Thailand’s Supak Jomkoh / Supissara Paewsampran scored the biggest upset in the opening match on Thursday, while none of the matches involving Hong Kong players finished according to seed.
By Don Hearn. Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)
In the very first match on Thursday at the Toyota Thailand Open, home mixed doubles pairing Supak Jomkoh / Supissara Paewsampran blew 5 match points but finally prevailed over England’s world #9 Marcus Ellis / Lauren Smith (pictured right) to reach the quarter-finals.
The world #44 Thais were struggling early in their deciding game after the European Games gold medallists bounced back to dominate the second. The English pair denied the Thais the lead and pulled ahead to 10-7 but the home pair reeled them in to lead 11-10 at the interval. Late in the match, everything seemed to be going right for the Thais and they surged ahead to earn 5 match points at 20-15.
“When we were leading at 20-15, we weren’t in a rush,” said Supok Jomkoh. “We were just waiting for our opponents to make a mistake. We had nothing to lose; we just wanted to enjoy it.”
One by one, Ellis and Smith chipped away until they’d earned themselves a match point, which they promptly squandered with a serve into the net. The Thais then executed the last two rallies perfectly and came away with the 23-21 win.
“I think they got quite tense in the final game and we sensed the opportunity to win,” said Lauren Smith after the match. “Then I got a bit tense and served a crucial serve into the net, which is really frustrating. I think it’s a fine example of these matches being the match play we have not had for months. We’ve not been in these positions or had that mental challenge, so I think that let me down today.”
Ups and downs for Hong Kong
Three Thursday matches featured Hong Kong players, all three featured seeded players, and in all three, the seed fell.
In the first of these, last weekend’s runner-up Ng Ka Long suffered a reversal at the hands of Wang Tzu Wei (pictured). Ng had beaten Wang the last two times they’d met, also in Bangkok, and also on a Thursday. But this time, it was Wang’s turn and there was none of the suspense of last Thursday’s nail-biter as the Chiense Taipei shuttler won it in straight Games.
Hong Kong’s Lee Cheuk Yiu (pictured below) may have been the underdog in his match against 5th-seeded Anthony Ginting but Ginting certainly knew the danger. The last time they met was a real fairy-tale for Lee as he beat the Indonesian in the final of his home Super 500 event.
This time, Ginting seemed to be cruising to an easy spot in the quarter-finals, opening up a 17-10 lead in the first game, only to see Lee come storming back to win it 21-19. From there, it was just the two fleet-footed players trading one-sided wins and Lee won it on a 7-point run in the decider.
“I was more patient because the shuttle is slow,” said Lee Cheuk Yiu after the match. “Last week he was in the semi-finals, so it’s a good win. I had beaten him in the Hong Kong Open final, so maybe I was a bit more comfortable against him. That helped me prepare for this match.”
Soon afterward, it was Lee’s compatriots Tang Chun Man and Tse Ying Suet (pictured bottom) on the other side of a 17-10 reversal. That was their biggest lead in their opening game against Korea’s Ko Sung Hyun and Eom Hye Won (pictured below).
As with Ginting, the fact that Tang/Tse were playing unseeded opponents did little to make their job easier. After all, Ko won a World Championship title the year after Eom was a runner-up. On top of their immense experience, Ko was at full strength and thundered down every shuttle lifted to him at the back. The Koreans erased the deficit en route to taking the first game 22-20 and then never allowed their opponents to see daylight in the second.
“At the beginning of the game we weren’t doing quite well and our opponents were in good form,” Ko Sung Hyun said after the win, “but we played well at the end and won the first game, so maybe our opponents got worried about that in the second game. Tang and Tse may see after this that we are strong.
“I was worried today because I know the Hong Kong China team are good. The win has boosted my confidence and we will try to use that confidence to prepare ourselves for tomorrow.”
In the quarter-finals, there will be two Korea-Thailand match-ups, as Ko/Eom take on top seeds Puavaranukroh/Taerattanachai while Jomkoh/Paewsampran face 4th-seeded Koreans Seo/Chae. Seo and Chae are in a must-win situation if they wish to qualify for next week’s World Tour Finals.