Thursday, May 23, 2019
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
Korea’s title defence of the World Mixed Team Championships ended in defeat but not disgrace in the quarterfinals of the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2019 today at the hands of Thailand.
Heavily dependent on a clutch of young and inexperienced talent, Korea still made a fist of it, going down 1-3 after being 0-2 down.
It was a crackling encounter, with Puavaranukroh/Taerattanchai having just enough in reserve for a surge at the end of both games: 21-18 21-18.
The head-to-head record of the men’s singles duellists was even, at a win each for Kantaphon Wangcharoen and Korea’s Heo Kwang Hee.
Today, however, it was Wangcharoen who dominated his opponent all the way, putting Thailand 2-0 ahead with his 21-17 21-17 victory.
Kang and Kim took their time to settle down, and the Thais dominated the early passage of play. However, once the Koreans started to work well together, Isriyanet and Kedren began to look slightly ragged. Korea were back in the tie after the long-drawn men’s doubles went their way at 19-21 21-17 21-14.
Then came the much-anticipated clash between Korean teen star An Se Young and Ratchanok Intanon. An has been the revelation of the tournament, and her upset of world No.1 Tai Tzu Ying had marked her as a dangerous opponent to the established stars.
It took some time before Intanon started to feel the heat.
Able to craft openings and fire winners initially, the Thai found herself confronting an indefatigable opponent.
An Se Young’s footwork and anticipation were once again exemplary. Intanon did catch her from time to time with her razor-sharp strokes, but the Korean was never deceived twice in succession. Rarely was she out of position; and even when caught short, she dived in time to keep the shuttle in play. Intanon’s leads of 13-8 and 15-11 disappeared in a flurry of errors; the Korean was riding the momentum until the Thai showed greater urgency and craft at the end to prevent the danger of a third game.
“I don’t think she was physically at her best today. That made the difference. There was no pressure on her, she was running and picking up everything. It was important for us to do well here as Thailand have not won a medal this year. I expected we would win 3-0. Her win over Tai Tzu Ying reminded me that I had to be well prepared today.” – Ratchanok Intanon, after overcoming An Se Young.