MALAYSIA OPEN 2010 SF – Un-BAE-lievable!!

Korean teenager Bae Youn Joo (pictured) today stunned world #1 Wang Yihan of China in the semi-finals of the 2010 Proton Malaysia Open to become the second Korean in as […]

Korean teenager Bae Youn Joo (pictured) today stunned world #1 Wang Yihan of China in the semi-finals of the 2010 Proton to become the second Korean in as many weeks to contest a Super Series final.

By Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent, live in Kuala Lumpur. Photos: Yves Lacroix, BadmintonPhoto (live)

Bae Youn Joo, although she just turned 19 in October, already has shown a pattern of troubling the Chinese stars.  Last year, she pushed both Zhu Lin and Jiang Yanjiao to three games and was within a point of doing the same against Xie Xingfang while still a junior.

Today’s game showed that Wang Yihan was not going to be an exception to this rule.  However, although Bae stayed with Wang for most of the first game, Wang did finally pull ahead to 17-14 and finished it 21-17.

Bae again started strong in the second game, coming out of the blocks to fire a smash at Wang’s hip and taking an identical 3-0 start to the one she’d taken in the first.  Although Wang caught her again, the second game really belonged to Bae as Wang had trouble finding the lines and Bae started attacking more and pulled ahead from the 9-all tie, never looking back.

In the decider, Bae stayed barely ahead of her opponent but although Wang caught her repeatedly, the Korean never relinquished the lead.  Up 17-15, Bae went sprawling to lose a long rally full of precision shots and seemed exhausted but she managed to keep herself in the game and finished it 17-21, 21-13, 21-19.

“This is definitely the biggest win of my career so far,” said Bae Youn Joo afterward.  “It was difficult to prepare because this was my first time playing against her but my strategy was to try to control the net.”

Although Bae’s appearance in the Malaysia Open comes on the heels of the runner-up performance by Sung Ji Hyun at the Korea Open, prior to last week, there hadn’t been a Korean women’s singles finalist in a tournament of this stature since 2005, when Jun Jae Youn won the then six-star Korea Open.  With the likes of Wang Yihan, Zhou Mi, Wang Xin, and Yao Jie all falling to Korean opponents in the space of two weeks, it begs the question of just what the Korean coaching staff is doing right.

“Coach Li Mao has worked with us and taught us how to better play both sides at the net,” Bae explained.  “Also, [1996 Olympic semi-finalist] Coach Kim Ji Hyun has just joined us and she has helped us to control the rallies better.

“The Chinese players are all so tall so they are so difficult to play against but I found as I was playing, I got more confident, and shots I hadn’t even tried were starting to work for me and I could do well by sheer will.”

Bae Youn Joo was at one time best known for being runner-up to Wang Lin at the 2007 World Junior Championships.  She first joined the Korean National Team in late 2007, while still in high school but saw success mainly in lower-level tournaments and won the Indonesia International Challenge in 2008.  Shortly after she lost to Jiang Yanjiao in three games in the second round of last year’s All England, an injury kept Bae home from the Sudirman Cup and off the national team for six months, before she returned to the team between wins at the Hwasun International and the Korean Nationals in December.

“After coming back after the layoff the Korea Open was my first tournament so I trained so hard for it but then lost in the first round,” said Bae, “so I I think that has made the victories this week more special.”

“Tomorrow, too, I plan to just play my best but it would really be nice if I could win.  And in the future, I think when I prepare for other tournaments, the Asian Games in particular, I will have a lot more confidence and so will the other Korean women’s singles players.”

What went Wrong for Wang?

After the match, Wang Yihan (pictured), too, offered her analysis of her surprise loss: “My performance today was okay but it was not my best.  My opponent played better than I did,” Wang said.

“I know that I am not that consistent but I still believe I have the will to fight and win championships,” she added.  “Part of the reason might have been that it was the first time I’d played against Bae.  She must have been studying my game to come up with strategy.

“At the end, when I was trailing, I found it very difficult to come back but I had the opportunities and wasn’t able to take them.  Bae played very aggressively and her skills are very good.”

Bae goes on to face Wang Xin in the final.  If her teammate Sung Ji Hyun beating Zhou Mi last year inspired Bae to do the same this week, then perhaps the victory by her other teammate, Bae Seung Hee, over Wang Xin last week may give her similar inspiration for tomorrow’s final.  On the other hand, at this point, Bae Youn Joo may be drawing all the inspiration she needs from her own incredible performances

For complete semi-final results from the 2010 Proton Malaysia Open Super Series, CLICK HERE

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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 @