China’s zero-COVID policy has meant the late cancellation of the VICTOR and Fuzhou China Opens (World Tour 1000 and 750 tournaments respectively) made this week’s SATHIO GROUP Australian Badminton Open 2022 (a HSBC BWF World Tour 300 tournament) the last major opportunity for world ranking points before the invitational World Tour Finals season finale (source: Badzine).
By the end of last night’s manager’s meeting, a significant number of withdrawals were reported across all five disciplines, paving the way for many players from qualifications and reserves to be promoted to qualification or main draw. Consequently, this reduced the anticipated number of today’s qualification matches, leaving only one women’s singles and five men’s singles matches to open proceedings.
One successor in this afternoon’s qualification was Australia’s Rio Agustino. The Australian Junior International 2019 winner is back fighting after a difficult couple of years. Shortly after the world started to show signs of resurgence following the pandemic, Rio ruptured his Achillies in December 2021. A strenuous rehabilitation programme has assisted his ability to compete in last month’s YONEX Sydney International, followed by two win’s today to qualify for the main draw at the SATHIO GROUP Australian Badminton Open 2022.
- Rio Agustino (AUS) vs Emmanuel Stephen Sam (AUS) 21-5 21-8
- Rio Agustino (AUS) vs Ferry Kurniawan (AUS) 21-18 21-10
“It gives me a good chance to get comfortable on court before taking on the main draw. It’s not every day you get to take on the world number two.”, says Rio.
His success today sets up a titanic clash with world number 2, Lee Zii Jia (Malaysia) in tomorrow’s main draw.
Later on in the afternoon, the mixed doubles main draw commenced, opening with a Trans-Tasman clash on court one. New Zealand’s new pairing of Jack Wang and Erena Calder-Hawkins got off to an emphatic start to see off their Australian opponents.
- Jack Wang/Erena Calder-Hawkins (NZL) vs Kevin Xu/Sydney Tjonadi (AUS) 21-7 21-13
On the courts parallel, Indonesia’s Akbar and Marsheilla gave the favoured Lee and Lin (Chinese Taipei) a scare as a series of showboating skills (cross courts dives and round the back defensive shots) had their opponents scrambling for answers. Yet the more experienced pair prevailed, saving two match points at 18-20 down to take the match on their first time of asking.
- Lee Yang/Lin Wan Ching (TPE) vs Akbar Bintang Cahyono/Marsheilla Gischa Islami (INA) 21-12 22-20
Following the retirement of her previous partner (Oliver Leydon-Davis), New Zealand’s Anona Pak came to Australia with two new partners: Dylan Soedjasa in the mixed doubles and Erena Calder-Hawkins in the women’s. The pair were thrown into the deep end during their first international together as the 2018 Australian Open Champions awaited them in the first round. A comfortable victory from Korea’s Seo and Chae leave the kiwi’s with plenty of food for thought as they look to progress their partnership.
- Seo Seung Jae/Chae Yu Jung (KOR) vs Dylan Soedjasa/Anona Pak (NZL) 21-8 21-10
Similarly, the reigning Oceania Continental Champions, Kenneth Zhoo and Gronya Somerville (Australia), had a difficult first round clash against the world number 18 duo from Japan.
- Kyohei Yamashita/Naru Shinoya (JPN) vs Kenneth Zhoo/Gronya Somerville (AUS) 21-15 21-8
Meanwhile, China’s new mixed doubles pairing, Feng Yanzhe and Huang Dong Ping, showed no remorse in their opening game against Australian opposition. Huang was split from Wang Yilyu (the reigning Olympic mixed doubles champions) to partner with Feng since September 2022 – the pair have already won two silver medals on the HSBC BWF World Tour and look determined to claim their first gold together in Australia.
- Feng Yanzhe/Huang Dong Ping (CHN) vs Xing Huong Goh/Pitchaya Elysia Viravong (AUS) 21-3 21-4
Day one also saw a return to the world-class level for badminton alumni Nipitphon Phuangphuapet and Poon Lok Yan. Both players are now coaching in Australia but have celebrated various titles between 2009-2017 when they represented their respective countries, Thailand and Hong Kong. The pair struggled to get past the height and impressive net play of Gloria Widjaja, who is competing with a new partner in Australia following the split from Hafiz Faizal.
- Dejan Ferdinansyah/Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja (INA) vs Nipitphon Phuangphuapet/Poon Lok Yan (THA/AUS) 21-13 22-20
The most heated contest from day one took place on court four as Indonesia’s Amri and Winny opened with an impressive from against the seventh seeds from Japan. Their 1-0 lead inspired their opponents to put their foot on the pedal, enjoying three runs of points to bring the game back level before refusing to give the lead away in the decider.
- Yuki Kaneko/Misaki Matsutomo (JPN) vs Amri Syahnawi/Winny Oktavina Kandow (INA) 17-21 21-15 21-16