KOREA OPEN 2017 Finals – Back on top for Sindhu

Pusarla Venkata Sindhu turned the tables on World Champion Nozomi Okuhara to win a thrilling finale to the Korea Open just 3 weeks after losing that incredible World Championship final. […]

Pusarla Venkata Sindhu turned the tables on World Champion Nozomi Okuhara to win a thrilling finale to the just 3 weeks after losing that incredible World Championship final.

By Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent live in Seoul.  Photos: Yves Lacroix / Badmintonphoto (live)

Pusarla Venkata Sindhu (pictured left) and Nozomi Okuhara played their first match against one another as juniors in Korea in 2012.  The next time they would meet in a final was just over five years later and it was indeed that World Championship final last month that is already being considered historic.

Playing in another final just 3 weeks after their last tournament outing, the two 20-year-olds showed the Seoul crowd the way badminton is played by the two best players in the world.  Sindhu had the loudest cheering section by far but Okuhara – whose bench featured not one but two former Korean stars who are, of course, now long-time coaches for Japan – was anything but underappreciated.

In fact, perhaps the only thing reminiscent of their first final was the identity of the winner.  Still, unlike at the Worlds, Sindhu opened up a huge lead in the deciding game, refusing to let Nozomi capitalize on the momentum from tying the match at one game apiece with a one-sided second game.

But then, Nozomi Okuhara crept gradually closer, narrowing the gap from 11-5 to where she was trailing just 16-18.  For the players, the rallies got longer and more gruelling, sending each player in turn to the mat in exhaustion but for the crowd, it just got more exciting.  Then trading points made even the score look eerily familiar.

After the match, Sindhu insisted she wasn’t thinking about their recent final in Glasgow but she certainly showed she was thinking of it in hindsight: “Actually, I lost after 19-17 in the World Championships but that wasn’t really in my mind, even though there were long rallies.  I thought, no, that next point was very important for me.”

Indeed, she did move up to match point immediately this time and let only one go begging before she finished the third game 21-18.

Sindhu refused to admit any preference for playing a different opponent in a final: “Not really, anyone is fine but this is the second time in a final and it’s immediately after the World Championships.  Before that, people used to say maybe it’s Carolina but now maybe they’re saying, oh, it’s Okuhara in the finals again.  But we have to play one or the other player any time so we have to just give our best.

Ginting wins battle of first-timers

It was all new ground to cover for Indonesians Anthony Ginting and Jonatan Christie.  Not only were both 20-year-olds playing in their first ever final but their only previous encounter in international competition was a first-round match earlier this year.

The two players fought hard to the bitter end, providing the only extra-point finish of the afternoon in Seoul.  Ginting bounced back from blowing his 18-14 lead in the decider, reached match point first, and soon finished it off 22-20 to win not only his first career Superseries title but his first international title period!

“I think today’s match was the toughest,” said Anthony Ginting (pictured right), saying that even though his semi-final was against the world #1, “because the final game went to 20-all.  It was harder because the score was so close.”

“Of course, I can play 100% [against a team-mate like Jonatan] because we already know each other’s strength and weaknesses.”

Asked which player the crowd’s Indonesians were rooting for more, Ginting said, “I think the support for me and for Jonatan from the Indonesians was equal because I couldn’t really hear what they were saying.  I heard once or twice, someone shouting my name so I thought maybe they are supporting me.  That was a little more motivating.”

Boe/Mogensen take Korea title #3

No amount of cheering was able to make the difference in the men’s doubles final, however.  Supporters of Mathias Boe / Carsten Mogensen were clearly the weaker in volume but the Danes were the ones in control on court and they won their third straight victory over Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (pictured left).

The speedy Indonesians did keep things going their way in the second game but the Danes just pulled away in the third and wouldn’t let the younger men back into it.  They succeeded in taking their third Korea Open title in five finals appearances.

“I feel our game was really good,” said Mathias Boe after the final.  “Kevin and Marcus are really tough opponents, they are extremely skilful players, and they are really good in the serving and receiving game so we knew we were up for a big challenge.  Of course we are delighted to win our third title here in Korea.”

“I think we played much better today than we did yesterday,” added Carsten Mogensen.  “We are proud of winning for a third time here and beating a world class pair to show that we are not too old for this sport.  We are happy but we are also exhausted and we fly to Japan tonight and then we start again next week.”

Asked how they would start their week in Japan, Boe said, “I think maybe with a little bit of shopping tomorrow and Tuesday.  It’s always difficult here playing five matches in a row and then having to travel and everything but we have two days to really relax and enjoy this title and then Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning after our break we can start.

“We know what to do, we know how to play our opponents.  The only thing is if we can get the bodies going.”

Final results
XD:  Praveen Jordan / Debby Susanto (INA) [4] beat Wang Yilyu / Huang Dongping (CHN)  21-17, 21-18
WD:  Huang Yaqiong / Yu Xiaohan (CHN) beat Chang Ye Na / Lee So Hee (KOR) [3]  21-11, 21-15
MS:  Anthony Sinisuka Ginting (INA) beat Jonatan Christie (INA)  21-13, 19-21, 22-20
WS:  Pusarla Venkata Sindhu (IND) [5] beat Nozomi Okuhara [8]  22-20, 11-21, 21-18
MD:  Mathias Boe / Carsten Mogensen (DEN) [1] / Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (INA) [2]  21-19, 19-21, 21-15

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