AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2015 – Hosts send one pair through qualifying

Hosts Australia managed to send just a solitary men’s doubles pair into the main draw of the Star Australia Open Superseries as Oceania Champions Matthew Chau and Sawan Serasinghe won […]

Hosts Australia managed to send just a solitary men’s doubles pair into the main draw of the Star Australia Open as Oceania Champions Matthew Chau and Sawan Serasinghe won both of their matches on Tuesday.

By Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent live in Sydney.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

Australian doubles player Sawan Serasinghe’s propeller arm motion while smashing is one of the most exciting to watch in world badminton right now.  Together with Matthew Chau, his partner ever since juniors, Sawan Serasinghe (pictured) recorded a convincing win over Malaysians Lee Yan Sheng / Lin Woon Fui, 21-16, 21-14, today. It was hardly apparent the Malaysian pair contained a left-hander because it produced no advantage whatsoever whereas the Aussies made the most of this aspect of their combination.

“It helped that we’d recently played in a huge stadium at the Sudirman Cup,” Chau remarked of the ability to stamp their authority on the match and not let up through getting used to conditions quickly.

Malaysian men’s doubles former world #1s Koo Kien Keat / Tan Boon Heong (pictured) made a centre court debut in their reformed partnership.  Of the opening match against Hong Kong, the older Koo said afterwards while dripping with perspiration, “It wasn’t easy.”

Notice, he didn’t say it was hard.  There’s a marked difference.  It wasn’t easy largely because he was speaking for himself.  Also, it was their first international match together again in years and like any exercise cum live performance you have not exerted yourself through for a while you will expend a lot of emotional energy.  Still, it never looked like they lacked being in control of that match nor the next one against Malaysians Jagdish Singh / Tan Wee Long Roni, both of which they won in straight games fashion.

Cutting edge?  Not yet (although they once were).  However, their camaraderie and court coverage instincts together are wonderful to behold.  It doesn’t look like another day at the office.  These were several small moments if you watched closely.  For example, on receiving a flick serve that was nowhere close to being out, Tan choose to heed Koo’s call.  At other times, it was Tan who gave the reassuring pats on the back with the racquet whereas when they were starting out that happened the other way around.

As we’ve come to expect over the years, Koo/Tan matches are high on entertainment value and in both, their opponents ran off and back on in a jiffy to swap out racquets while the shuttle remained in flight.  Even more amusing, in one rally between Malaysia and Malaysia, both sides of the net went off to swap mid-rally with Tan abetting this by clearing a mid-court sitter into the stadium stratosphere to buy all four players time to regroup.

There was no need to inquire whether their reformation is a temporary arrangement for Koo answered that simultaneously with the why question: “We have the same goal and target,” Koo dangled this cryptic comment at the mixed zone, “And, I’ll tell you when it happens.”  With that, the popular pair bereft of national association’s – as well as their own – old expectations of each other, left us tantalised.

Simon demoralized by Dong Keun in Oceania again

Lee Dong Keun (pictured) outlasting last year’s men’s singles runner-up Simon Santoso 15-21, 21-19, 21-13, after 72 minutes is merely half the story.  It wouldn’t be fair to sum up the headline contest of the day in a single breath but if you had to it’s that both men superbly displayed the premier characteristics for which they are known.

As with all of his matches at the hitherto, including a 2012 semi-final bout with former world #1 Chen Jin and the previous final against Lin Dan, Santoso’s astute and lethal opening of his account would be the envy of any international player.  It isn’t an exaggeration to say he stunned each of these opponents and put them on the back foot immediately.

Why then would he lose?  And how?  You must be wondering.  It isn’t that Simon Santoso (pictured) is inconsistent but rather Lee Dong Keun is exceptional in this department and was able to keep a level head in the midst of long stormy periods.  True, Santoso has again fallen in three games when it counts at the Australian Open.  The Indonesian really needs to develop his quite average abilities at withstanding becoming demoralised during dry spells within a match.  It’s a painful learning case not dissimilar to that suffered by the talented Malaysian Liew Daren on succumbing on consecutive occasions to Takuma Ueda because the Japanese can, like Lee, just keep plugging away no matter the deficit.

This seemingly dull quality of steadiness that a spectator can’t immediately detect is a vital part of a champion’s artillery.  Santoso could do well to take a leaf out of the book of Korean and Japanese players in this respect, especially women’s doubles. Don’t be mistaken.  The Indonesian is not a hot and cold player who gains some players notoriety as a giant-killer without winning tournaments.  On the contrary, he does win and even has two Superseries to his name. On the other hand, if you’re lucky enough to be born with it, it is the natural talent to produce rhythm rather than plain flat out consistency that is arguably the higher power.  Talent you can’t learn but everything else that’s a skill you probably can.

Ultimately, the key difference today was the number of unforced errors from Simon’s racquet. More than a dozen shuttles flew wide, if only mildly, when his opponent was completely without a chance of returning them. This was sufficient to keep the scoreline close and for the Korean not to lose hope.  So, even though it might have appeared likely if you’d watched only the first 10 minutes of Simon’s match, there will be no rematch of the 2014 final in Round 2 of men’s singles.

Post match, Lee said, “I prepared properly for a long time knowing this is a high profile match against someone like Santoso. [At the interval] my coach told me I played well in the first game even though I stuffed up the middle section.  I knew then to maintain the same level for the rest of the match.”

The satisfaction was short-lived for the Korean, however.  In fact, overall, his draw looked rather similar to the last time he beat Simon Santoso, not far away, in the 2013 New Zealand Open.  On that occasion, he had already beaten Japan’s Kenta Nishimoto (pictured) and his win over Simon set up a meeting with China’s Xue Song.  This time, however, Lee succumbed, in his second 70-minute-plus match of the day and it will indeed be Nishimoto who begins the main draw tomorrow against Xue Song, the runner-up in 2013 in both Oceania events.

Click here for complete Tuesday results

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 @