UBER CUP 2010 Final – The facts beyond the surprise

It’s been a long road for Korea to their first ever Uber Cup victory.  But how long?  We haven’t actually counted the mile markers or the potholes along the way […]


It’s been a long road for Korea to their first ever Uber Cup victory.  But how long?  We haven’t actually counted the mile markers or the potholes along the way but nonetheless, here are some fast facts about the two teams that did battle in Kuala Lumpur’s Stadium Putra.

By Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent.  Photos: BadmintonPhoto (live)

(i) The 2010 Uber Cup marks the first addition to the honours roll of badminton cup winners since China’s first Sudirman victory in 1995.

Until 1982, there had only been 2 Thomas Cup titleholders (Indonesia and Malaysia) and 3 Uber Cup titleholders (U.S.A., Japan, and Indonesia), then China added its name to the former trophy in 1982 and the latter in 1984.  When the Sudirman Cup was introduced, Indonesia won the inaugural edition in 1989, then Korean won the next two and China made it three winners with their first Sudirman Cup victory in 1995.

feature-medalKorea is now the fifth Uber Cup winner in history but has yet to join Indonesia and China in the select group of nations that have won all three.

(ii) Korea’s first Uber Cup final win in six attempts

Korea made the final in 1988, 1990, 1992, 2002, and 2004.  One of the stalwarts on the Korean women’s team in 1988 was then All England champion Kim Yunja, mother of 2010 second singles player Sung Ji Hyun.  All five of Korea’s losses were to China.  In the last meeting of the two teams, four of the present Korean Uber Cup team (Lee Kyung Won, Lee Hyo Jung, Lee Yun Hwa, Ha Jung Eun) were scheduled to play in that final but none of China’s 2010 team members had yet joined the team.

feature-bae(iii) Age before beauty: The older women or pair won every match today.

Bae Seung Hee (26) bt Wang Yihan (22)
Lee Hyo Jung (29) / Kim Min Jung (24) bt Ma Jin (22) / Wang Xiaoli (21)
Wang Xin (24) bt Sung Ji Hyun (18)
Lee Kyung Won (30) / Ha Jung Eun (23) bt Du Jing (26) / Yu Yang (24)

Actually, both teams were well stocked with newcomers.  For Korea, Bae Seung Hee, Jang Ye Na, Bae Youn Joo, and Jung Kyung Eun were all Uber rookies, while for China, all but Jiang Yanjiao were playing in their first ever Uber Cup.

The Matchups

(iv) Bae over Wang

On both of her visits to Malaysia this year, world #1 Wang Yihan has been beaten by a Bae from Korea.  Bae Youn Joo beat her in the Malaysia Open quarter-finals before Bae Seung Hee beat her today.

In fact, it was the the third time in the past year that a Korean underdog has beaten a reigning world #1 singles player.  In addition to Bae’s victory over Wang Yihan today and Bae Youn Joo’s victory over Wang in the Malaysia Open, there was Sung Ji Hyun’s victory over then #1 Zhou Mi at the Macau Open in August, 2009.

feature-umpireHowever, perhaps even more similar was Choi Ho Jin’s victory over world #2 Lin Dan in the East Asian Games final in Hong Kong in December.  In that case, as in KL today, it resulted in a veteran underdog – recently returned to the national team – winning a major international title for the first time ever.

(v) Ma/Wang come to Malaysia for Silver and Gold

Ma/Wang won the Malaysia Grand Prix Gold title in Johor Bharu in 2009 and then were runners-up to Du/Yu in the Malaysia Open in January but, in fact, they won their first tournament here as a pair at the Asian Junior Championships in 2006 so they have never not made a final when they’ve come to Malaysia.

Ma Jin / Wang Xiaoli had never lost to a Korean pair before today.  Lee Hyo Jung and Lee Kyung Won lost both of their past meetings, at the 2009 World Championships and earlier at the final of the Badminton Asia Championships (at home in Suwon, Korea where Lee/Lee’s pro team is based) after the Chinese pair had already won their only match to date against Kim Min Jung / Ha Jung Eun.  Ma/Wang also enjoyed wins over Lee/Ha at last autumn’s China and Hong Kong Opens and they began their junior career with a six-match winning streak over Korean pairs in 2006.

Feature-wangXin(vi) Wang Xin still lucky in Malaysia?

Wang Xin reached her third straight final in Malaysia after her runner-up finish at the Malaysia Grand Prix Gold last June and her Malaysia Open victory in January.  Today’s final match win ended similarly to the one in January, with Wang waiting while a desperate-looking, younger Korean opponent called for the tournament doctor.  Though Sung Ji Hyun did not withdraw, as Bae Youn Joo had in the Malaysia Open, she didn’t manage many more points in the final game.

(vii) A first time for everything!

Neither Kim Min Jung nor Ha Jung Eun had ever beaten a top Chinese women’s doubles pair before today.  But for Lee Kyung Won, the revenge was even sweeter.  It was an ankle injury to Lee Kyung Won in the gold medal match in Beijing that put the Koreans off their game and allowed Du Jing / Yu Yang to close out the match easily in two games.  Although Lee Hyo Jung was able to bounce back to win Olympic gold in the mixed doubles, Kyung Won had to wait until today for such a high-profile victory.

Feature-leefriendly(viii) Where did these world-beaters come from?

Although Korea’s victory was predicted by none but the boldest of predictors before the kick-off of the 2010 Uber Cup, these players have not exactly been hiding either.  But as for their origins, the small city of Masan, way down south near the port city of Busan, seems to contain a lot of the woodwork that the champions emerged from.

Lee Kyung Won, Bae Seung Hee, Bae Youn Joo and Jung Kyung Eun all hail from the Masan area, where they were groomed into world-class badminton players at Sungji Girls’ Middle and High School, in a badminton program that dates back to the early 1960s, at the very dawn of the age of Korean badminton.  1981 All England Champion Hwang Sun Ai went to Sungji, and for the last ten years, Masan’s girls have been under the tutelage of 1992 Olympic gold medallist Hwang Hye Young and Masan has contributed more than just hardware to Korean badminton.  Kim Yunja went to Sungji before winning her two All England titles and before becoming mother to Sung Ji Hyun and Yoo Gap Soo, who coached Lee, Jung and the two Baes there, is also the father of mixed doubles specialist Yoo Hyun Young.

Korea actually relied heavily on their southern connection for the Uber Cup title.  Apart from the Masan girls, Lee Hyo Jung, Ha Jung Eun and Coach Kim Ji Hyun, are all from Busan, just a few miles down the road, while Kim Min Jung hails from even further south, having come from the island of Cheju.

The Masan-Busan area is known for its singsong intonation, unique among Korean regional accents.  But the vociferousness of the celebrations – particularly by Bae Seung Hee and Lee Kyung Won – no doubt has far more to do with the fact that this week, in Kuala Lumpur, they were creating history.

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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 @ badzine.net