KOREA MASTERS 2016 Finals – Ko and 2 Kims cement Korean sweep

Kim Ha Na won the Korea Masters Grand Prix Gold title on her home island of Jeju, a win that gave Korea a title sweep and Ko Sung Hyun his […]

Kim Ha Na won the Gold title on her home island of Jeju, a win that gave Korea a title sweep and Ko Sung Hyun his 2nd doubles double of the year.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

It’s been nearly 16 years since a world-class badminton event was staged in Korea’s Jeju Island.  Back in January of 2001, it was Kim Dong Moon who took the mixed doubles title with Ra Kyung Min and also ended up with a doubles double at the 6-star Grand Prix event.

Today, Ra was on the coach’s bench as her mixed pair attempted to finish off a title sweep.  Her partner Kim, now her husband, was up in the press area doing television commentary, and the heir to his legacy, Ko Sung Hyun, was the one going for a doubles double at the Korea Masters Grand Prix Gold.

But the woman in the spotlight was Kim Ha Na (pictured above).  The Jeju-born world #1 had a chance to shine on her home island, which is really the only remote population centre in a nation where every city is just a few short hours away from every other city by bus or train.

Facing the Koreans were 2nd-seeded Dechapol Puavaranukroh / Sapsiree Taerattanachai (pictured).  The Thais have shot up the world rankings this year and became #14 when the pairing was exactly a year old.  This was their second Grand Prix Gold final appearance of the year and Sapsiree, already the only player to reach a GPG final in three different disciplines, is looking for the mixed title that will make her the first with a three-category title collection.

The first game was very close, with neither pair able to get a lead of more than three points.  The Koreans finally pulled away from a 19-all tie to take the one-game lead.

The world #1s opened up a huge lead late in the second but from 10-17 down, the Thais gave chase, creeping up to 14-17 on the play of the day, which had Kim Ha Na sprawling on the floor trying to retrieve.  The Koreans soon finished it off, however, and took the match on a thunderous smash down the backhand sideline by Ko Sung Hyun.

Toppling the top seeds

Before he could play the role of top seed, world #1, and defending champion, though, Ko Sung Hyun had to perform as the underdog in the opening match of the day.  He and 20-year-old Kim Jae Hwan (pictured), in only their second tournament together, had to face down the top seeds Lee Jhe Huei and Lee Yang, who were on a roll after winning the Macau Open title last weekend.

Kim Jae Hwan played well from the start but looked quite tentative but he relaxed through the opening game and started to create opportunities.  The Koreans were trailing through most of the game, however, and needed an 8-1 run from 11-16 down to gain the advantage.  The game ended as Ko caught Lee Jhe Huei flat-footed with a hold-and-flick backhand drive to the forehand corner.

The Taiwan pair made mistakes at all the wrong times, although they played well in the second game as well.  The Koreans finished it 21-18 and Kim ended up with the first senior title of his career.

Ko took his fifth Grand Prix Gold title of the year, equalling his mark from 2011.  Since the Grand Prix Gold and Superseries categories were instituted in 2007, Ko is now the first male player ever to get two doubles doubles in one calendar year and the only player ever to get three Grand Prix Gold doubles doubles, as he did it at the 2016 German Open and the 2011 Chinese Taipei Open.

The sweep

Mixed doubles may have completed the title sweep by the home nation but it was kept alive in the second match by Son Wan Ho (pictured) and his win over Malaysia’s Liew Daren.  Son had been the first Korean to lose on finals day when they had a chance to sweep the titles at the Korea Open Superseries earlier this year but he made no mistake today.

Son maintained a comfortable lead in the first game and closed it out quickly.  Early in the second, Liew Daren dove to return a smash and had to be treated for a bleeding finger.  It continued to nag him as the game continued but Liew was able to get past the distraction and even bounced back from 9-15 down to draw to within a point.

Liew’s smashes may have been falling faster but Son’s rushes to the net were faster and he combined the net pressure with crisp, precise smashes to maintain the upper hand and finish it in two.  Son Wan Ho thus became the only player other than Kim Jae Hwan to win a first title on home soil, as the other winners had all done so before this year.

The women’s singles and doubles were both all-Korean affairs.  Women’s singles was a romp for Sung Ji Hyun (pictured below) over Lee Jang Mi.  In the first round, Lee had eliminated Hsu Ya Ching, the last player to beat Sung, but the two-time winner was not about to drop a second home final after letting the Korea Open slip away in October.

Korea Open champions Jung Kyung Eun and Shin Seung Chan (pictured bottom) played their usual smart power game and had great success against compatriots Chae Yoo Jung and Kim So Yeong.  The underdogs had been beaten by Jung/Shin in Denmark, in their first match after winning the Indonesia Masters, and while they were more convincing in Jeju, they could not take their revenge.

It ain’t over…

Despite the fact that it is now very late in the season, all of the Korean finalists have a lot more ahead before 2017 is rung in.  They can well celebrate their fourth title sweep at their home Grand Prix Gold and Korea is the only nation to accomplish that this year.

However, all but Kim Jae Hwan have just over 24 hours to get to Dubai for the Gala Dinner and they have three days to adjust to jet-lag before the BWF World Superseries Finals begin on Wednesday.  Even Kim and the three Korean runners-up, who are not going to Dubai, have just over a week before trials begin for the 2017 national team.

Final results
MD:  Kim Jae Hwan / Ko Sung Hyun(KOR) beat Lee Jhe-Huei Lee Yang (TPE) [1]  21-19, 21-18
MS:  Son Wan Ho (KOR) [1] beat Liew Daren (MAS)  21-13, 21-16
WD:  Jung Kyung Eun / Shin Seung Chan (KOR) [1] beat Chae Yoo Jung / Kim So Yeong (KOR) [6]  21-14, 21-14
WS:  Sung Ji Hyun (KOR) [1] beat Lee Jang Mi (KOR)  21-8, 21-10
XD:  Ko Sung Hyun / Kim Ha Na (KOR) [1] beat Dechapol Puavaranukroh / Sapsiree Taerattanachai (THA) [2]  21-19, 21-16

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