KOREA OPEN 2018 SF – Last Danes and Chinese to mix it up

The last Danes and the last Chinese at the Korea Open will face off for the mixed doubles title, after Christinna Pedersen and Mathias Christiansen beat the home favourites in […]

The last Danes and the last Chinese at the will face off for the mixed doubles title, after Christinna Pedersen and Mathias Christiansen beat the home favourites in three.

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

Five semi-finalists at the Korea Open were the last representatives of their respective countries, bobbing up in a sea of Japanese contenders.  Four proceeded to keep alive their hopes of flying their flag in the semis, with the last Chinese and the last Danish pairs set to face off in the mixed doubles final.

After the Japanese, it was actually the Koreans who were best represented on semi-finals day.  But with Seo Seung Jae and Chae Yoo Jung (pictured right) duelling it out with Christinna Pedersen and Mathias Christiansen (pictured top) for who would keep their country’s fans happy until Sunday, the Danes succeeded in disappointing the Seoul crowd by winning in three close games.

The opening game was very close but the Koreans clawed back a game point before taking it home 22-20.  The Danes ran away with the next two games after the interval, while the Koreans struggled to get on the attack.

“It was as difficult as we suspected,” said Christinna Pedersen after the win.  “The Koreans were very good, especially from the start, and we were struggling a bit.  I was struggling to find the right rhythm.  Mathias was really, really good behind me, fighting all the way and we found our way back so I’m really proud.”

“It was a good, tough match with some really good rallies.  There were some really textbook things going on there in really tricky conditions,” said Christiansen.

“It could be a dream to catch one more,” said Pedersen on the prospect of taking the title on Sunday.  “Right now, I’m just really happy and proud that we are in another final.  We were saying on the bus today, coming here for this match, that we haven’t even been playing together for a year yet and already in a new final.  I’m proud of that.”

“There’s a lot of Chinese pairs and every time we lose in the tournaments, it is often to the Chinese pairs,” said Christiansen.  “They have, like, four pairs in the top ten and now we are meeting pair #4 tomorrow.  They have been playing very well here and have beaten a lot of good pairs to get to the final so it’s going to be a tough match.”

Pedersen explained a strategy change the made the difference: “I had the feeling at the beginning that I was a bit too close to the net.  They were really good at making it tricky for me so they showed that they wanted to play short and then they pushed it just at my head, in the first game.  So we talked about it, that I had to be ready, of course, but still be aware that they could push it and I think that it’s that small thing from Kenneth helped me.  I felt much more comfortable playing at the net from then on.”

Chou ready for Indonesian challenge

The first men’s singles semi-final was the only defeat of a Japanese semi-finalist by a non-Japanese player.  Asian Games silver medallist Chou Tien Chen (pictured right) had never lost to his opponent Kenta Nishimoto but he was unable to catch up in the opener and had to fight back from a game down.

Nishimoto kept it close in the second game but it totally slipped away from him in the decider.  The win puts Chou in his fifth final of the year and he is looking for his third title.  When he spoke in the mixed zone, of course, his opponent for the final hadn’t been decided, but he was facing the prospect of a rematch of the Asian Games final against a player he had never beaten.

“If I make the final, it is just a challenge for me,” said Chou.  “It’s no problem if I win or lose.  I just try to learn something to prepare for something like the World Championships or the Olympics so I just do my best. I haven’t beaten Jonatan Christie yet but it’s no problem because I have a chance.  Regardless of which player comes up, I’ll just look and see how they play and I just enjoy the game.”

Asked if there was something he had to do differently to beat him the next time he faces him, Chou said, “Of course, but it’s a secret!”

As it was, he did not have to worry about finding the secret, as Tommy Sugiarto (pictured) got the better of his younger compatriot in straight games.  In fact, the 30-year-old was in a final on his first visit to Korea, way back in 2006, when he was runner-up in the World Junior Championships in Incheon.

Interestingly, Sugiarto said he recalled playing that final 12 years ago: “I was really hoping for the same result tomorrow, only to win the final this time.  I hope so.

“Although I’m not on the national team any more, [Christie and I] know each other very well and I’m still happy to play for my country.  My target is still not only to win for myself but also to win for Indonesia.

“Obviously I’m really happy to beat the gold medallist because I did not have the chance to play in Jakarta for Indonesia in the Asian Games.  I’m just concentrating now on doing my best tomorrow.”

While Korea found nothing but disappointment in three semi-finals on Saturday, they were not alone in seeing their challenge end.  Thailand came up short in the mixed doubles where Puavaranukroh and Taerattanachai were attempting to leave China empty-handed instead.  In the last match of the day, Chooi/Low were unable to keep Malaysian hopes alive and men’s doubles will instead see an all-Japanese final.  Nozomi Okuhara (pictured bottom) beat her compatriot Akane Yamaguchi in three games and will be the only Japanese shuttler not facing a compatriot on Sunday.

Finals line-up
MS:  Chou Tien Chen [4] vs. Tommy Sugiarto (INA) [8]
WS:  Nozomi Okuhara (JPN) [3] vs. Zhang Beiwen (USA) [6]
MD:  Hiroyuki Endo / Yuta Watanabe (JPN) [8] vs. Takuro Hoki / Yugo Kobayashi (JPN)
WD:  Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota (JPN) [1] vs. Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi (JPN) [2]
XD:  Mathias Christiansen / Christinna Pedersen (DEN) [2] vs. He Jiting / Du Yue (CHN) [5]

Click here for complete semi-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