KOREA MASTERS 2019 Finals – Veteran ladies suffer upsets

An Se Young finally got the better of veteran team-mate Sung Ji Hyun to win the Korea Masters, followed by Japan’s Matsuyama/Shida taking down their Rio gold medallist team-mates. Story […]

An Se Young finally got the better of veteran team-mate Sung Ji Hyun to win the , followed by Japan’s Matsuyama/Shida taking down their Rio gold medallist team-mates.

Story and photos by Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent live in Gwangju

Of the two players contesting the women’s singles final at the Gwangju Korea Masters, An Se Young was certainly the one who has got the most attention lately.  The fact that she is still only 17 is really just part of it.  She was the one with 4 titles so far in 2019 – one of them a Super 750 – and the one who has beaten Tai Tzu Ying, P. V. Sindhu, and Carolina Marin this year.  Not to mention that her semi-final win was a second straight against former world #1 Akane Yamaguchi.

But that is not to say that a win was certain against Sung Ji Hyun.  Her 28-year-old compatriot was the highest seed and she recently took her 4th Chinese Taipei Open title, a feat she was looking to repeat at the Korea Masters, which she had also won on 3 previous occasions.

Most importantly, though, Sung had managed to beat An in all 3 of their previous encounters, a feat that only she and Chen Yufei could claim.  Two of those wins against An came in September, when the youngster was already riding high from all the attention after her 3 titles and her win against Tai at the Sudirman Cup.  Even the home court advantage was something Sung had overcome before, when she beat An in her hometown last November as well.

Still, once they got on court, it was clear that it was An Se Young who was in the zone.  The teenager cruised to a 21-13 win in the opening game and then got the advantage in the second as well, stretching her lead out to 15-10.

Sung Ji Hyun did manage to tie things up, though, and even nosed out in front at 16-15, but An’s reaction was reminiscent of her semi-final, when Yamaguchi caught her at 16 and didn’t win another point.  This time, Sung did manage one more but An took control of the final 5 rallies and threw in a couple of jump smashes as she closed it out 21-17.

“I think she was a little faster than in our previous matches,” said Sung Ji Hyun after the final.  “Her defense was also more effective so it was tough to play her today.  I wanted to attack but in order to create those chances, you have to do everything else well.”

“I have always lost in the past to Ji Hyun so being able to win this time and get the title at home feels great,” said An Se Young.  “In our previous matches, I have tended to lose focus when I’ve been behind so this time, I concentrated on every point and I was determined to fight to the end, focusing on every stroke.

“In the second game, I let my concentration lapse a bit and she was able to catch up to me. But my coaches were behind me shouting to me to concentrate and I was able to get my focus back.

“Ji Hyun has a good attack from the backcourt.  That was hurting me today again but in the latter part of the game, she started to make errors and that gave me the opportunity to win.

“I’m still young so I’m able to play without so much pressure but each time I win, that also adds to my confidence.  The Olympic race isn’t over yet so for now I’m concentrating on getting more good results so that I can qualify and represent Korea in women’s singles in Tokyo.”

Asked about the part the spectators played, An said, “It really felt good to be playing in Gwangju and to hear the support from the fans here.  Their support helped me to win the title and I’d really like to thank all those who came out to support me.”

2nd title in 4 finals for Japan’s young pair

Nami Matsuyama, 21, and Chiharu Shida (pictured above), 22, are the youngest of the 4 Japanese pairs in the world’s top 15.  Today, they took on their illustrious compatriots, Rio gold medallists Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi for the title at the Korea Masters.

Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi (pictured right) may seem like they are slumming it a little playing a event.  But they are in grave danger of not getting a ticket to defend their gold at next summer’s Tokyo Olympics.  At the time of the Gwangju registration, it looked as if they still had a strong chance to qualify for the season-ending World Tour Finals.  In any case, having lost 4 finals since their last title, the Indonesia Masters in January, the veterans likely felt it was high time for a win.

Matsuyama and Shida begged to differ, however.  After dropping the first game, the young Japanese duo kept in front in the second.  Early in the decider, they were forced to play catch-up but they did reel in their veteran opponents each time and finally looked set to take it home when they were leading 17-14.

Matsutomo and Takahashi held their nerve, though, and they caught up at 18-all.  It was the younger pair that seemed to have the energy and the desire in the closing rallies, however, and they kept on the attack and never lost their focus until they had the last three points and the Korea Masters title.

Matsuyama and Shida thus took the third Super 300 title of their partnership.  Soon they will be gearing up for next year’s national team selection, which may well determine how many chances they will get next year to compete for even bigger titles.

Lin Dan denied

Just a few days ago, it became clear that Lin Dan’s shot at a berth in the World Tour Finals was doomed as the BWF had decided he had run afoul of a relatively new regulation that limits certain top players from competing in too many Super 300 events.  However, Kanta Tsuneyama decided to render all those calculations moot when he denied Lin Dan the result that might have put him in the top 8 in the Race to Guangzhou standings.

It was not the first time that Tsuneyama had got the better of Lin Dan.  The 23-year-old Japanese shuttler had cut short Lin Dan’s run at the 2019 All England, an event the Chinese legend had already won 6 times.  This time, Lin Dan was looking for his 6th title on Korean soil too, as he had won the Korea Open 3 times, as well as the 2014 Asian Championships and Asian Games, which were also held in Korea.

Kanta Tsuneyama opened up a gaping 15-8 lead in the opening game and held his nerve as Lin Dan quickly erased the lead, then saved a game point and earned his own.  Tsuneyama held it together and won 24-22 on his third opportunity.

In the second game, Tsuneyama held a slight lead at the interval but pulled away in earnest afterward.  This time, there was no pursuit and the Japanese shuttler recorded the win comfortably.  It was his 3rd major title, after the Canada Open in 2017 and the Singapore Open Super 500 last year.

Malaysia 0 for 2

The day started and ended in disappointment for Malaysian fans.  In the opening match, Goh Soon Huat / Shevon Jemie Lai looked capable of reeling in Tang Chun Man and Tse Ying Suet (pictured bottom) in the second game, despite a blood injury to Goh’s finger.  But in the end, the Hong Kong pair stayed in front and took their second Super 300 title of the year, winning in straight games.

The last match was by far the closest.  All three games had a 2-point margin and Malaysia’s Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong had to save two match points in the second before a 4-point run sent the match to a decider.

The closing rallies featured some devastating attacks by Lee Yang and Wang Chi Lin (pictured) of Chinese Taipei, interspersed with some agonizing errors.  Goh and Tan played excellent defense and capitalized on many of their chances but in the end, there just weren’t enough of either and they were unable to take their third title of the year.

With the Korea Masters completed, many of the players will be getting a break from a hectic schedule.  The men’s doubles winners are the only finalists from Gwangju who have to rest up for a couple of weeks and be ready for the World Tour Finals.  An Se Young and Tang/Tse are both slated to play in the Syed Modi Super 300 next week.

Final results
XD:  Tang Chun Man / Tse Ying Suet (HKG) [5] beat Goh Soon Huat / Shevon Jemie Lai (MAS) [6]  21-14, 21-15
WS:  An Se Young (KOR) [7] beat Sung Ji Hyun (KOR) [5]  21-13, 21-17
MS:  Kanta Tsuneyama (JPN) beat Lin Dan (CHN)  24-22, 21-12
WD:  Nami Matsuyama / Chiharu Shida (JPN) beat Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi (JPN) [4]  15-21, 21-17, 21-18
MD:  Lee Yang Wang Chi Lin (TPE) [6] beat Goh V Shem Tan Wee Kiong (MAS) [7]  21-19, 20-22, 21-19

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