KOREA OPEN Day 1 – Magees make it 4 for Europe in mixed

Ireland’s Chloe and Sam Magee beat Ou/Zheng in straight games to take their place in the mixed doubles second round at the Korea Open, along with 3 other European pairs […]

Ireland’s Chloe and Sam Magee beat Ou/Zheng in straight games to take their place in the mixed doubles second round at the , along with 3 other European pairs and no Malaysians.

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

European Games bronze medallists Chloe and Sam Magee (pictured top) played a clever, confident match against China’s rather inexperienced Ou Xuanyi / Feng Xueying (pictured below) to win in straight games.  The Irish siblings had a good power game and were able to keep the Chinese guessing, continually surprising them with strong, accurate crosscourt backhand shots that prevented their younger opponents from being able to unleash their full power at will.

China still saw 3 pairs advance to the second round, including World Champions Zheng Siwei / Huang Yaqiong (pictured right) and defending champions He Jiting / Du Yue, and they have one more waiting in the wings, as China Open runners-up Wang Yilyu / Huang Dongping were drawn against one of the pairs that only qualified this morning for the round of 32.

“This is our first time ever in Korea,” confirmed Chloe Magee after the win.  “So far, so good.”

“It’s so nice to beat the Chinese,” said her brother and partner Sam.  “No matter what pair they have, they’re always going to be good.  The can put players from ladies’ doubles and men’s doubles together and they’re still going to be a really good pair because of the skills they have.

“I don’t think I’ve ever beaten China before in anything, not even a coin toss!  It’s always nice – well, this is the first time I’ve experienced it so I’ll just say it’s a nice feeling!

“I found [Ou] was always playing from his backhand to my backhand and coming across to cover the forehand side so it’s just a natural instinct for me to play that way and I kept waiting for him to catch it and say ‘I’m going to stand here’ but he didn’t and we got about 6 or 7 points and it was a real key, actually.  Those points always came exactly when we needed them.  When it was getting to 12-all or 13-all, we managed to get a couple of points like that and that made the difference overall.”

The first big tournament this year for the Irish pair was the All England, where they were stopped in the first round by the new world #3 pair Puavaranukroh/Taerattanachai.  Now they are waiting for the Thais to play their first round match Wednesday morning but chances are they will face them again in their second round match on Thursday.

“Obviously, we played them in the All England at the start of the year and they gave us a really tough match so I think it would be nice to play them again,” said Chloe.  “We know a bit more.  Their skills are extremely good and they kind of taught us a lesson that day so it would be nice to go out and sort of challenge them a bit more and have a better performance because we were a bit disappointed that day, when we came off.

“Of course, they’re a brilliant pair, they’re playing extremely well – they were in the World Championship final – but I mean that’s what we come to Asia for.  We want to play against the best in the world.  And for us, that’s where we want to be in our careers: playing with the best players in the world and trying to challenge them so it will be exciting.”

Mixed doubles in badminton has its fair share of couples who play together and level doubles has had several instances of brothers or sisters – even twins – playing together, but brother-sister combinations like the Magee siblings are still quite rare, though not unheard-of.  Asked what particular challenges this presents, Chloe Magee said, “It can be very tough and it can be the best feeling in the world.  As you said, you can criticize your brother or sister a lot more easily than you can criticize someone else but it’s definitely positive to know each other so well because you go through so many bad times and then it makes the highs really high.

“But it’s just one of those things.  Sam’s a fantastic player and that’s who I want to play with it’s not to do with whether he’s my brother or not my brother.  We respect each other’s badminton and I think it’s important that you have that mutual respect or it just doesn’t work at all.”

Sam Magee added, “I really wish I had a Euro for every time I got asked that question.  Every interview, that’s the mean question and I think we always give the same answer.  It’s tough because you’re obviously more personal and you don’t have the breakaway, where you are playing in a match and then you don’t see the person but we see each other a lot.  We don’t live together but when we go to visit our family we’re together.  But obviously we have that closeness we know how to push each other’s buttons, for better or worse.  I think that’s our scripted answer for you.”

The Magees’ first visit to the Korea Open was also the first time the tournament – indeed any international sporting competition – had ever been held in the new Incheon Airport Skydome.

Asked for his assessment of the new venue, Sam Magee said, “I think when you win, everything’s nice but it is a great venue.  I think it’s the ultimate tournament because you’re 5 minutes away from the airport and when you arrive you’re 5 minutes from the venue.  I don’t think there’s any other tournament in the world that is like this.  This is like the ultimate for the player in terms of logistics.  We actually have a flight on Thursday night so even if our match is at night, we can just run across.”

“I think we got a little bit lucky, though,” added his sister Chloe.  “The outside courts look a lot driftier than the court we played on.  Court 1 is very nice to play on but when I was watching the outside courts before we started, it looked quite drifty so I was quite happy to be playing on Court 1.”

Also on Tuesday afternoon, Malaysia had two pairs playing as favourites but both Chan/Goh and Tan/Lai suffered upsets.  With Goh/Lai having withdrawn before the event started, that leaves Malaysia with no more pairs in mixed doubles.

Apart from Ou/Feng, the hardest test for any of the Chinese pairs was for He Jiting / Du Yue.  The defending champions were pushed to extra points but they narrowly avoided having to play a deciding game when they beat Hong Kong’s Tang/Tse 22-20 and closed it down in 2 games.

England’s Adcocks won the only all-European first-round match on Tuesday, beating Gicquel/Delrue of France in straight games.  2017 winner Praveen Jordan narrowly made it through in two when he and Melati Daeva Oktavianti edged out European Games gold medallists Marcus Ellis / Lauren Smith 23-21, 24-22.

The only other Europeans who prevailed over an Asian opponent in th mixed doubles first round were Robin Tabeling and Selena Piek (pictured left).  The Dutch pair beat Akita Masters winners Kohei Gondo / Ayane Kurihara.

The biggest upset of the day had to be 5th seeds Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying falling to world #17 Nipitphon Phuangphuapet / Savitree Amitrapai (pictured above right) of Thailand.  The small crowd’s biggest disappointment would be Gwangju Masters winners Ko Sung Hyun / Eom Hye Won losing narrowly to Rinov Rivaldy / Pitha Haningtyas Mentari (pictured bottom) of Indonesia.  The Koreans clawed their way back from 9-16 down in the decider to tie the game at 16 but let it slip away in the end.

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