anybody’s but the deadlock was broken by Chou playing too frequently into the forecourt, which was Christie’s forte today. Jonatan Christie advanced 22-20, 12-21, 21-16 over top seed Chou Tien Chen to make it an all-Indonesian against roommate Anthony Ginting (pictured).

Men’s doubles: Relevance updated

The match structure particular to each Korean pair this week largely continued except that Seo Seung Jae / Choi Sol Gyu weren’t able to pull a fourth rabbit out of the hat against top-seeded Takeshi Kamura / Keigo Sonoda. Another rubber match transpired and Seo/Choi survived another deuce but this time it came in the first not the last game so their hopes were dashed by the Japanese, who won through to their second Australian final 23-15, 21-19, 21-14.

Korea’s 2014 World Champions thoroughly deserve their finals berth after beating the Indonesian 2015 World Champions – who are also current All England champions – on Friday night, and then disposing of the reigning World Champions Li Junhui / Liu Yuchen in the next round, 21-11, 14-21, 21-17.

Again Shin Baek Cheol produced a spot of inconsistency in the second game but it all came together strongly once more in the decider for him and Ko Sung Hyun (pictured). Ko’s signature drop-shot, which he doesn’t overuse, helped create the crucial gap near the end of the match and Shin demonstrated improvement in putting away forecourt smashes unlike earlier.

Finals line-up
WD:  Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota (JPN) [2] vs. Chen Qingchen / Jia Yifan (CHN) [3]
MD:  Takeshi Kamura / Keigo Sonoda (JPN) [1] vs. Ko Sung Hyun / Shin Baek Cheol (KOR)
WS:  Nozomi Okuhara (JPN) [1] vs. Chen Yufei (CHN) [2]
MS:  Anthony Ginting (INA) [2] vs. Jonatan Christie (INA) [3]
XD:  Wang Yilyu / Huang Dongping (CHN) [1] vs. Praveen Jordan / Melati Daeva Oktavianti (INA) [6]

Click here for complete semi-final results

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