MALAYSIA MASTERS QF – Koreans’ 1st semi-final thwarts Malaysia’s 3rd

Teo/Ong, vying to be the 3rd Malaysians in the semi-finals of the Malaysia Masters, were stopped by Kim Gi Jung and Lee Yong Dae, who will be in their first […]

Teo/Ong, vying to be the 3rd Malaysians in the semi-finals of the , were stopped by Kim Gi Jung and , who will be in their first ever final four as a pair.

By Don Hearn, Badzine correspondent live in Kuala Lumpur.  Photos: Mark Phelan / Badmintonphoto (live)

It’s been a year and a half since Lee Yong Dae and Kim Gi Jung staged their comeback to the world stage as independent players.  What began with a Super 300 title in Spain has never really progressed any farther than that.  The two veterans have picked up another Super 300 title and they’ve featured in some quarter-finals at bigger events but the Malaysia Masters is a kind of a breakthrough for two players who were once very successful separately but are still determined to make another mark together.

In fact, both players have won in Malaysia before.  Kim Gi Jung did it in 2016 but the only match he had against a Malaysian duo was a much lower-ranked pair he met in the opening round.

Lee Yong Dae won in 2009 and that time, too, he had to beat a Malaysian pair on Friday.  It just so happens that the pair in question was split up today on the coach’s chairs at opposite ends of the court, with Tan Boon Heong advising Teo Ee Yi and Ong Yew Sin and Koo Kien Keat in support of Lee and Kim.

The home favourites lead throughout the first game but the Koreans did not give up even the opener without a fight.  They clawed their way back from 10-18 down and saved 3 game points before Teo/Ong finally took it 21-19.  Then the second one belonged to the Koreans, as Lee Yong Dae kept the pressure on at the net and Kim Gi Jung sent down one powerful smash after another.

Things heated up in the decider.  The Malaysians forced the end change but it came on a service fault on Lee Yong Dae, and not his first in the match.  In the last half game, his attempts at flicking were severely punished with sharp smashes from Teo but fortunately, Kim had and icy calm when his turn came and the Koreans managed to come back from 15-18 down, save one match point, and win it 21-18.

“It’s been over a year since we’ve done this well in a big tournament,” said Lee Yong Dae after the match.  “In today’s match we were losing but somehow we fought to the end and found a way to turn it around and win so we are so happy about that.”

Kim Gi Jung denied that his partner’s problems on the serve put any extra pressure on him to serve well: “I just kept serving the way I always do and didn’t think about anything else.  If you think about having to be sure to serve well, that’s when you start making errors.”

“I didn’t get called for any faults yesterday.  This just started happening today,” said Lee.  “I’m thinking it might be different again tomorrow.”

“I think he might have just been nervous today,” interjected Kim Gi Jung.

Not long before the Koreans finished off Teo and Ong, Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto won an all-Indonesian quarter-final, beating compatriots Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo in three games.

 “The Indonesians we play tomorrow are very good at the net and are also strong from the back so they are tough to play against,” said Lee Yong Dae, “but if we can get the attack and we attack well, and if I can play well at the net, I think we have a good chance.”

“I think moreso than how our opponents play, if we can concentrate on our game and play with confidence, then I think we have a shot at winning tomorrow,” added Kim Gi Jung.

Asked to comment on whether he was satisfied with their performance in the first tournament of the year, Lee Yong Dae said, “I’m quite satisfied with how we’ve been performing.  What I find is that with each match we play, we’re feeling less nervous and we’re able to make use of the experience we’ve accumulated and also I’m getting more and more used to playing with Gi Jung and learning how to complement each other.”

Kim added, “I too think that we’re improving all the time and as we go on, if we just don’t give up and we maintain our concentration we should be able to keep playing some good matches.”

The other men’s doubles semi-final will pit the last two World Champions against one another, as Li/Liu and Ahsan/Setiawan won as expected.

Kim and Lee are in the all-too-familiar position of being the last Koreans standing.  All three of Korea’s women’s doubles quarter-finalists had been beaten by the time they took to the court against the Malaysian pair.

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 @