Sung Ji Hyun

Women’s Singles – Sung Ji Hyun too sharp for Aya Ohori

Sung Ji Hyun of Korea is the SKYCITY New Zealand Badminton Open Women’s Singles champion after beating Japan’s Aya Ohori, 21-15, 21-17, at North Shore Events Centre this afternoon.

The number one seed repeated the form that saw her eliminate two opponents from China in Chen Yufei and Gao Fangjie, along with Chinese Taipei’s Chiang Mei Hui and New Zealand’s Sally Fu.

Sung Ji Hyun, who stands at 1.75m, dominated each of these opponents with her height advantage and Ohori proved no exception.

In the first game twice Sung Ji Hyun caught Ohori out close to the net and at least once she left the Japanese youngster well-beaten with a cross court smash to signal her intent.

It all added up to a comfortable interval lead of 11-7 in favour of the Korean. For Ohori, it was clear wide shots would be her stock in trade and she made good use of the tactic as she staged a comeback after the restart.

Time and again the 19-year-old left-hander from Fukushima Prefecture worked right-handed Sung Ji Hyun across the court, alternating between slice shots at the net and cross-court smashes to work her way back to trail 17-15.

But Sung Ji Hyun showed resilience and guile to win the first game 21-15, as she changed her response to Ohori’s approach, dropping shots just over the net that had the youngster lunging backhanders into the net with little or no angle to work with.

Ohori started game two aggressively winning three consecutive points to lead 3-0 but Sung Ji Hyun responded quickly to tie the game 9-9 as shots transformed into a forensic exploration of close net subtlety.

Sung Ji Hyun struck a psychological blow when she went into the interval 11-10 ahead after she unexpectedly lobbed Ohori following a tumble to the floor attempting to deal with a delicate slice shot close to the net.

Ohori changed her approach again, reverting to her tactics from the first game, in a bid to test Sung Ji Hyun’s mobility. The switch made a small difference but it did not have a lasting effect as Sung Ji Hyun strode into a 18-16 advantage, patiently waiting for opportunities to catch Ohori off her stride.

The metronomic Sung Ji Hyun then produced a brilliant shot to the back of the court after Ohori had unloaded a flurry of smash shots. The shot opened up a three points gap and platform from which the Korean sealed her title victory.

“I’m very happy to win and it means preparation work we did paid off. I analysed my opponents game. Physically, I was okay after the fall but I was worried and nervous afterwards and I tried to recover. From here, I’ll try my best for the rest of 2016. I’ve got tournaments in Singapore and Malaysia to come and I want to do well,” she said.

Ohori was despondent in defeat but said there were lessons to learn and positives to draw on.

“I played at this competition last year and to reach for the final this time was a good achievement. I’m disappointed not to win but I made too many unforced errors. From now on I have to be mentally stronger to win a game like this,” Ohori said.