KOREA OPEN R32 – 3-time champion Boe starts with an upset

Mads Conrad-Petersen and 3-time Korea Open champion Mathias Boe upset world #7 Han/Zhou for the second straight week. By Don Hearn, Badzine correspondent live in Incheon.  Photos: Yves Lacroix / […]

Mads Conrad-Petersen and 3-time champion Mathias Boe upset world #7 Han/Zhou for the second straight week.

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

“For me, I played my first major tournament here.  My first Asia trip was back in 2001, I think, in Jeju Island and I think I won the Korea Open 3 times and I’ve been in the final a few more times so it’s a place I enjoy being and I’m just eager to get back on court tomorrow.”

This was the reaction from 3-time Korea Open winner Mathias Boe after his first round win with new partner Mads Conrad-Petersen (pictured).  It’s only been two years since Boe grabbed the title ‘here’ in Korea but it’s been a long time since he’s shown up on the peninsula with a new partner.

Of course, he’s never actually played ‘here’ before and he’s not actually ‘on the peninsula’ for the 2019 edition, as he wasn’t when the tournament was held in Jeju in 2001 on the occasion of his first visit.  This year, a conflict with fencing and handball needs for next week’s 100th edition of Korea’s National Sports Festival meant that a brand new venue got its trial and all of badminton’s best players converged on the Incheon Airport Skydome, just one kilometre from the international airport, on reclaimed land in the Yellow Sea, off the coast from the port city of Incheon.

What was familiar was the first round result for Boe and Conrad-Petersen.  For the second straight week, the two Danes – who have been competing together only since June – shut down China’s Han Chengkai /     Zhou Haodong in straight games.  But this week, it was even harder for the 2018 French Open champions to score against the Danish veterans, who exactly doubled the number of points of their opponents for the match.

“Last week it was the first time we played them,” explained Mathias Boe.  “With our previous partners, we had played them before and we know they are extremely fast but they’re still young and when they have the confidence, they are really hard to control and maybe their results lately haven’t been as good as they had been so they lack a bit in confidence.  I think we took advantage of that last week but certainly today, it seemed like they struggled on court, whereas we really felt fast and supported each other very well on court.  It was a strong and solid performance and it is a nice feeling.

Mads Conrad-Petersen added, “As Boe said, they lack a bit in confidence and I think we found some very good confidence on court today.  We are both very good at reading where the shuttle will come when we have this feeling.  I think also as time progresses and we get to know each other better, I think we will get more of these matches so it was a very good performance today.”

Asked about the challenges of going from top 5 pairings to a brand new partnership, Conrad-Petersen said, “Where we started, we were both a little bit tired of badminton.  We wanted to find the joy on court, we wanted to enjoy playing and I think today, even though we look very focussed, when we play like this, there is nothing better than playing badminton.  It’s a really, really good feeling.

“Matches like this are what we were hoping to get more of when we started our partnership.  For us, it’s about enjoying the game, winning as many matches as possible and then see how far we can take it.

There are many who were somewhat surprised by the news earlier this year of Boe and Conrad-Petersen – both of them known best for their exceptional frontcourt play – joining forces.  Boe spoke in detail of how they’ve dealt with that particular challenge: “Whoever is quickest forward will get the net and then the other one needs to do the hard work.  We support each other really well.

“A lot of this has been old school, where you need a backcourt player and a net player but it gets a bit predictable on court if we know that one is running and the other is not; whereas we can mix it up a bit.  It’s not that we can’t smash and now we have to get the initiative and we know we have a strong net player in front of us who will definitely get the opportunity to attack.

“Of course we both are working really hard on our backcourt game, to get the steep smashes in, and Conrad can put a little more muscle in it, but get the steep smashes in, both of us, so we can get the net player to enter.  We know our weaknesses and we know our strengths so we are trying to take advantage of that.”

Many of the other seeded teams also struggled on Day 2 of the Korea Open.  Although no others, apart from Han/Zhou lost in the first half of the day, both world #1s Gideon/Sukamuljo and defending champions Endo/Watanabe were pushed to three games.  The latter came courtesy of compatriots Inoue/Kaneko and the all-Malaysian affair on Wednesday also went to three games before Chinese Taipei Open winners Goh V Shem / Tan Wee Kiong (pictured above) pulled off the victory over Ong/Teo.

Another China-Denmark rematch also went Denmark’s way but with a very different precedent.  In Viktor Axelsen’s last appearance in Korea, right after winning the 2017 World Championship, he lost in the second round to Zhao Junpeng of China.  This year, however, Viktor Axelsen (pictured right) got off to a much better start, beating Zhao in two quick games to set up a second round encounter with Lee Zii Jia 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