THAILAND OPEN R32 – Choi/Seo take down defending champions

Choi Sol Gyu and Seo Seung Jae came back from a game down to oust defending champions Kamura/Sonoda from the 2019 Thailand Open but two Korean debuts ended early. By […]

Choi Sol Gyu and Seo Seung Jae came back from a game down to oust defending champions Kamura/Sonoda from the 2019 but two Korean debuts ended early.

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

The first upset of an expected finalist came early on Day 2 at the 2019 Thailand Open.  Defending champions Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda (pictured below) came out firing against Korea’s Choi Sol Gyu / Seo Seung Jae and had the first game in no time flat.

The World Championship runners-up looked set to send the Koreans packing in straight games, when they had an 18-14 lead in the second but the Koreans stepped up their game and turned it around with a couple of runs of points and soon forced a decider.

“We knew of course that this pairs is very good in the drive rallies,” said Choi Sol Gyu, “but even though we came prepared the speed of the rallies still left us perplexed throughout the whole game.

“From the second game on, though, we started to focus on forcing our way to the forecourt and ensuring we got the attack and I think that’s how we were able to turn it around in the second and third games.”

The deciding game remained close, with the Koreans mostly maintaining the advantage and after Kamura and Sonoda inched ahead 16-15, the underdogs snatched back the lead immediately and closed it out on a 3-point run.

This is the first time in four meetings in 2019 that Seo Seung Jae has beaten Kamura and Sonoda but he had two big wins over them last year and Choi himself upset them back when he was much younger.

“Korean athletes always feel a traditional rivalry with athletes from Japan so we are always hungry to win,” Seo explained.  “We also have plenty of experience playing the Japanese pairs and we know their game and playing style so when we come up against them, we always feel that there is a possibility we can take the match.”

Choi Sol Gyu / Seo Seung Jae (pictured top) came together, of course, on a high when they were instrumental in taking Korea to the 2017 Sudirman Cup final.  Since then, they have been paired together only intermittently, with Seo even having played two events this year with another men’s doubles partner.  Their best results to date have been one semi-final and one Super 300 title and one recent semi-final.

Asked whether they felt they would soon be seeing better results at this level of tournament, Choi replied “We did pretty well at the Super 300 in Australia so we’ve felt a little more confidence since then so we feel that if we can train a little harder, play a little better, then the results might start coming at Super 500, Super 750, or other tournaments.”

Korea had one more chance at a first round upset of a tough top seed on Wednesday in Bangkok.  New Zealand and Canada Open winner fought hard in her first round match against world #4 Chen Yufei (pictured below) but after saving a second match point by winning a brilliant rally at 16-20, she finally succumbed to the top seed’s game plan and conceded a straight-game defeat.

In a way, it seems hardly worth mentioning that a world #33 shuttler lost to the world #4 but An Se Young (pictured above) has made such a habit of upsetting top players that it is almost a surprise when she loses to a top ranked player.

“It’s true I have more confidence now but I also feel pressure now that I have to do well so it’s still tough,” said An of the changes since her major successes began this spring.  “I think it’s true that players have been coming better prepared to play me.”

The Thailand Open is An’s first Super 500 event in the but even though she has competed in the Uber and Sudirman Cups and in the Asian Games, she admits that a first Super 500 is meaningful: “Still, this is all a new experience.  It’s still the first time in this type of tournament so I feel happy to be playing in this tournament for the first time.”

Asked what she still feels she needs to work on in her game, An said, “I think I still need to work on being able to attack throughout in my matches and I need to improve so that I can play making fewer errors.”

An Se Young’s Thailand Open was her first ever Super 500 event but for her compatriots Kim Gi Jung and Kim Sa Rang, it was the first and possibly last experience back together since Kim first left international competition after the Rio Olympics.  The two Kims played an exciting match against Lu Ching Yao and Yang Po Han (pictured bottom) of Chinese Taipei but the world #21 pair shot back into the lead with a 6-point run in the decider and never let it go.  Hence it is they who will go on to face the World Champions on Thursday.

Click here for complete Wednesday 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