Saturday, April 4, 2009

OSAKA INT'L - Singles Seeds Stung

Only two seeded players remain in the singles draws at the 2009 Osaka International Challenge. Korea has swept all four semi-final spots in the men's event while a Korea-Japan final is fixed for the women's singles. Meanwhile, Japan accounts for all but one doubles semi-finalist in all three disciplines.

By Don Hearn. Photos: Don Hearn and (archives)

20-year-old 8th seed Shon Wan Ho was the only seeded player to make it to the semi-finals in men's singles. He also played the longest of the four matches on Friday as it took him just under an hour to see off Pakkawat Vilailak of Thailand 21-11, 21-23, 21-15. He will face Korean veteran Jang Young Soo, who beat second seed Hsieh Yu Hsin in 3.

Top seed Ai Goto barely made it through to the last four in women's singles, beating Korean veteran Bae Seung Hee 24-22, 18-21, 21-15 in a 74-minute marathon quarter-final. She will face Imai Sachiyo in the semi-finals. The other semi-final will be between Korea's twin towers, Kim Moon Hee and Sung Ji Hyun Kim had worked hard in the second round to eliminate China's only entry, Wang Rong, but had an easy time with Thai teenager Porntip Buranaprasertsuk in the quarter-finals, winning in under half an hour. Sung Ji Hyun, meanwhile, announced her candidacy for this year's junior titles when she beat last year's World Junior Championship runner-up Sayaka Sato 18-21, 21-19, 21-11.

The doubles events all belong to Japan but the quarter-finals were not without drama. Komatsuzaki/Taohata removed the only seed in the men's event, edging Thailand's Chalardchalaem/Thanarkthong in three quick games.

In women's doubles, only the top seeds, Fujii/Kakiiwa, survived as all four quarter-finals were very close. The closest was an unheard-of 72-minute two-game match won by Matsumoto Misaki / Takahashi Ayaka over 4th seeds Naito/Matsuo 21-19, 22-20. The Japanese 18-year-olds had advanced to the quarter-finals with a sweet victory of Korea's Eom/Jung, who had beaten this pair in two junior events last year, including one at home.

Mixed is the only doubles discipline with a non-Japanese pair as top seeds Chien Yu Chin / Hsieh Yu Hsin of Chinese Taipei scraped by Amitrapai/Chalardchalaem of Thailand with a 20-22, 21-12, 21-19 victory.