AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2012 SF – Could so easily have been Different

A bit of unexpected good or bad fortune right at end of a game in the ruthless 21-point badminton rally-point system can change everything.  It did in the Yonex Australian […]

A bit of unexpected good or bad fortune right at end of a game in the ruthless 21-point badminton rally-point system can change everything.  It did in the Yonex Australian Badminton Open Gold men’s singles semi-finals in Sydney on Saturday.

By Aaron Wong, live from Sydney. Photos: Andrew Greenway, Courtesy of Badminton Australia (live)

Fastest horse in a muddy lane

Indonesia’s Simon Santoso has been in slightly better form this week compared to top seed China’s Chen Jin.  Interestingly, he displayed it straight away in their match by being the more decisive game-wise, assertive aggression-wise, and inventive shot-wise.  Chen Jin reserved his blunt power in the beginning.  For example, he could have banged out a big smash when given a two-thirds deep lift but tried an inside out straight slice drop instead.

Santoso was finding the accuracy he wanted on Chen’s backhand defense corner and was also earning outright winners, or at the very least significantly unbalancing Chen, who needed to dive more frequently to retrieve.

The Indonesian could not have played better and funnily enough, a patchy performance from 2010 World Champion Chen Jin, was enough to secure the crucial first game, 22-20, because a couple of Santoso’s jumps smashes at the business end of the first game were met with the stadium lights in his eyes, which led to a few crucial mis-hits.

Starting afresh on the new side Santoso accelerated to the early lead again, but Chen was warm by now and the sweetness on his smash was finding its range.  A couple more unlucky moments for Santoso and the umpire refusing his requests to change the shuttle or allow the floor to be wiped affected him, and Chen took advantage of his opponent’s loss of focus to seal the deal on the second game, 21-15.

Chen Jin agreed “Our standards are pretty much the same.”  Dejection had ultimately weakened Simon Santoso.

Not Sho lucky by a centimetre

In last year’s edition, eventual champion Sho Sasaki of Japan ousted the 2010 champion Nguyen Tien Minh when he was the lower seed but the tables were turned in 2012.

“So lucky, so lucky, that in the first game my opponent’s last hairpin net shot did not cross because I’d have no way to lift that one.  Would have been a different match otherwise,” the talkative Nguyen counted his blessings after the match.  What was incredibly dramatic about that point was that Sasaki had reached the net first and it was absolutely the right shot to play and the right height, just the wrong dip by a centimetre.

Nguyen was completely prepared for the Sasaki’s thunderous smashes and even, for the first time this week, the faster urgent version of that man.

“Something about Australia, something about the place, I always play well here, better for me than Europe,” signaled the Vietnamese veteran about his current form.

Chen Jin’s own response was, “Having played and won tournaments for years, it’s no problem holding my standard five or six times in a week.”

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Aaron Wong

About Aaron Wong

Aaron Wong only ever coveted badminton's coolest shot - a reverse backhand clear. He is renowned for two other things: 1) Writing tournament previews that adjust the focus between the panorama of the sport's progress, down to the microscopic level of explaining the striking characteristics of players; 2) Dozing off during men's doubles at the London Olympic Games. Contact him at: aaron @