Saturday, May 1, 2010

Badminton News: Unseeded South Korea are always a tough nut to crack

Razif Sidek, captain of the last Malaysian team to win the Thomas Cup in 1992, runs the rule over South Korea in the run-up to this year’s edition and shares his views with StarSports’s LIM TEIK HUAT. Razif feels that the Koreans, bolstered by the return of dangerman Lee Hyun-il and their usually reliable doubles players, should not be taken lightly.

SOUTH Korea are not seeded this time but this is where the danger lies.
I’m sure all the top four teams – China, Indonesia, Denmark and Malaysia – will want to avoid playing them before the semi-finals, if possible.
As a team, South Korea are always hard to beat in a Thomas Cup tie and I believe they have a good chance to qualify for the final again.
Their players are always fighting, regardless of the situation, and they will fight until they drop dead on court.
It’s not going to be easy to take on a South Korean team if we are to face them in the quarter-finals after the fresh draw is made.
I must admit I am not so familiar with the Korean team as they have changed a lot but the singles line-up should be quite straight-forward.
Only thing is that they are unpredictable in the doubles department and this is where they have the advantage in their bid to make an impact in the Finals.
All their doubles players can play and are of equal strength.
They are capable of throwing up new combinations to surprise us and I can speak from experience when we (partnering Jalani Sidek) lost to them in our opening group tie when we hosted the 1992 Finals. Park Joo-bong did not play with his usual partner Kim Moon-soo and we were caught off-guard. Malaysia eventually lost the tie but it was a good wake-up call as we came back to win the tournament.
They would be even stronger if their doubles star Lee Yong-dae was not left out because of his injuries but I don’t think we should write off their chances.
Juggling act: Ko Sung-hyun (left) and Yoo Yeon-seong celebrate after beating Malaysia’s Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong in the Swiss Open final in March. — AP
There are six Korean doubles players (Shin Baek-cheol, Jung Jae-sung, Yoo Yeon-seong, Ko Sung-hyun, Kim Ki-jung-Cho Gun-woo) and this is where they are capable of throwing up new combinations.
I don’t know whether they will field the pairing of Sung-hyun-Yeon-seong (who beat Malaysia’s Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong to win the Swiss Open title in March) but I am sure they have been trying out the combinations back home before coming here.
I believe they are trying to soften the blow by bringing back former Asian Games silver medallist Lee Hyun-il and it is always a plus to have someone as experienced as him playing in third singles.
He was a very fast player and used to beat the top Chinese players when he was at his top a few years ago. I hope our coaches will try to dig out information on Hyun-il’s latest condition now that he has been brought back for the Finals.
Don’t forget, South Korea have valuable knowledge of our players from Li Mao, who coached our singles players, including Lee Chong Wei, just a few years ago.
South Korea have as good a chance as Denmark and Indonesia of making it to the final but, if you are talking about winning, China are still the favourites.
But this is now the 21-point system in badminton and anything can happen ... so there is still the element of surprise.

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