MALAYSIA MASTERS R16 – Kim/Lee oust 4th seeds, capping trio of upsets

Kim Gi Jung and Lee Yong Dae continued to baffle world #3 Kamura/Sonoda as Day 3 of the Malaysia Masters begins with 3 upsets in doubles. By Don Hearn, Badzine […]

Kim Gi Jung and continued to baffle world #3 Kamura/Sonoda as Day 3 of the begins with 3 upsets in doubles.

By Don Hearn, Badzine correspondent live in Kuala Lumpur.  Photos: Mark Phelan / Badmintonphoto (live)

Court 2 at the Malaysia Masters was the site of two upsets in quick succession to begin proceedings on Thursday.  The first was the defeat of world #1 Chen Qingchen / Jia Yifan (pictured bottom).  They suffered their first ever loss to Japan’s fourth pair Nami Matsuyama / Chiharu Shida (pictured right).

Jia Yifan attributed their loss to the fact that it had been so long since they had faced the improving Japanese pair.  In fact, the two pairs last met, twice, in the 2015 World Junior Championships.  Matsuyama was, in fact, the successor to Chen/Jia as girls’ doubles champions when she won in 2016.

But if the Japanese – now ranked 13th in the world and coming off some big wins late in 2019 – had offed the top seeds with a first ever victory, the next match on court was a very different sort of an upset.

Koreans win battle of the Malaysia winners

When Kim Gi Jung and Lee Yong Dae met Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda next on Court 2, the four players assembled represented 3 past titles at Malaysia’s flagship event, the Malaysia Open, although none have yet won this one.  The Japanese players won together in 2018, Kim in 2016, and Lee back in 2009.

Obviously, the Koreans are ranked #36 in the world, far below Kamura/Sonoda’s #3, but on the other hand, the seeded pair had already lost no fewer than 8 times to each Korean and they’ve won only four times against Kim and never against Lee Yong Dae.  The only time these two pairs had met in this combination was at the 2018 Korea Open, when Kim and Lee were just one tournament into their big comeback onto the world stage after a long layoff.

This time, the Koreans, who had a lacklustre 2019, plagued by Lee Yong Dae’s injury problems in the autumn, enjoyed an even more decisive victory over the Japanese than they had the last time.  They played a patient game, creating attacking opportunities seemingly at will, without losing the advantage even on their serves.

“On both sides, we know how each other play and I think that makes it possible for us to approach the match comfortably,” said Kim Gi Jung.

“I’ve played this Japanese pair so many times and I’ve won so many times that it may affect them emotionally, while it gives me a lot of confidence,” added Lee Yong Dae.  “Both sides know what to expect so I think we focus on our playing and that has been working.

“We know how good they can be when they’re playing their game so we tried to keep the shuttle from them and we ended up getting a lot of attacking opportunities and that was definitely in our favour,” said Kim.

“Especially with their short stature we know how good they can be at driving rallies and on the other hand, we are getting older so we want to conserve energy,” said Lee.  “Although attacking all the time can be tiring too, we tried to create those chances rather than trying to drive against them.  When I look at how we played last year, I think we played too defensively so I thought we did better today at keeping the attack.

“I had an injury problem last year but it’s improved a lot and I’m almost completely healed.  The struggle with injuries meant that we couldn’t play at the level we feel we should be capable of.  I’m not saying I expect to get back to the level I once was at but in 2020, I want to be able to raise my game above where it has been and then I think a higher ranking should also follow.”

On his outlook for their next match, against 2019 runners-up Ong/Teo, Lee said, “Each match we play, things seem to be getting better.  The Malaysian team too has been playing well and they’ve had tough matches from the first round.  We lost to them once last year so we’re really going to have to be ready for them.”

Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi (pictured) provided the first upset on Court 1 on Thursday.  The world #19 took down world #11 Han Chengkai / Zhou Haodong in straight games.  The Malaysians are looking strong after defeating two strong young pairs in the first two rounds.  Friday’s quarter-final will be a very different challenge as they prepare to take on the wily Korean veterans.

Japan, meanwhile, is down to just a single pair in men’s doubles.  Two of their top three pairs withdrew before the event and now with their top pair out, they are looking only to Akira Koga / Taichi Saito.  The new national A team members have now beaten 3 former World Champions as they bested Ko/Shin in the first round and then Liu Cheng and new partner Huang Kaixiang in the second.

Liu/Huang had their chances but they blew a 15-9 lead in the deciding game and then one match point before bowing to the unsung Japanese pair.  China began the tournament with 6 pairs but are down to just one, 2018 World Champions Li/Liu, who face Lee/Yang of Chinese Taipei.

Click here for complete Round of 16 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 @