THAILAND OPEN Day 1 – Ong and Teo oust former World Champs

Early first round action on Tuesday at the 2019 Thailand Open finished upset-free until the last match when Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi won a nail-biter against Ahsan/Setiawan. […]

Early first round action on Tuesday at the 2019 finished upset-free until the last match when Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi won a nail-biter against Ahsan/Setiawan.

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

30% of all first round matches were played starting Tuesday afternoon at the 2019 Thailand Open.  The competition certainly had its share of excitement but in over 4 hours of play, the only seed to fall was Liao/Su of Chinese Taipei, who actually lost to a higher-ranked pair, new top ten arrivals Aaron Chia / Soh Wooi Yik.  In other words, all was going ‘according to plan’, at least until the last two games of the day.

Chia/Soh’s compatriots Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi (pictured top) looked to be following the script, too, leading only briefly in their opening game as Mohammad Ahsan / Hendra Setiwan (pictured right, after their loss in the Japan Open final) otherwise seemed to be in control.  That changed in the second game but the Malaysians still couldn’t actually pull away until their finishing 4-point run.

The two-time World Champions were able to surge ahead and shift into cruise control in the deciding game as with their 14-7 lead it looked to be all over.  But Teo and Ong were not to be cruised by.  They stepped up their intensity and although the Indonesians kept going ahead with some emphatic smashes and net kills, the Malaysians kept the pressure on with their drive game and forced the 4th seeds into making errors, one of which came on match point as the Malaysian pair took it 23-21.

“This gives us a lot of confidence because they are quite strong,” Ong told Badzine after the match.  “I think we gave them some pressure and at last we could take it.”

“At the end, I think we just thought we had nothing to lose because they are really a strong pair,” added Teo Ee Yi.  “I think having played in the finals in Indonesia and Japan the last two weeks has left them mentally tired so putting pressure on them was what worked.”

Having beaten the 2013 and 2015 World Champions, Ong and Teo now have to face 2014 World Champions Ko Sung Hyun and Shin Baek Cheol (pictured).  On their upcoming match, Ong said, “We will just prepare ourselves tomorrow because tomorrow we have no match and then we’ll just play our best.”

Hope hopes survive

Thai fans, neither numerous nor noisy during the qualifying matches, really came alive as the main draw got going.  In the opening match, home favourites Puttita Supajirakul / Sapsiree Taerattanachai gave them something to cheer about when they put the screws to World Champions Matsumoto/Nagahara and dominated their second game.  Those hopes dissipated by the decider, when the Japanese pair ran away with it 21-6.

The only Thai pair to advance was former Thailand Masters champions Jongkolphan Kititharakul / Rawinda Prajongjai.  They got the better of Malaysia’s Chow/Lee in straight games.

Chinese favourites scrape by

China has two pairs in the world’s top ten in all three doubles disciplines but as the Olympic qualifying period draws on, it is still wide open as only the reigning World Champions have done well in recent months.  Three of the top four Chinese pairs have qualified for the second round at the Thailand Open, but it was easy going for none of them as they were all pushed to three games.

Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen may be undefeated against Japan’s Takuto Inoue and Yuki Kaneko (pictured below) but the Japanese pair is by no means a pushover, even for the Chinese giants.  3 of their 4 previous encounters had gone to 3 games and today was no exception.

Li and Liu looked set to finish the match in two straight but the Japanese players stayed sharp and waited for their best chances.  They took back the lead in the second game when Inoue finished off a fast and furious rally with a backhand net kill and a few exchanges later, the Japanese pair, whose ranking has dropped significantly in recent months, had forced a deciding game.

In the decider, Inoue and Kaneko looked set to finally reverse the tide when they were leading 12-7 but Li and Liu gave chase and caught them at 14-all.  Late in the game, the Japanese pair continued to blink first, in the form of loose lifts and drives that gave their tall Chinese opponents the chance for decisive kills.

On the adjacent court, French Open champions Han Chengkai and Zhou Haodong (pictured above) found themselves having to fight back from a game down against Germany’s Mark Lamsfuss and Marvin Seidel.  And fight back they did!  The two 21-year-olds took no prisoners in the second game, where they romped to a 21-8 victory.  In the decider, the Germans were up 19-17 before their concentration wavered and the world #6 took 4 straight points to finish the match.

The only Chinese favourites who didn’t find a way through lost narrowly to their compatriots.  Fuzhou runners-up He Jiting and Tan Qiang won their opening game convincingly over the newly-formed compatriot pairing of Zhang Nan and Ou Xuanyi (pictured right) but after dropping the second, they then blew two match point opportunities in the third and Ou and Zhang won it 24-22.

China also had three pairs advance in the women’s doubles and in both disciplines, one more pair has come through qualifying, along with two mixed pairs, all of whom will be in action on Wednesday.

Click here for complete Tuesday 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