BELGIAN INT’L – Kharkov all(most) over again

Loyal enthusiasts of the European circuit were surely not surprised with the names which were added to the list of Yonex Belgian International champions today. No fewer than three finalists […]

Loyal enthusiasts of the European circuit were surely not surprised with the names which were added to the list of Yonex Belgian International champions today. No fewer than three finalists who had claimed titles at the Kharkov International last week now repeated their accomplishment in Leuven, Belgium. In the remaining events, two runners-up from Ukraine now crowned themselves champions.

By Elm Vandevorst, Badzine Correspondent live in Leuven.  Photos: Courtesy of Badminton Europe

In the singles, both Olga Konon and Brice Leverdez made it two in a row after last week’s victory, just as did women’s doubles winners Shinta Mulia Sari and Yao Lei. Kharkov finalists Chayut Triyachart / Yao Lei in the mixed doubles, as well as Adam Cwalina / Michal Logosz in the men’s doubles found the success that eluded them in Ukraine last weekend.

Finals day commenced with the mixed doubles, where both pairs started rather hesitantly with lots of unforced errors and substandard services. Newly formed pair Piek and De Ruiter recovered the best from their tentative beginning and made sure they were on top at the first break, leading 11-6. Especially the powerful smashes of De Ruiter were unanswered by his opponents most of the time.

The Singaporean pair stepped up their game and took a first-time lead in the match at 18-17. Their experience didn’t really help them, as they bargained away no fewer than 5 game points, whereas the Dutch duo only needed one, to eventually prevail 25-23.

In a fascinating contest inside the match between Piek and Lei, the latter took the upper hand at the net at the start of game two, enough to seal the win 21-16. In the decider, the experience of the Singaporean pair reigned over the enthusiasm and fighting spirit of their Dutch adversaries, resulting in a 21-14 victory.

Now we’re still a bit disappointed.  In the second and third game they played more cleverly. But within a few hours, we’ll be very happy with this match, but also our three previous matches in our first tournament together, explained De Ruiter just after his match.

They play bigger tournaments, reached the quarters at the World Championships and are more experienced. Our coaches are still trying to find out the best possible combinations within the Dutch team, normally they’ll be announced after the Dutch Open.”

The technical perfection Olga Konon is able to produce is a sight for sore eyes, and she executed this flawlessly today. After just 14 minutes, the German shuttler crushed her rival 21-14. Each woman had won two of their previous encounters, although there was no doubt that Konon was the strongest here in Belgium. With a comforting 21-13 in the second, and yet another triumph in straight games, she won her second consecutive tournament after the Kharkov International last weekend.

“Every match is hard. I always have to prepare myself certainly if I have an easy first game win. It is always hard to be the favourite because everyone wants to beat you. So it is hard for both body and mind, said Konon.

Would this be his Tedjono’s third straight victory against Brice Leverdez? Or would the Frenchman finally able to turn the tides?  The Indonesian, who made a big fall on the world ranking after a knee injury, was overpowered in every part of the game at the outset of the match. 1-11 behind at the first break, he couldn’t be helped any further by his coaches’ quick advice either, and went down 7-21.

A much sharper Tedjono immediately took the initiative in the second game, but the tall Leverdez didn’t allow his rival to walk away with it effortlessly.  However, just after the mid-game interval, helped by his patient build-up, Tedjono finally managed to take charge and win it 21-13.

Then it was his opponent’s turn to surge to victory as, trailing 6-7 in the decider, the tall Leverdez took nine points in a row, an advantage he wasn’t willing to give away. He granted his rival only four more points and is already looking forward to next year.

I’m very proud of my victory; I had to play against quality players all week long. This has to be one of the best challengers around,” Leverdez said after his match.I’m feeling confident and I think this is the best Brice we’ve seen in a long time. To do well at the European championships in February will be one of my main goals.”

Yao Lei had to prepare herself for her second match of the day, this time alongside Shinta Mulia Sari. The Asian pair have had a tough season so far, but seem back on track after reaching the final at the Vietnam Open at the end of August and tasting victory in Ukraine last week.  Another straight game win at the hands of English pairing Mariana Agathangelou and Heather Olver in Belgium must gave their confidence another boost. The Singaporeans were in command from start till finish, cruising towards a 21-12, 21-17 victory in just 29 minutes.

Jürgen Koch has to be one on of the most experienced shuttlers around. The 36-year-old has over twenty national titles on his record and has won many international titles so far. It was not enough to scare his Polish opponents Adam Cwalina and Michal Logosz, however. The Spanish Open titleholders took advantage of their clear difference in height and seemed to have an effortless afternoon against Koch, and his partner Peter Zauner.

The Austrians were completely overpowered in the starting game, as Cwalina and Logosz won 21-11. Stronger in defense against the testing smashes of the Poles, Koch and Zauner were far better in the second, however not good enough to slow down the Polish steamroller, which pulled it out 21-17.

Final results
XD: Triyachart/Yao (SIN) beat De Ruiter/Piek (NED) 23-25, 21-16, 21-14
WS: Olga Konon (GER) beat Larisa Griga (UKR) 21-12, 21-13
MS: Brice Leverdez (FRA) beat Andre Kurniawan Tedjono 21-7, 13-21, 21-11
WD: Sari /Yao (SIN) beat Agathangelou/Olver (ENG) 21-12, 21-18
MD: Cwalina/Logosz (POL) beat Koch/Zauner(AUT) 21-11, 21-17

About Elm Vandevorst