Simon Santoso was one of five shuttlers who needed three games to earn a ticket to the men’s singles quarter-finals while other calls were even closer.
By Don Hearn. Photos: Ira Ratnati (live from Palembang)
Indonesian shuttlers are doing their best to rack up the titles in the third international tournament on home soil this year. The red-and-white flags dominate the quarter-final line-up in the southern Sumatran city of Palembang at the 2012 Bukit Asam Indonesia Open Grand Prix Gold.
Top seed and home favourite Simon Santoso (pictured) was put to the test in his second-round match. He came back from 13-18 down in his first game against China’s Chen Yuekun and saved two game points before dropping the opener and having to win the next two to advance.
“I was in a rush during the first game,” said Simon. “All of the players are having issues with the wind at the stadium but it’s not a reason [to lose].
“But in the second game, I tried to be more patient and stay focussed.”
Last year’s finalists Tommy Sugiarto and Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka had similar troubles against lower-ranked Malaysian opponents but Misbun Ramdan Mohmed Misbun made sure the pressure was evenly spread as he pushed second-seeded Sho Sasaki to a deciding game.
The only unseeded player in the quarter-finals is 2008 World Junior Championship runner-up Gao Huan, who put down another former junior standout who has yet to make his mark, Hong Ji Hoon of Korea.
Still another in this category, Mohammed Arif Abdul Latif (pictured), made sure Malaysia had one quarter-finalist and that China was held to one. The 2007 Asian Junior runner-up beat tall Chinese teenager Guo Kai in two straight.
“I could control the game,” said Arif. “I didn’t let him take over. I kept trying to push him to play the way I play my game.” Arif now finds himself up against the defending champion in the quarter-finals.
“Hayom is a good player. I will have to play better than today. He is a player with an attacking style, and I need to be more alert and hopefully I can play my best.”
A helping Han from local shuttlers?
In the women’s singles, the field has been left wide open by the first-round upset of top seed Liu Xin by the unknown Ningrum Tike Arieda. The former world #5 has thus extended her title drought to at least 18 months.
Liu’s loss was followed on Thursday by the departure of Malaysia Grand Prix Gold winner Sayaka Takahashi, Canada Open champion Nozomi Okuhara, and Singapore Open semi-finalist Xing Aiying, all at the hands of local shuttlers.
On the other hand, these upsets may simply be paving the way for China’s Han Li (pictured) to take her second title of the year. Han was last on the podium at this year’s Australian Open but her slump has been more bad luck, as she has met top-10 shuttlers in the early rounds of her last three tournaments.
Juniors shake up the doubles
The doubles competitions are not without their share of upsets and close calls either. Indonesian veterans Vita Marissa / Nadya Melati were one of two seeded pairs to fall to Chinese teenagers.
Indonesia has its own youngsters in the hunt for the title, though. World Junior Championship runners-up Devi Aulia Shella / Anggia Shitta Awanda (pictured) offed the defending champions in the first round and are now in their first Grand Prix quarter-final, facing Chen Qingchen – one of the girls who upset them at this year’s Asian Juniors – in a new partnership with Huang Dongping.
The men’s draw saw Japan Open champions Kim Sa Rang and Kim Ki Jung put to the test against local youngsters Ronald Alexander / Selvanus Geh, failing to convert two match points in the second before finally winning the third game convincingly. The Koreans have their work cut out for them, however, accompanied in the quarter-finals by seven Indonesian pairs.
In fact, Kim Sa Rang finds himself in a similar position in the mixed doubles, as he and Eom Hye Won, along with their Friday opponents Chrisnanta/Neo of Singapore, are the only non-Indonesians in that quarter-final mix as well. However, the two Kims are favourites in the men’s doubles, based on recent form and on the fact that the top two seeds are out. The same is far from true in the mixed, where Kim is playing for the first time with his third mixed partner in his last three tournaments.
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