The shocker of the day came when the second women’s doubles finalist was decided at last and the final will feature the only two pairs that have ever beaten China’s Wang Xiaoli / Yu Yang, just when the world #1’s were beginning to look invincible.
Wang and Yu, of course, lost the Asian Games final, and later their second international match against their compatriots Tian/Zhao. But since last January, no one has been able to interrupt their steady string of golds and they dominated Korea’s top pair in the final of the Li-Ning BWF Super Series Finals in Liuzhou last month.
This time around, though, Ha Jung Eun and Kim Min Jung (pictured right) put up a good fight in the first game and then turned the tables in the second, refusing to be cowered by the Chinese pair’s strong attacks.
“We’ve lost to them about six times but this was the first time we’d played them in Korea so it was a lot more comfortable for us,” said Ha Jung Eun after the match, “and I got the impression that the Chinese players were rather impatient to win it.”
“Because it’s an Olympic year, we really wanted to hurry up and score a victory over one of the Chinese pairs,” added Kim Min Jung, “but we still need work on our fitness.
“I think we’re able to use our defense quite well but they are so fast that even when we get attacking opportunities, they get back in position so the rallies keep on going.
“Winning today wasn’t really a case of getting revenge for losing the Superseries Finals,” explained Kim. “Actually, there was some friction between Jung Eun and me at that time and we just couldn’t play well and we couldn’t enjoy it.
“So this time, we really resolved that we were going to play well and have a good tournament.”
Earlier, Zhao Yunlei had said that, since they were playing in Korea, she would prefer Wang and Yu as opponents. Zhao, who is the only Chinese player who has never lost to a Korean pair, fought back from a game down to maintain her streak as she and Tian Qing saw off gritty youngsters Jung/Kim.
The men’s doubles also featured a grudge match from Liuzhou. Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng (pictured left), who had suffered a first ever loss to Korea’s Ko/Yoo there, blazed to an easy win to set up a repeat of the 2010 final against three-time champions Jung/Lee.
Men’s singles will also see a New Year instalment of a classic rivalry, after straight-game wins by both Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei, the only finalist not from Korea or China.
Mixed doubles had its first upset-free day of the year. Second-seeded Xu/Ma (pictured right) gave no quarter to Fischer Nielsen/Pedersen and tipped their head-to-head record against the Danes back in their favour.
Europe’s other challenger had left earlier. In the first match of the day, crowd favourites Lee Yong Dae and Ha Jung Eun booked their first ever berth in an OSIM BWF Superseries final by beating Russia’s Nikolaenko/Sorokina in two.
“This match was shorter than I expected,” said Lee Yong Dae afterward. “We were pretty nervous at the beginning but we gained confidence as the match went on.”
Asked whom they would rather face in the final, Lee answered, “We haven’t beaten either team so it doesn’t make much difference to us who wins. We just need to concentrate on playing hard to win the title.”
“I haven’t been in a Korean Open final yet so I don’t feel that I’m under pressure,” said Ha Jung Eun, “but Yong Dae has won here and a lot of fans are counting on him so he will be very motivated and I think we will be able to play a really good final.”
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