THAILAND OPEN 2011 SF – 4 nations for 5 titles

The semi-final round at Saturday’s SGC Thailand Open 2011 brought more excitement and great badminton action to the near-full capacity crowd at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University Sports Complex. Although Thailand’s final […]

The semi-final round at Saturday’s SGC 2011 brought more excitement and great badminton action to the near-full capacity crowd at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University Sports Complex. Although Thailand’s final hope in the championships, women’s singles title hopeful Porntip Buranaprasertsuk, was eliminated much to the dismay of the predominantly local fans, those on hand were treated to a rousing afternoon of world-class badminton action, before, during and after her loss.

By Gerald Jew, Badzine Correspondent, live in Bangkok. Photos: Thailand Badminton Association (live)

The Thai fans that came out hoping to see Thai teenager Porntip Buranaprasertsuk (photo) advance to Sunday’s final round were hugely disappointed with her loss, but unlike other years in Bangkok, almost all of the fans came early and stayed to the very end despite the absence of other Thai stars in Saturday’s semi-final lineup. Perhaps the presence of Korea’s Lee Yong Dae made up for Porntip’s and other local favourites’ exits from the tournament.

Like many tournaments Lee enters, he attracts the attention of the younger female fans in attendance; this year’s Thailand Open is no exception. He has been mobbed by girls with cameras after every match. Whether the fans came to see Lee or see a great day of badminton, they got both.

Unlike Buranaprasertsuk, Lee will be on court on Sunday. With his partner Jung Jae Sung (photo) the top-seeded duo advanced to the final with a victory over the USA’s Howard Bach and Tony Gunawan.  In a closely fought first game, the Korean pair either tied or exchanged the lead with the spirited American team numerous times before Lee and Jung finally prevailed for a 21-18 win. The Koreans had an easier time in the second game, winning by a score of 21-11 to take the match and advance to Sunday’s final.

Gunawan said after the match, “We had a chance in the first game, but we blew it. In the second game, we just made it harder on ourselves by making mistakes.”

Lee and Jung will face Indonesian veterans Alvent Yulianto Chandra and Hendra Aprida Gunawan, who prevented an all-Korean men’s doubles final by defeating Lee and Jung’s team-mates Ko Sung Hyun and Yoo Yeon Seong, 21-14, 21-17 in a thirty-five-minute affair.

The Koreans are a very young team who like to play fast. Today I felt slow, not so fast, and we just tried to slow things down for us older people,” said a smiling Alvent.

“We’re not worried” – Porntip’s coach

Buranaprasertsuk’s loss to twenty-year-old Chinese hopeful Li Xuerui 21-17, 17-21, 21-13 set up the women’s singles final against Li’s more experienced team-mate, second seeded Jiang Yangiao, making it an all China affair – just like very often in the past.

Thailand National Team Coach Sompol Kookasemkit wasn’t worried about Buranaprasertsuk’s loss: “She’s very good, and she just needs more experience. She put up a good fight in the third game, but the Chinese girl was too good today. We’re going to get her [Buranaprasertsuk] more experience.  We don’t feel bad. We’re going to Singapore and Indonesia where she can get more matches at this level.”

Jiang beat Chinese Taipei’s energetic Cheng Shao Chieh in a three-game match by scores 10-21, 21-12 and 21-14. Cheng seemed to run out gas by the third game after she won the first game that she led 20-6 at one point before surrendering four meaningless points. The small-statured Cheng became the real crowd favourite with her quick style of play and her willingness to throw herself around the court.

The men’s singles final will pit China’s top-seeded Chen Long against Korea’s Lee Hyun Il. Chen beat third-seeded Korean Park Sung Hwan 21-15, 21-13 to move fairly easily into the final round.

Lee Hyun Il had a much tougher time beating China’s fourth-seeded Chen Jin 18-21, 21-18, 22-20. After facing two match points at 18-20, Lee fought back to tie the match. Chen then let a Lee clear fall inside backline to face a match point himself; Lee converted with a smash at the net to take the game and the match.

In women’s doubles, China’s seventh-seeded pair of Cheng Shu and Bao Yixin ended Malaysia’s chance for a medal with a 21-17, 21-14 victory over Vivian  Hoo and Woon Khe Wei. The Chinese duo will face their fifth-seeded teammates Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei, who earned the right for a spot in the finals by defeating Hong Kong’s Poon Lok Yan and Tse Ying Suet (photo) 21-23, 21-12 and 21-15.

The mixed doubles will square off the veteran Indonesian team of Nova Widianto and Vita Marissa (photo) against Lee Sheng Mu and Chien Yu Chin. Widianto and Marissa beat Shin Baek Cheol and Kim Min Jung 21-17, 20-22 and 21-18 in a spirited match that was very close until the end. With the final game tied at 17-all, the Indonesian’s took four of the last five points to move into Sunday’s final. Lee and Chien beat China’s Xu Chen and Ma Jin 17-21, 21-19, 21-15 to have the opportunity to win a gold medal in Sunday’s final.

Sounding similar to the comments made by compatriot Alvent Yulianto Chandra, Vita Marissa said their strategy was, “to slow the tempo down, the Korean team is very fast and we knew we couldn’t beat them in a three-game match at their pace.

Sunday’s finals will begin at 12:00 noon at Chulalongkorn University’s Sports Complex. Again, Badzine will be there to bring you live coverage of what promises to be a great day of badminton from Bangkok, Thailand.

For full results, click here.

About Gerald Jew