SUDIRMAN CUP Day 4 – Wang Chi-Lin’s name in lights

Thailand are still grooming the future but the future has arrived for Chinese Taipei, as they top their group at the 2017 Sudirman Cup. By Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent live […]

Thailand are still grooming the future but the future has arrived for Chinese Taipei, as they top their group at the 2017 .

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

What do Jia Yifan, Chen Hung Ling, Tai Tzu Ying, Sapsiree Taerattanachai, and Son Wan Ho all have in common as elite badminton players?  Even among illustrious company and the hustle and bustle of exchanges at the loftiest level of the fastest racquet sport, each of them is noticeably applying a higher understanding and sticks out as somebody special.  In the last of their pool matches of Groups 1A and 1B, these players made a difference that, when observed closely, is what deliberately changed the course of their matches or their opponents were extra wary of.

Group 1A: ‘A’ for amusement value

Half the fun of team events comes when interesting line-ups are offered.  Thailand’s was ultra-creative but failed to dent China’s top-ranked pairs in all doubles (adjusted for Chen Qingchen not being required for double doubles duties) and their thirds in the singles categories.  Since this decade, Thailand has become known for breeding talents across all disciplines so playing this younger line-up whose score-lines looked ordinary today against mountainous opponents (literally, in all men’s matches) is worthwhile exposure therapy that’s part of a longer term prospects.

However, Sapsiree Taerattanachai displayed a new side of her versatility in coming very close to China in a women’s doubles scratch partnership with Jongkolphan Kititharakul (pictured above).  The adage in sport that it takes a great opponent to draw out one’s own greatness was apparent in Jia Yifan’s crisp and compact timing on shots to keep her country ahead in the neck-and-neck points.

In 2016, Chen Qingchen gave the world badminton a shake with some revolutionary technique and a hyper personality but the caretaker nature of Jia Yifan (pictured) and her ability to focus for a long time is extraordinary and useful in one so young as these qualities are not something that an opponent can counter through watching video footage.  Instead, it has to have developed the same within the opponent, which it also has in the case of Taerattanachai.

Group 1B

Korean’s Kim Duk Young / Park Kyung Hoon (pictured) jumped on court ready to go with a solid comprehensive standard in all the finishings – read: stroke repertoire, footwork, and fitness – that ticks all the boxes for reliable performance.  If they were a car brand they would be a Toyota Corolla and if they were a badminton string they’d be a Yonex BG65.  In contrast, Chinese Taipei’s Chen Hung Ling / Wang Chi-Lin are a customised vehicle where acceleration was tweaked for third gear and tyres were selected to be able to handle slippery terrain.

A little knowledge goes a long way

Wang Chi-Lin’s thick smashing was rendered all the more effective by his partner Chen Hung Ling’s subtle changes of pace both from the front and the rear, which we already knew they can do from following their progress.  What’s more is the knowledge that Chen had gained in the process of acclimatising to the tricky conditions of Court 1.  He subtly applied this against his opponents, making it easy for the Koreans to defend long of the rear line on game point because their reflexes are so trained and automatic.  The plan of Chinese Taipei to constantly garner short replies paid the ultimate dividend, as they took the men’s doubles 21-19, 21-13.

One less weapon, no worries mate

Women’s singles world #1 Tai Tzu Ying (pictured) met Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun for the third time this year and once again it required three games for Tai to come out on top, this time 21-15, 15-21, 21-14.  For the first two games, Tai’s net shots and smashes were average.  But no matter – there were other weapons up her sleeve.  The flat drop shots on the backhand retrievals and floating forehand ones demonstrated how unthreatened she felt on court.

Similarly, Sung Ji Hyun found her own signature cross-court cut drops landing in the middle of the net but made up for it with the sharpest of off-forehand half-smashes.  Her inch-perfect depth on clears secured the second game.  Unfortunately, it was no longer a level playing field in the deciding game as Tai’s full repertoire came to bear and then there were too many options and changes of balance for Sung’s footwork to deal with.

Tomorrow’s world #1 proves why

Son Wan Ho (pictured) was put under pressure even before he stepped on court for men’s singles as Korea were already down 0-2 in the tie against Chinese Taipei.  Playing catch-up to Chou Tien Chen after the first game interval didn’t help either.

True to the way he normally plays and importantly not hurrying the process, Son had simply been warming up his feel of the battleground and taking a look at Chou’s game plan.  Out came the signature Son smash, one that’s hard to read and awkward to retrieve, in the nick of time which usually propped up an easy second shuttle to be put away.  Without the added pressure of knowing it, Son was in fact already showing as world #1 at the time of the match due to a glitch in the BWF’s IT system updating records a day earlier than usual.

Fruits of the internship

It wasn’t a surprise when reigning All England champions Lee So Hee / Chang Ye Na picked up the women’s doubles over Hsu Ya Ching / Wu Ti Jing, 21-13, 21-18, so it was down to mixed doubles once again – as far as Group 1 upsets in 2017 were concerned – to decide the tie.

Lee Chia Hsin and Wang Chi-Lin (pictured) produced a career-boosting performance to beat Chae Yoo Jung / Choi Sol Gyu in the mixed doubles, 11-21, 21-18, 21-16, and take the tie 3-2 for Chinese Taipei.  The three games were largely identical apart from the rhythms of each player’s confidence occurring in different order.  The pairs were evenly matched and it depended on who kept their composure.

Lee had done so many things correctly but became demoralised in the first game when the score wasn’t reflecting her efforts and this brought down Wang too.  Wang’s hallmark smash alone wouldn’t be sufficient, and this time his role also included keeping his partner Lee’s emotions in check because the rallies were tight.

Winning the recent China Masters men’s doubles title including beating a pair of former world #1s en route – along with all the years spent interning with Chen Hung Ling – had prepared Wang Chi-Lin to come into his own today and raise himself to a new level.

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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 @