KOREA OPEN 2018 QF – Seo in two semis, 3 others left with 1

Seo Seung Jae was the only shuttler to book tickets to two Korea Open semi-finals as Du Yue, Yuta Watanabe, and Dechapol Puavaranukroh were all 1-and-1. By Don Hearn, Badzine […]

Seo Seung Jae was the only shuttler to book tickets to two semi-finals as Du Yue, Yuta Watanabe, and Dechapol Puavaranukroh were all 1-and-1.

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

21-year-old Seo Seung Jae (pictured above, with Choi Sol Gyu) may only have been playing international doubles for 17 months but having a good tournament in both men’s and mixed doubles is actually not such a new thing for him.  Late last year, he was a double runner-up at the Macau Open and a few weeks later at the Korea Masters, he did one better in both disciplines and took the doubles double, the first man to score one since his compatriot Ko Sung Hyun had won two at the same event a year earlier.

Still, the Korean Open is a whole new adventure for the young Korean left-hander.  He began the event on Tuesday in qualifying – a last-minute call-up from the reserve list – having never done better than a quarter-final in a , , or better.

Not so for the other three players involved in two quarter-finals here in Seoul.  Du Yue had been a semi-finalist at the India Open, Dechapol Puavaranukroh was in the Singapore Open final last year.  In fact, the first of the four to lose in Seoul was the All England champion Yuta Watanabe (pictured right) and it was he whom Seo got the better of in their mixed doubles quarter-final.

In men’s doubles, the odds were even greater against the Koreans, in a way.  Seo and Choi Sol Gyu were playing in only their second individual tournament as a pair and the last one was down at the Super 300 level.  Their opponents, meanwhile, were runners-up at the Indonesia Open Super 1000 and have been playing together since they were juniors.

The Koreans had the support of their home crowd but the spectators had just suffered the disappointment of watching 8-time champion Lee Yong Dae and new partner Kim Gi Jung lose a close ones to another of the three Japanese pairs in the final eight.

But Takuto Inoue and Yuki Kaneko never got it together against Choi and Seo.  The Koreans moved fast and hit hard, while the errors came fast and frequently off the racquets of their Japanese opponents.

“Seung Jae and I have played together in team events but this is our first time in a Superseries,” said Choi Sol Gyu.  “We are so happy to win but we have another important match tomorrow so we are going to prepare well and concentrate on producing another good result.”

“Both of us play mixed so we are both used to attacking from the backcourt, but depending on the situation, no matter who rotates to the front, we have the trust in the partner at the back so the guy at the front can focus on the net play without having to worry.  We haven’t got into the habit of depending more on a main frontcourt and a main backcourt player.”

Next up for the Koreans are Takuro Hoki / Yugo Kobayashi (pictured above).  By the time the 2017 semi-finalists stepped onto the court on Friday, their unseeded opponents seemed like favourites.

Still, Hoki and Kobayashi were not daunted by facing the new pairing of former world #2 Kim Gi Jung and #1 Lee Yong Dae (pictured).  They clawed their way back from 12-17 to win the first game in extra points, and it was the Korean veterans who seemed to have trouble with their nerves as Lee struggled with his serve and Kim found the net with both smashes and defensive shots.  The Japanese pair finished it off with a 6-point run to end the deciding game.

Choi Sol Gyu pointed out that he has been playing these Japanese players for many years, since he was a junior.  Of the upcoming semi-final, he said, “Our opponents tomorrow have a really good attack from the backcourt so we are going to have to be ready defensively and we are going to have to keep up our concentration in every rally right from the serve to work on getting the attack first.”

Seo Seung Jae added, “I think if we can take control at the front and move fast around the court to stay on the attack, I think we can put pressure on them.”

On the significance of having the chance to succeed where Kim and Lee failed, Choi said, “Of course, Korean players have done well at this event so often in the past and we are so happy that it is happening for us for the first time.”

Asked whether there is more or less pressure now that Kim and Lee have lost, Choi said, “We knew we would have a tough match next because Kim and Lee are such a strong team and we fully expected them to win today.  Now that they have lost and it is the Japanese pair we will be facing, we just think we really don’t want to lose this one so we are going to prepare well to play a good match tomorrow.”

Japan still has a shot at an all-Japanese final in men’s doubles.  Yuta Watanabe had more success in his men’s doubles match, together with Hiroyuki Endo.  They failed with their first three game points in their opener against Malaysians Aaron Chia / Soh Wooi Yik but didn’t look back in the second and won in straight games.

Malaysia actually had a chance at guaranteeing a final spot a day early but as it is, Chooi Kah Ming and Low Juan Shen, after beating Thailand’s Kittinupong Kedren / Dechapol Puavaranukroh in three, will have to go up against Endo and Watanabe for a berth in Sunday’s final.  Puavaranukroh, like Watanabe, is still alive in one other discipline, even if the doubles double is now out of reach.

In women’s doubles, Japan scored a solid four for four.  Naoko Fukuman and Kurumi Yonao were the only ones who had to play a third game, as they dropped their first one to Indonesians Anggia Shitta Awanda and Ni Ketut Mahadewi Istarani (pictured bottom).

It was the late evening victory by 4th-seeded Shiho Tanaka / Koharu Yonemoto that denied Du Yue her second ticket.  She and He Jiting had prevailed earlier in the mixed doubles but with Li Yinhui (pictured above), she couldn’t find a way past the Japanese veterans.

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