KOREA OPEN 2012 PREVIEW – Top flight to fight for the million bucks

The Victor Korea Open Badminton OSIM BWF Super Series Premier 2012 doesn’t only have a long and difficult name to remember. It also has an amazing cast of shuttlers as […]

The Victor Badminton OSIM BWF Super Series Premier 2012 doesn’t only have a long and difficult name to remember. It also has an amazing cast of shuttlers as every single one of the top 8 shuttlers/pairs will make the trip to Korea. And the draw published on December 20th only makes it more interesting with mouth-watering matches from the early stages.

By Raphaël Sachetat. Photos: Badmintonphoto

A million dollars is worth sacrifices. And many will just do that with a bunch of players travelling to Asia and spending New Year’s Eve on the plane to reach Seoul on time as the 2nd edition of the Premier BWF event is being held earlier than the previous one as it was then the Malaysia Open which had started off the season in 2011. The event has also lost $200,000 in , but  with US$1 million left to share, this is enough to draw interest from the top flight who are looking to start this Olympic year on a high note.

A new season is underway with this event, which will be played in the newly-renovated #2 Olympic gymnasium – a symbol of its own, a few months before the 2012 Olympics in London. And needless to say that the ones facing each other on finals day in Seoul could very well be the same ones in Wembley come mid-August, fighting for an Olympic gold instead of the US$75,000  cheque.

As in China and Hong Kong – the last two Super Series events played in 2011, it is expected to see Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei meet in the final, especially after the draw was good to the top seed, leaving Chen Long, Chen Jin and Lin Dan in the lower half of the draw. Chong Wei will start his journey against Kashyap of India and is set to meet Peter Gade in the semi-final. The latter is expected to play his compatriot Vittinghus in the second round, if he beats Du Pengyu for a tricky first round match while Hans-Kristian has to beat Hong Kong’s Hu Yun. Lin Dan’s first round opponent is Pablo Abian of Spain but the Olympic champion may then have to face lee Hyun Il before a probable clash against Chen Jin in the quarters, before Chen Long in the semi-finals.

First round matches of note:
Peter Gade (DEN) [4] vs Du Pengyu (CHN)
Boonsak Ponsana (THA) vs Wang Zhengming(CHN)
Nguyen Tien Minh (VIE) [7] vs Kenichi Tago (JPN)

Sung to shine at home

On home soil Sung Ji Hyun (pictured) will be hoping to repeat her great run of the 2011 edition when she had beaten top seed Wang Xin and advanced to the semi-final. And probably hope to go one or two steps further, especially after her disappointment in the Super Series Finals when she thought she had done the worst part by beating Wang Yihan to finally finish third in the group stage. Before the eyes of both her parents, she will definitely be eager to shine again and will take on Taipei’s rising star Tai Tzu Ying as an appetizer before an expected clash with Wang Shixian in the quarter-finals, should she beat Thailand’s Porntip Buranaprasertsuk in the second round. Wang Yihan, on her end, top seed, starts off with a former compatriot – Yao Jie before a potential second round against Bulgaria’s Nedelcheva, who took a game from her in China. No easy first round either for Wang Xin, who will have to beat the other local girl Bae Youn Joo to make it to the next round where she will meet a qualifier.

First round matches of note :
Juliane Schenk (GER) [7] vs Liu Xin (CHN)
Sung Ji Hyun (KOR) [8] vs Tai Tzu Ying (TPE)

Open draws in doubles

The men’s doubles event looks like another fine party with all top flight on board for one of the most exciting events as always. China sees its two his best pairs in the same half of the draw with Cai and Fu possibly meeting Guo and Chai in the quarter-final. But this might just not happen as the younger Chinese are set to play a mouth-watering opener against the reigning Olympic champions, Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan. This “match of the day” will be even more interesting that the two pairs have never met. Second seeds Jung and Lee – never stronger than at home –  will play India’s Sanave Thomas and Rupesh Kumar before a good pair of Chandra/Gunawan and a potential thriller against Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong who are yet to prove a regain of form. Denmark’s Boe and Mogensen (pictured here on the podium last year) will try to avenge their straight-game loss from last January and will be out in full confidence after their success in the Super Series Finals. They take on former World Champions Bach/Gunawan in the opening round.

First round matches of note :
Chai/Guo (CHN) [7] vs Kido/Setiawan (INA)
Boe/Mogensen (DEN) [3] vs Bach/Gunawan

Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang are set for another victory with the clear supremacy they’ve shown in all Super Series throughout 2011 and it’s just bad luck for the Wang siblings – from the USA – to have to play the mighty Chinese in the very first round. An interesting tie in the same quarter sees two former world number ones play each other – Chin/Wong of Malaysia against Cheng/Chien of Chinese Taipei. Bad luck for Japan, with all of their three pairs in the same half of the draw. Fujii and Kakiiwa are looking at a possible semi-final against the second best Chinese pair – Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei, provided that the latter feel better after their retirement in the semi-final of the Li-Ning Super Series Finals a few days ago. The Japanese however have a tough nut to crack in the second round with the winner of Pedersen/Rytter-Juhl vs Voravichitchaikul/Aroonkesorn.

First round matches of note :
Cheng/Chen (TPE) [6] vs Chin/Wong (MAS)
Pedersen/Rytter-Juhl (DEN) vs Voravichitchaikul/Aroonkesorn (THA)

Last but not least, the mixed doubles should once again show some impressive and tactical game – as always.  China’s Zhang Nan / Zhao Yunlei are clear favourites – they won here last year and just a few days ago again in the Super Series Finals after their world title crown. But the Chinese will play their World Championships final opponents in the first round of this event – Adcock/Bankier. Then they might have to play their compatriots He/Bao in the second round – not an easy path after such a tough year. On the other half of the draw, at the complete opposite, Xu Chen and Ma Jin will have a similar tricky first round against Indonesia’s Widianto and Marissa, with Denmark’s Laybourn and Rytter Juhl waiting for them in the quarters.

First round matches of note :
Zhang/Zhao (CHN) [1] vs Adcock/Bankier (ENG/SCO)
Xu/Ma (CHN) [2] vs Widianto/Marissa (INA)

The one million prize money will certainly be a great incentive to all players, who will see the Victor Korea Open as one of the last biggest tests before the Olympic Games – so will the overall badminton fraternity, with Umpires (local umpires Shon and Kim), line judges and organization staff well aware that the show must be perfect and will start to be taken as a dress rehearsal just weeks before the biggest sport event.  Fans will be able to enjoy live streaming on Badmintonworld.tv as well as live scoring on Tournament Software

Last year’s winners:
MS: Lin Dan
WS: Wang Yihan
MD: Jung Jae Sung / Lee Yong Dae
WD: Wang Xiaoli / Yu Yang
XD: Zhang Nan / Zhao Yunlei

The complete draws can be downloaded from the BWF website here

Official results HERE

Raphaël Sachetat

About Raphaël Sachetat

Raphael is the Chief Editor of Badzine International. He is the founder of the website together with Jean François Chauveau. After many years writing for the BWF and many publications around the world about badminton, he now leads a team of young and dynamic writers for Badzine.