KOREA GPG 2012 Finals – Sung and Lee complete the sweep

Sung Ji Hyun (pictured) won her second straight Victor Korea Grand Prix Gold but also completed a second straight sweep for the home team in Lee Yong Dae Gymnasium in […]

Sung Ji Hyun (pictured) won her second straight Victor Korea Gold but also completed a second straight sweep for the home team in Lee Yong Dae Gymnasium in Hwasun.

Story and photos:  Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent live in Hwasun

After Lee Yong Dae moved one step up on the podium from last year, Lee Dong Keun became the next new face in the winners’ circle at the 2012 Victor Korea Open Grand Prix Gold.  Lee made the best of his first Grand Prix Gold finals appearance by seeing off Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk (both pictured below) in two games.

“It’s been a while since I last played Tanongsak but his style seems to be like I remember,” said Lee after the match.  “I think he was faster last time, in Thailand, but I wondered whether he might be a little off his game, playing in Korea.

“If I want to keep improving, many of the higher-ranking players are faster and attack better so I have to be faster myself.

“Yesterday’s match was tougher, of course, but I had no problems with my stamina today and when I got to match point, I concentrated better today, so I wouldn’t lose my lead like in the semi-final.

“This is my first Grand Prix title and I’m so happy I won.  It just makes me want to play harder and win more.  If I end up as the man the Korean team is counting on, I am ready for that challenge.

“I’m not going to India next week.  I’ll be with the rest of the team and we are going to train at the new training centre to prepare for the Korea Open.  I still don’t know if I’ll make it off the reserve list but if I do, I’ll give it my best shot.”

Korean ladies all win back-to-back

After Ko’s repeat performance it was the ladies’ turn to keep their streaks alive.  Eom Hye Won and Jang Ye Na relegated two-time World Junior Champions Lee So Hee / Shin Seung Chan to the runner-up spot at the Grand Prix level, repeating their success of last year in the women’s doubles.

Then it was Sung Ji Hyun’s turn to repeat as champion and, in the process, to do her part to complete the Korean sweep of the titles, also for the second straight year.  Sung dominated Indonesia’s Aprilia Yuswandari (pictured below), beating her in two games and never giving her a real chance.

“After the Hong Kong Open, I didn’t play Macau,” said Sung Ji Hyun afterward.  “I came straight here so I’d been here training for a week already.  I was in Korea, I was eating Korean food, and I think that allowed me to start the tournament and each match very comfortably.

“It feels so good to win a tournament two years in a row, especially since it’s at home in Korea,” “Also, it’s great that lots of people came out to cheer for us.  That helped a lot.”

Sung Ji Hyun is now preparing to be Korea’s only singles entry in this year’s Superseries Finals, the event where she made a slight splash by scoring her first ever win against then world #1 Wang Yihan.

“I don’t have good memories from last year’s Superseries Finals.  Even though I won two matches, I still didn’t make the knockout round.  I really want to play well this week so the same thing doesn’t happen again.

“As for next year, I really want to win a Superseries tournament because I haven’t won one yet.  Beyond that, if I get the chance to play in the Worlds or another big tournament, I want to make the best of that.”

Eom earns first Grand Prix double

Once the singles titles had been won by members of the home team, Eom Hye Won and Jang Ye Na, who had already collaborated in taking their second straight women’s doubles crown, did battle in mixed to see who would earn the doubles double in 2012.  Eom was a double finalist at the Korean Grand Prix in 2010 but had to wait until last year to win her first title at home.

And it was a case of saving the best for last.  Not only was this the only final to go to three games but Yoo and Jang managed to save 6 match points before Shin and Eom finally took it 11-21, 21-18, 25-23.

There was cause for nervousness on both sides of the net when, at 8-7 in the second game, an ankle injury befell Jang Ye Na (pictured below), who is slated to play for the big money in Shenzhen starting Wednesday with both Yoo and Eom.

The defending champions lagged behind for the rest of that game but stayed close and they looked like they were home free with a 15-8 lead in the decider before a run of 7 straight points got their opponents back into the match and on the way to their string of match points.

“This is my first Grand Prix title with Baek Cheol although we won at the Universiade together last year,” said Eom Hye Won after the match.  “I’m happy to have won but I feel badly for Ye Na because she got injured in the second game.

“I think she was really hurting but I don’t know how that will affect her in the Superseries Finals.

“After she got treatment, it felt like a new match for us and unfortunately, I think that was what turned it around for us.”

Yoo Yeon Seong and Jang Ye Na thus let their second straight title slip away but they are still likely to reach the top ten in the world mixed doubles rankings, provided they can compete in Shenzhen.  However, they may not stay there long as Yoo begins his military service on Christmas Eve and will be unable to play any tournaments for at least a month.

“I’m a male in Korea so there is no getting around it, it’s something I have to do,” said Yoo Yeon Seong.  “I have to go do the training and do my best and worry about getting back into shape for badminton afterward.

“I hope to compete in the All England but we’ll have to wait and see.  The national team coaches will make that decision.”

Thus ended the 2012 Victor Korea Open Grand Prix Gold.  Apart from Lee Dong Keun, all other finalists will now prepare to head south, leaving the snow-covered Korean peninsula, though not for more than a month in most cases as the Victor Korea Open Superseries Premier will kick off the 2013 badminton calendar in just 30 wintry days.

Final results
MD: Ko Sung Hyun / Lee Yong Dae (KOR) [5] bt Kim Ki Jung / Kim Sa Rang (KOR)  [1]  21-12, 21-11
MS: Lee Dong Keun (KOR) bt Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk (THA) [4]  21-17, 21-14
WD: Eom Hye Won / Jang Ye Na (KOR) [1] bt Lee So Hee / Shin Seung Chan (KOR) [3]  21-13, 21-17
WS: Sung Ji Hyun (KOR) [1] bt Aprilia Yuswandari (INA) [2]  21-10, 21-10
XD: Shin Baek Cheol / Eom Hye Won (KOR) [4] bt Yoo Yeon Seong / Jang Ye Na (KOR) [1]  11-21, 21-18, 25-23

Click here for complete results

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