THAILAND OPEN QF – ‘Surprise ending’ starts shut-out of Indonesian stars

Korea’s Chang Ye Na / Kim Hye Rin admitted to being ‘surprised’ they won their nail-biter of a quarter-final over defending champions Polii/Rahayu, while Indonesia suffered the ouster of world […]

Korea’s Chang Ye Na / Kim Hye Rin admitted to being ‘surprised’ they won their nail-biter of a quarter-final over defending champions Polii/Rahayu, while Indonesia suffered the ouster of world #1 Gideon/Sukamuljo as well at the 2019 .

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

Quarter-finals day began with three women’s doubles matches all going to three games but the closest of these contests was the only one with a pair from outside of the world’s top ten.  world #90 Chang Ye Na and Kim Hye Rin (pictured top) saved two match points in their second game with 5th-seeded Greysia Polii / Apriyani Rahayu (pictured right) and came back from a 9-point deficit in the decider before coming back to send the Indonesians packing.

“The wind was so much stronger than earlier in the week,” explained Chang Ye Na after their win, “especially at that one end, where we were playing in the first game and the first half of the 3rd game.  We were really at a loss and tried to come back against it but we just couldn’t.

“We finally won the second game 23-21 but then the score opened way up in again and we kept telling each other ‘Believe we can do it, believe!’ and because we were so focused, we weren’t even aware of the score so much, but we did it!

“That one side, the shuttle was flying out so fast so we were really under pressure to not lift the shuttle.  So we had to avoid lifting the shuttle, and our attacks were not working well, so it was really just one of those games.”

Kim Hye Rin added, “I was able to trust my partner and to just relax, not think about the score and just concentrate on playing each rally.  All in all, it was a very surprising finish.”

“Indonesian players generally have really great technique and I think that might be particularly advantageous in this type of windy conditions because they can count on hitting with such precision,” continued Chang.  “But for us, we were really at a loss when we were trying to deal with such different wind conditions.

“Once we got the second game, it really felt like we were just starting over but I really think we were just so lucky to get that second game the way we did.  I think the fact that we were able to catch up and win the second, gave us the confidence to do it again, because the situation was so similar in the third game.

“It was when we were tending to rush things too much that the gap in the score opened up but in the second and third games, we managed to relax and be more confident and patient and once things turned around, they were the ones under pressure and started to play more tentatively and those became easier shots for us to deal with,” added Chang.

The other two opening matches also ended in upsets but less momentous ones.  Du Yue and Li Yinhui (pictured above) continued their dominance over the reigning World Champions.  As on the other two courts, Matsumoto/Nagahara were able to even the match at one game apiece but the Chinese ladies maintained the edge in the deciding game.

The sole remaining Japanese pair in the semi-final stage, therefore, is the lowest-ranked among their 4 top 10 pairs. Shiho Tanaka and Koharu Yonemoto came back from a game down to defeat Olympic gold medallists Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi (pictured left), taking a one-sided final game 21-11.

The only women’s doubles quarter-final that went according to seed saw Lee/Shin beat Lee/Zheng.  It was payback for the Koreans, who had lost to the unseeded Chinese pair last week in Japan, as well as at the All England in March.

No ‘three-peat’ for ‘minions’

Indonesian men’s doubles world #1s Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (pictured right) had a chance at a third post- title in as many weeks but those hopes were dashed by Hiroyuki Endo / Yuta Watanabe (pictured below).  It wasn’t quite the blowout the Japanese pair enjoyed against the top seeds at this year’s Asian Championships but the 21-14 final game was nonetheless convincing.

“We admit that the Indonesian pair’s speed is much better than ours so we don’t want to try to compete with them on speed,” said Hiroyuki Endo after the match.  “So we just try to do something else.”

Asked to compare the difficulty of playing the world #1 with playing World Champions Li Junhui / Liu Yuchen, their semi-final opponents tomorrow in Bangkok, Endo said, “Those two pairs are so good.  Their level is just so much higher that I can’t compare which pair is easier or which is more difficult to play so it just depends on the day, their condition, or the venue.”

In the other half of the men’s doubles draw, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty (pictured below) of India thwarted an all-Korean semi-final showdown when they beat Choi Sol Gyu and Seo Seung Jae.  The Koreans played a precision flat game to even the match at one game apiece but the Indians were undaunted in the neck-and-neck decider and sprang forth from 18-19 down to finish out the match.

“We were down in the third game and then we got a break with a challenge and we got a time-out and during that time and we said we have to play more safely and more positively,” said Satwik afterward.  “In the second game, we were on the disadvantageous side of the court and they were keeping it just driving, driving and from that side the shuttles were very fast so we weren’t able to control that.”

Asked whether he perceived his opponents were working to avoid giving him smashing opportunities, Satwik said, “Well I’m not really fit for this tournament.  I’ve had some shoulder issues.  My physios told me to avoid smashing, so like not 100%, maybe 70% or 60%.”

On their upcoming match against Ko Sung Hyun and Shin Baek Cheol (pictured below), Chirag said, “Obviously, it will be extremely tough.  They are the former World Champions.  But going into the match, I think we’ve been playing pretty well – we’ve beaten pretty good pairs – so if we keep our calm just like we did today, then I think we do stand a chance to beat them.

“This is our third semi-final in a and up but never in a final so hopefully it will be the one.  I think we have the game.  We can beat anybody.  It depends on the way we play that day, it depends on our body, and on whether we keep our calm.

2014 World Champions Ko and Shin were made to work when they faced 2017 World Champion Liu Cheng and his new partner Huang Kaixiang.  They had to fight back from a game down and they were able to remain ahead by a comfortable margin throughout most of the second and third games.

“In the first game, we really were losing the net game and that meant we were left defending and our confidence really went down and we made a lot of mistakes,” said Ko Sung Hyun after the match.  “Because we weren’t quick enough at the net, our opponents were able to play with a lot of confidence.

“From the second game, we were really intent on playing an attacking game and on playing the net well and I think things started to go well from there.

“We did find the wind was stronger than yesterday.  There was a side drift and also something of an end-to-end one.  Even though we knew it would be like the and that we would have to adapt, I don’t think we adapted well in the first game.”

Ko denied that there would be any type of bragging rights associated with doing better at this tournament than the national team players.  At the time, it appeared that Ko/Shin might have to face Choi/Seo in the semis but with that Korean pair’s loss, they will now take on the Indian pair that beat them.

There is still a chance of an all-Korean final in women’s doubles but Lee So Hee / Shin Seung Chan (pictured right) lost their only previous match against the in-form Du/Li.  On the other hand, Chang/Kim are a new pair but in former partnerships, they have both been dominant against Saturday opponents Tanaka/Yonemoto.

Indonesian fans, who were already left with no mixed doubles pairs to cheer for in the final 8, were also left without singles entries on the weekend in Bangkok. Fitriani was beaten by Sayaka Takahashi and Shesar Hiren Rhustavito lost out to Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia (pictured bottom).

Click here for complete quarter-final 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