KOREA GPG SF 2012 – Dong Keun keen to be new-Lee crowned

Lee Dong Keun kept alive Korea’s hopes for another title sweep at the 2012 Victor Korea Grand Prix Gold today in Hwasun. Story and photos:  Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent live […]

Lee Dong Keun kept alive Korea’s hopes for another title sweep at the 2012 Victor Korea Gold today in Hwasun.

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

While Korea wrapped up all three doubles titles on semi-finals day and Sung Ji Hyun took another step toward a second straight title, Lee Dong Keun (pictured) and Mohd Arif Abdul Latif faced off for a first ever Grand Prix final appearance.

The two players were very evenly matched, Lee winning the first and applying good pressure late in the second before Arif finally closed it out 21-18.  In the third game, though, Lee did some spirited attacking and surged out to a commanding 18-9 lead and appeared to have the match in the bag.

But Arif became quiet and methodical and persistently whittled away at Lee’s lead until he trailed by only a single point.  The Korean finally wore down Arif’s defence and took the match 21-17, 18-21, 21-19.

“I did attack more than usual,” said Lee Dong Keun afterward.  “His defence is good but if I didn’t attack, then I’d be vulnerable because he has very good wrist work.

“I certainly remember that first match against Tanongsak at the World Juniors.  It was a big moment for me at the time.

“Right now I am feeling really good, too.  Of course, because I’m in the final but my condition is good and I have a lot of confidence going into tomorrow’s match.

“When I was leading 18-9, I only need a few more points so I really wanted to finish it off quickly and I started making mistakes.  Then, I started to feel nervous that he might actually catch up to my score.  On my opponent’s side, I think he really improved his concentration at that stage of the match.

“I’ve had experiences like this before, actually,” confessed Lee.  “I’ll get to 20-15 and only need one more point to win but then I start making mistakes and let it slip away.  My coach has me do 20-all games in training so you start at 20-all and I have to concentrate on getting one or two points at a time.

“As of today it was just me for Korea in men’s singles but that isn’t a problem.  I’m happy to reach the final and I’m confident that I can take the title.”

Lee’s opponent, Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk, has been to a Grand Prix Gold final already but he, too, is looking for his first major title.  He dispatched Singapore’s Derek Wong in two games that went much quicker than the other semi-final.

Sung Ji Hyun got her expected ticket to the final, taking only half an hour to see off compatriot Kim Ye Ji.  Her opponent will be Indonesia’s Aprilia Yuswandari (pictured), who beat out Sonia Cheah of Malaysia in another battle of would-be maiden finalists.

3 locked up for Korea

Just like last year, Korea will go into finals day with three titles in hand.  Unlike last year, however, it will be the three doubles disciplines this time.  Like last year, Jang Ye Na is the favourite to win to of these and Lee Yong Dae for the other.

Defending champions Jang and Yoo Yeon Seong shut down Chinese Taipei’s Liao/Chien in two short games.  Eom Hye Won, who lost to them at last year’s semi-final stage, is back with a new partner and will challenge her women’s doubles partner in the final this time.

Eom Hye Won and Shin Baek Cheol (pictured) survived feisty Indonesian second seeds Irfan Fadhilah / Weni Anggraini, allowing them to get dangerously close before Fadhilah missed a diving attempt to retrieve a drop, slammed down his racquet, and earned a yellow card.  The Koreans got the serve back and finished off the 19-21, 21-11, 21-18 victory.

Lee makes himself at home

Lee Yong Dae may not be the defending champion, or even the top seed in men’s doubles but this is his tournament and it is being played in a hall bearing his own name.  Lee and Ko Sung Hyun (pictured bottom) were far too much for Malaysian challengers Goh/Ong and kept them guessing and scrambling and closed it out in just 31 minutes.

Both Lee and Ko have been in the final of Korea’s fall tournament in five of the last six years, a match that has always been an all-Korean affair.  Ko is now on his third partner while he is of course Lee’s second.  They will face Kim Ki Jung / Kim Sa Rang, who are Korea’s only men’s doubles representatives in next week’s Superseries Finals in Shenzhen.

In women’s doubles, two-time World Junior Champions Lee So Hee / Shin Seung Chan (pictured) took care of Macau’s Wang Rong / Zhang Zhibo to set up a third all-Korean final, where they will take on defending champions and top seeds Eom Hye Won / Jang Ye Na.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Korean junior team has been busy all week locking up three titles in the Korean Junior International, which moved from a nearby gymnasium to the extra  courts on the brand new Lee Yong Dae Gymnasium, to make an interesting sideshow to the Grand Prix Gold event.  In the junior division, as well, it is Thailand that poses a challenge to Korean dominance, including a boys’ singles player Thammasin Sitthikom.

In an interesting reversal of roles, while World Junior Champions Lee and Shin play the final of a Grand Prix Gold event, Thai Open Grand Prix Gold winner in women’s doubles Narissapat Lam will be playing for the junior girls’ doubles title.

Click here for complete semi-final results from the Victor Korea Open Grand Prix Gold

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