Korean hope Bae Yeon Ju, so good against Li Xuerui of China, fell to the strong smash of Eriko Hirose of Japan, in a tense 3-game match.
By Michael Burke, Badzine Correspondent, live from Birmingham. Photos: Yohan Nonotte for Badmintonphoto (live).
A match that would not have happened without the upset of defending champion Li Xuerui, provided one of the more enthralling and close encounters of the morning. The 74-minute epic saw Bae Yeon Ju (Korea, pictured left) face Eriko Hirose (Japan, pictured below), the players separated by only one place in the rankings at 13 and 14 respectively.
The first game saw Bae hold on in the face of a stern attack from Hirose. The game was marked by long rallies, with Hirose the better aggressor dominating withsmashes. Bae had great court coverage and a tenacious defence to stay with her, and a clear edge at the net helping her take the first game 22-20.
Eriko Hirose persistently slowed down play between points in an effort to disrupt the Korean, but it appeared to have little effect as an even game ended similarly close. Unable to take her match point, Bae hit a clear that drifted wide at 20-all gave Hirose the chance to force the rubber game, which she did by hammering a series of smashes straight down Bae’s backhand side.
Bae’s dominance at the net coupled with her impressive defence saw her take the biggest lead of the match at 17-12 against a tiring Hirose, but a second wind saw the Japanese player more tactically aware as she pushed her opponent round the court. Carried by her big smash, Hirose dragged the game back to 19-all, and at match point a poor judgement of length at the rear court allowed Hirose her place in the quarterfinals.
Obviously disappointed, Bae spoke after the match saying: “Today I had two match points after winning the first set and two in the second set. I should have been more attacking and shouldn’t really be defensive because the height of my opponent, she was very tall.” She complimented her opponent, “I thought I was in a winning position but my opponent was very driven.”
Speaking after, a breathless Hirose commented: “It was a very tough match, and the were a lot of long rallies. She [Bae Yeon Ju] is very strong, but I am very happy that I won.”
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