KOREA MASTERS 2015 QF – Indonesian challenge ends

Jonatan Christie was unable to repeat his success over defending champion Lee Dong Keun and joined his compatriots in women’s doubles by exiting the Korea Masters at the quarter-final stage. […]

Jonatan Christie was unable to repeat his success over defending champion Lee Dong Keun and joined his compatriots in women’s doubles by exiting the at the quarter-final stage.

Story and photos by Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent live in Jeonju

Korea has a tradition of dominating its autumn badminton tournament.  Not since 2010, when Gimcheon hosted the nation’s first event, have visitors taken more than one title.  This year, hopes of a title sweep may rest rather shakily on the shoulders of Bae Yeon Ju but the home team goes into the semi-final stage with both the mixed doubles and men’s singles titles in the bag.

The first match on court on Friday was an important one for defending champion Lee Dong Keun (pictured above).  Not only was he beaten by Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie at the Korea Open Superseries event in September, but this was perhaps his best shot all year at reaching his first semi-final since he was in Jeonju in 2014.

Lee and Christie split the first two games but in the third, Lee Dong Keun came out firing, racing to an 8-0 lead and making it next to impossible for Jonatan Christie to follow.

“Lee Dong Keun was ready for this match,” said Jonatan Christie (pictured) after the match.  “I was also ready but maybe he prepared by watching videos of my matches and the tactics he prepared, I think, were good.  He was better prepared than last time.

“Also it was too cold.  I was very tired in the third game and I got so far behind right at the beginning, eight-nil, that’s so hard.  But still, it’s okay,” said Christie.

Jonatan Christie also added that he felt foregoing the World Juniors to play in the Grand Prix Gold was a good decision.  Both Korea and Indonesia had some of their top under-19 shuttlers in Jeonju instead of at the BWF World Junior Championships in Lima, which kicked off earlier this week.

Jeonju on the road to Rio?

Reaching the semi-finals is important for all four Korean men’s singles players.  In the current world rankings, Son Wan Ho and Lee Hyun Il are only barely in the top 16.  In the Race to Rio standings, counting events only since May of this year, Son Wan Ho is the only one in the top 25.  While Son and Lee Dong Keun already have ten events toward their Rio calculation, Lee Hyun Il has only four and the youngest player of the quartet has three events in hand.

Jeon Hyeok Jin (pictured) has come a long way since being the Asian Junior Championship runner-up in 2013.  After spending 2014 training with the national team but enjoying little in the way of results, Jeon started 2015 with a bang, reaching the final of the Malaysia Masters.  He then had another breakthrough in July, when he beat Chou Tien Chen and Son Wan Ho to with gold at the Universiade.

Now he is in his third Grand Prix Gold semi-final of the year, following his run at the Thailand Open last month.  He beat Kenta Nishimoto, the last visitor in the draw, winning in three games.  It was his third hour-long battle of the week after he came from behind to beat Sony Dwi Kuncoro and then Kazumasa Sakai in the previous rounds.

“Because this event is in Korea, I think it’s really important that Korean players perform well,” said Jeon after his match.  “That’s why I’m really happy to have been able to beat two Japanese players, yesterday and today, and contribute to this all-Korean semi-final.”

Jeon was very modest about what he has accomplished in 2015: “I don’t think there is any part of my game that is exceptionally good so I really feel I have to work on every aspect of my game.  As for my improvement, I try to just concentrate on each step as it comes.”

Jeon did not want to get his hopes up on whether a top 16 ranking might be possible next May: “I know I’ll get quite a few points from performing well at this Grand Prix Gold, but I haven’t done all that well in previous tournaments so I really just have to be content with doing well here.”

In mixed doubles, too, the Koreans have set up an all-domestic semi-final round.  Japan’s Kenta Kazuno and Ayane Kurihara, after ousting U.S. and Vietnam Open champions Huang Kaixiang / Huang Dongping, were stopped by Korea’s Kim/Shin.  Ko Sung Hyun and Kim Ha Na (pictured above) dropped the last guests from the list when they beat Japan’s other quarter-finalists Koga/Yonemoto.

Mixed is another discipline where there are two pairs poised to move up in the Race to Rio rankings.  Choi/Eom and Shin/Chae are both in the top 25 and will get a big boost from this result this week.  For most of them, a second Korean mixed ticket is their best chance of getting to Rio next summer.

Two hopes for China

China is still a threat to win two titles and two semi-finals will be intriguing first encounters between Chinese youngsters and Korean stalwarts.  In women’s singles, Sun Yu (pictured) will finally have the chance to play Bae Yeon Ju.  In the other semi-final, Sun’s compatriot Shen Yaying will take on 2014 runner-up Sayaka Sato in an attempt to set up an all-Chinese final.

In the men’s doubles, Li Junhui / Liu Yuchen got the better of Japan’s Kazuno/Yamada and this has earned them the opportunity to take on 2014 World Champions Ko Sung Hyun / Shin Baek Cheol.  The pair of 20-year-olds from China were in the Asian Championship final in Korea last year and lost a close one to Shin and Yoo Yeon Seong but this is their first meeting with the newer combination.

Any hopes of an all-Chinese final in men’s doubles were first raised by the withdrawal of world #1 Lee/Yoo but then dashed when Wang Yilu / Zhang Wen fell to 2013 winners Kim Ki Jung / Kim Sa Rang.  Fortunately for the Chinese pair there was no repeat of the shocking line call debacle that marred the end to their Universiade gold medal match against the Kims in July; however, they were just unable to stop the Koreans’ five-point run that finished the match.

Last of the Indonesians, last of the juniors

The late matches in women’s doubles included two tough matches for the last two Indonesian pairs.  Anggia Shitta Awanda and Mahadewi Istirani Ni Ketut lasted for two tough games, which they split with Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota of Japan, then they fell apart in the third game and lost it 9-21.  Della Destiara Haris / Rosyita Eka Putri Sari (pictured) fought hard against Jung Kyung Eun and Shin Seung Chan but the Denmark Open champions held on to take it in two.

The last of the under-19 athletes, Kim Hye Jeong / Park Keun Hye (pictured bottom), led at the intervals of both of their games against veterans Go Ah Ra / Yoo Hae Won but were unable to maintain their consistency.  All three Korean pairs are in the top 20 of the Race to Rio standings but are still working their way toward the top 8, where they need to be.  Go and Yoo will be there by the time the Jeonju points are added and the others will be keen to follow.

Click here for complete quarter-final 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