This years finals at Korea Open are now done and we experienced surprising wins, first time winners and also an all-Korean final – get an overview here!
Kento Momota clinches singles title with straight games win
Top-ranked Kento Momota of Japan clinched the men’s singles title at the Korea Open badminton tournament on Sunday with a win over number two Chou Tien-chen of Taiwan. The 25-year-old downed Chou 21-19, 21-17 in a final that lasted 53 minutes. Momota, with over 300 wins under his belt, saw his career descend into controversy in 2016 when he was suspended for more than a year for visiting an illegal casino and was denied a spot at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The Japanese star, who was world number two at the time, has since worked his way back to the top and Sunday’s win raises his Olympic hopes a year ahead of the Tokyo Games. He played a strong net game and even stronger attacks and kept things close throughout but the two-time World Champion still finished as the winner in straight games. It was Momota’s first win in Korea since he was Asian Junior Champion way back in 2012.
First time winning a tournament
22-year-old He Bingjiao was only 16 when she came to Korea for the 2013 Jeonju Grand Prix Gold. At the time, she was the reigning Asian Under-17 champion and she reached the semi-final in what was her first senior international tournament overseas. At the Korea Open, she had been in the semis once before, losing to eventual winner P. V. Sindhu. This year, she came hoping to end a title drought that stretched back to the 2016 French Open, meaning that she had yet to title since leaving her teen years. She came in with a 4-1 record over opponent Ratchanok Intanon (pictured right). However, it was the Thai who came in as favourite to take her 3rd Super 500 title of the year and she got off to the better start and grabbed the first game. In the second, Intanon came back from 8-13 down to earn 4 match points at 20-16. But He wouldn’t go quietly. Slowly but surely, she erased one match point after another.
The deciding game featured more exciting rallies and close scores but He led throughout until she had the title 21-17. Before repairing to the medal ceremony, she called out to her coaches and then grabbed her bag and tossed two racquets into the crowd of very appreciative spectators.“In the second game, I calmed down and I was able to stick to my strategy better,” said He Bingjiao of her reversal of fortunes after dropping the opener. “Before the final, I was thinking ‘Will I win or will I lose?’ so it made me very anxious. Now that I have won my first title in 3 years, I can’t say anything because my brain is just empty. The first thing I want to do is tell my parents about my win and after that, I will think about what’s going on tonight because I’m not such an outgoing person. “From this tournament, I’ve learned some ways to win, particularly when I fall behind and I think that will be useful in my coming tournaments. Everyone is looking forward to my next final and I am too.” So finally after two promising past results in Korea, He Bingjiao is the Korea Open champion. Of her feelings about playing and winning in this country, she said, “The atmosphere for badminton here is very good. The spectators know a lot so they know how to watch the match and how to cheer. Also the food here is good, I like it, so I play well.” Asked whether racquet giveaways were part of her normal winning routine, He replied, “This was the first time for me ever to do something like that. Right before I did that, I asked my coach if it would be okay if I threw my racquet into the crowd and he said, ‘Sure, why not?’”
A surprising win
On the other hand, surprises come from mixed doubles. Thailand’s third-world representative, Dechapol Puavaranukroh / Sapsiree Taerattanachai, was able to break the string of dominance of China’s first-leading toughness, Zheng Si Wei / Huang Ya Qiong, with a score of 21-14, 21-13, in just 35 minutes.
The all-Korean women’s doubles final
It was an electric atmosphere in the Incheon Airport Skydome on Sunday for the opening match between two pairs each hoping to become the first home pair to win the women’s doubles title at home since 2016. In the end, Lee So Hee was relegated to runner-up status for a third time in 5 outings as the title went to first-time finalists Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong. The 5th seeds had no intention of being upstaged in their first Korea Open final together, however. They came out firing against a nervous-looking Kim So Yeong / Kong Hee Yong (pictured left) and won the first game handily, as their opponents repeatedly sent shuttles long an otherwise struggled to gain control of the rallies. Kim/Kong started slow again in the second but they kept it much closer and began to close in in the bottom half of the game. After falling behind 10-14, Kim So Yeong finished off a thrilling rally by placing a net kill on the backhand tram lines to finally tie up the second game at 14-all and propel her side into the lead for the first time. Kim tied it up again at 17-all with a reverse-slice drop to almost the same part of the court. Soon afterward, Kim/Kong surged ahead with 3 straight points to even the match at one game apiece.
“The Korea Open is the biggest tournament held in Korea so we are so glad to win the title here,” said Kim So Yeong. “This may be our fourth title this year but the word ‘champion’ never gets old. It still makes us so happy to hear it.” Kong Hee Yong added, “I’m really happy to win such a big tournament at home in Korea and I’m really grateful to So Yeong for making that possible.” “The first game really didn’t turn out the way we’d envisioned it,” said Kim. “We were also losing in the second game, I think because we were being greedy for points, so I told Hee Yong we should relax and rethink things and I made a little change to my serve and I think that through off Seung Chan.”
Alfian and Ardianto end their own mini-drought
After the full concentration given by home spectators to the all-Korean final in women’s doubles that opened the afternoon’s proceedings at the 2019 Korea Open finals, the next best spectacle involved a vociferous contingent of Indonesian fans. They had come mainly to lend their support to Fajar Alfian / Muhammad Rian Ardianto. Only 5 pairs in the world are ranked ahead of the Asian Games silver medallists, 1 was not in attendance in Incheon, and the Indonesians had to beat 3 of the other 4 if they wanted to win the Korea Open title. As it turned out, it took Olympic gold medallist Zhang Nan, in his new partnership with Ou Xuanyi, to push Alfian and Ardianto to three games. Their world #1 compatriots Gideon/Sukamuljo, then 2018 World Champions Li/Liu, both went down in two games. Then world #4 Takeshi Kamura / Keigo Sonoda played their usual fast, focused game in the final but the Indonesians just played that little bit faster and flew that little bit higher, and they won in straight games, and by bigger margins than they had all week.
“This tournament is very important because it’s been a long time since we’ve been at the top of the podium so this will make us more confident,” said Alfian after the win, their first at a Super 500 event since the Malaysia Masters in January of last year. In the interim, they had won Asian Games silver and also two Super 300 titles. Asked whether it was more important to get the win itself or to have the opportunity to stay within striking distance of their compatriots in the rankings, Ardianto said, “Of course, it is always a motivation that we have to catch up to the other Indonesian pairs in the world rankings but we don’t want to focus too much on that. We want to focus on our own success.” On their successes the past few days, Alfian said, “The Chinese pair is very tough to play against. It’s not easy for us to beat them because they are so powerful but as for Sonoda and Kamura, we did not expect that we would be able to beat them in straight games.” “Every opponent has been a challenge for us but we didn’t expect that we could beat the world #1, #3, and #4 pairs so every match was hard,” added Ardianto.
|Men’s Singles||Kento Momota|
|Women’s Singles||He Bingjiao|
|Men’s Doubles|| Fajar Alfian|
Muhammad Rian Ardianto
|Women’s Doubles|| Kim So-yeong|
|Mixed Doubles|| Dechapol Puavaranukroh|